Stressed, always in a rush, always on the back burner? Head spinning with the ever increasing list of things to do?
It’s easy to get caught on the hamster wheel of life…I’ve just spent 5 days in bed.. unfortunately not with some hunky chap but a nasty bout of flu! Not only did I have to cancel a bunch of clients; I missed out on a great BBQ today and a hiking trip in the Lakes tomorrow. To add insult to injury, I got a letter through the post yesterday stating I’d exceeded the speed limit in my area last Friday and I now need to go on one of those speed awareness courses, or pay a lot of money and get points on my licence! The irony is, I was driving to my yoga class!!! And the greater irony I now realise is, my body recognised the signs of me going too fast. I was feeling the panic rising in myself last week, with a never ending list of tasks getting longer all the while. And yet, I chose to ignore the signs.
Stress takes its toll on the body, mind and spirit and can leave us feeling constantly exhausted and worse still over time if left unchecked, can result in illness.
Our bodies becomes physically tired if we don’t take time to rest and recuperate; it can also cause physical pain and discomfort such as migraines and muscular tension, not to mention compromising the autonomic processes within the body such as digestion and the immune system. This can lead to our minds feeling overwhelmed and unable to switch off, probably with insomnia to boot. This in turn can cause emotional turmoil, anxiety, stress and a sense of helplessness. Which feeds into the exhaustion and physical distress and so sets in motion a vicious circle whereby our whole system is depleted with no foreseeable respite.
In the longer term, stress can have more serious adverse effects on the body such as auto immune diseases, depression and further health complications.
Trying to combat this with caffeine, sugar, alcohol - all quick fixes to alleviate the pain and fatigue, bring along their own list of more adverse effects on the body, mind and soul, and can perpetuate this vicious circle. These are short term measures and similar to sticking a plaster on a whopping great wound in the hope that it will go away yet that really requires medical attention. Equally, going into denial mode and ploughing on through is no remedy. I’ve frankly made myself ill and committed a driving offence, all in a bid to beat the clock and keep ahead of my game.
We can break that negative cycle and turn this into a virtuous circle – by incorporating positive strategies that will support us to manage our stress in a healthier and more sustainable way.
Exercise, good nutrition, mindfulness, improved sleep, making action lists that are manageable for us using the SMART technique (specific, manageable, achievable, realistic, time focused) are great tools to support our systems and create solid foundations from the inside out. Just as important though as I have discovered to my detriment, is scheduling time for fun and enjoyable activities, and in particular scheduling time for rest – crucial in our time strapped lives, especially when we think we don’t have the time...
Taking care of ourselves first and foremost is not selfish, it’s ‘selfing’ – we are supporting ourselves in order to go out into the world and give our very best. So when we find ourselves on that dreaded hamster wheel of lacking the time to do what is important to us, it’s time to take stock. We cannot give from an empty cup! Let’s replenish our own!