Stress has become an epidemic in our modern society with more than two-thirds of visits to doctors’ surgeries being for stress-related illnesses. While a certain amount of stress is needed to motivate individuals into action, prolonged stress can have a huge impact on overall health. Stress has been linked to headaches, backaches, insomnia, anger, cramps, elevated blood pressure, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and lowered resistance to infection. For women, stress is a key factor in hormonal imbalances resulting in menstrual irregularities, PMS, fibroids, endometriosis and fertility problems. Stress can also be a factor in the development of almost all disease states including cancer and heart disease; the leading cause of death in Australian women.
More often than not stress is a result of letting our life get out of balance. This happens by putting all our energy into only one or two areas of our life (usually work) and ignoring the rest. We overload our plate of life that high, things begin to drop off and these are usually the things that are important to us like time for our own interests and time we spend with our family. We take on too much, over promise, don’t delegate and push our own wants and needs into the background.
So what can you do? How can you restore your balance so as to stress less and smile more?
Step One: Practice extreme self-care
Most people suffering stress have become quite good at practising extreme self-neglect! They don’t eat well, rarely exercise or take timeout and probably can’t remember the last time they had a holiday. The first thing that needs to be done is to become ‘extreme’ about your self-care. I’m not talking about jumping of cliffs or skydiving (unless this is what you consider timeout) but I am talking about the principle of extreme, that of taking your self-care to new heights, above and beyond ‘your’ normal limit. When we truly care for our own needs first, we build a reserve of energy and resources that enables us to sustain extreme self-care in our own life with enough left over to care for others.
A great place to start is by creating ten delightful daily habits. These habits include all the things that bring us enjoyment and delight. What are some daily habits that we could perform? Here are some suggestions.
• Stretch for 2 minutes.
• Laugh for 5 minutes
• Floss your teeth
• Read to your children
• Hug a loved one
• Go for a 10 minute walk in the park
• Listen to your favourite song
• Write in a journal
• Eat 3 fruit and 5 veg
• Read a chapter of your favourite book
• Drink 2 litres of water
• Going to bed early
The key to benefiting from your daily habits and practising extreme self-care is to do just that, make them “daily” habits. Start with one of your habits and commit to practicing it for seven days then add another habit and practice them both for another seven days. Continue this way until you are practicing all ten items on your list daily.
Step Two: Eliminate your tolerations.
Tolerations are things you are putting up with that drain you physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. They include things like crossed boundaries, unfinished business or projects, others bad behaviour, frustrations, unwanted commitments as well as things like clutter, mess, broken items, being over weight, weeds in the garden, debt and so on. Start by making a list of 5 things that are driving you nuts about your job, life, health, home etc and then devise a plan to get rid of the first thing on your list this week. Notice how this makes you feel, how it lifts a weight off your shoulders. Now think about how much better you will feel when you get rid of the other 4 things on your list!! When you’ve completed your list, start a new one and keep working until you have zero tolerations in your life.
Step Three: Get your needs met!
We all have personal needs that when met make us feel satisfied and complete. Unmet needs cause us to become upset, angry, stressed and depressed. The key to satisfying our personal needs is to identify them. Identify needs that feel true, not ones that look good or are superficial. You need to be careful that what you consider to be a need (e.g. to be loved) is not covering a true need (self-esteem). Ideas of personal needs are:
• Be listened to
• Feel valued
• A life purpose
• Satisfying work
• Be busy
• Be loved
• A career
You may need to tell others what your needs are and learn to ask for support.
Step Four: Smile often and laugh more!
Scientists have found that laughter stimulates the release of beneficial brain neurotransmitters and hormones, which can reduce stress, improve our immune system and give us a general sense of wellbeing. Some doctors are using laughter therapy to replace anti-depressants and to reduce the use of painkillers. According to researchers faking laughter will also produce the same health and wellbeing results as real laughter.
Do you need to improve your ability to laugh more?
Well here are some tips from Family Scientist, Herbert G. Lingren to help all of you, who are humour impaired, to add laughter and humour to your everyday life.
1. Hang around funny friends, or better yet, marry a funny partner. 2. Start looking for the absurd, silly, incongruous activities that go on around you each day. 3. Take a 5-10 minute humour break each day. Read jokes, add to a humour notebook, and listen to a funny tape. 4. Rent a comedy video, go to a funny movie, and watch humorous programs on television. 5. If you hear a joke you really like, write it down, or tell it to someone else to help you remember it.
Step Five: Set Goals
Without goals we have no direction in life. We are lost! When we are lost we get stressed and overwhelmed. Goals are a tool we can use to have what we want and need in our personal and professional life.
When you set a goal, it tells your subconscious mind what is important to you and to be on the lookout for things, people, opportunities or situations that will enable you to move towards your goal. Goals help us navigate our life with greater ease and reaching goals can make our life more fulfilling and happier.
One way to find out what your real goals are is to write a list of 100 things you’d like to accomplish before you die and then start working on your list today!
Step Six: Create a supportive environment
Our surroundings can be supportive and give us energy or drag us down and leave us stressed and tired. Surrounding ourself with inspiring, fun, positive things and people can energize us and add joy to our life. We need good support structures to effortlessly flow through life and remain balanced.
We can break our life support structures into five basic categories:
1. People-family, friends, life coach, accountant, doctor, housekeeper etc.
2. Places-your office, desk, car, home
3. Things-your phone, computer, home decor
4. Processes-filing system, record keeping, time management program,
5. Inner Environment- your outlook on life, self-esteem level, thought processes
Examine the above five categories and look at who or what you use to support you in each area. Are you truly being supported? What do you need to change to feel more supported in all areas of your life? Start making the easiest changes first.
Just as it can take to time end up stressed, overwhelmed and out of balance, it also takes time to make positive changes in your life. Sometimes trying to implement change (even for the better) can itself cause stress and prevent a person remaining motivated.
Work on one step at a time until you master that step in your life and then move on to the next area you need to change. If you can’t do it on your own get support from a counsellor, doctor, naturopath, friend, peer or life coach who specializes in stress issues.
Above all remember the benefits you will feel when you’ve mastered the steps to stress less and smile more!
About the author:
"Lisa Branigan is a certified Life Coach helping successful women create a less pressured, more enjoyable lifestyle" She is a speaker, writer, regular radio guest and contributor to magazines and newspapers.
Email: [email protected]
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