Stress & Relaxation
Signs of stress
- Finding it hard to cope - an ordinary problem can seem insurmountable, as we are easily daunted
- Suffering from fatigue, aches or pains
- Becoming angry very easily and/or fly off the handle
- Suffering from stomach problems such as indigestion, diarrhoea or constipation
- Sleeping badly
- Finding it hard to concentrate or focus
- Eating too much or too little
When we start to manage stress, it is important to recognise that it has something to do with our lifestyles or attitudes. It has nothing to do with our personal shortcomings. The best way to manage stress is through positive change, which usually involves making a choice - we can either remove the source of the stress, or (if this is not possible) re-balance things by adding something positive into our lives. We may also need to learn some new coping mechanisms.
The first step is to review our priorities: List all the things you think are causing you stress. Is the stress coming from any one thing or is it a combination of factors? Try and identify the major causes, then review how you respond to them. What could you do differently? If you cannot change the first one, move down the list until you find something you can change.
One way to do this is to remember a time you managed stress really well. What did you do that worked? This memory may hold a clue to a helpful coping mechanism. If you can't remove something negative from your life, perhaps you could add something positive to give you extra support. This might not need to be a big thing. It could be as simple as taking time out to read, meditate or enjoy a moment to yourself. A simple cup of tea can do wonders!
Some Coping Mechanisms:
When we are stressed, our self-talk is often negative and can reinforce our bad feelings. If we think more positively, we can turn this around and reduce our stress.
Think of a positive statement/affirmation that you can use when you are feeling stressed, such as: "I feel relaxed and calm", or "I'm really good at _____ , I can deal with this." Decide what you can control and work on that - let the rest go. Take a short break - walk away from the problem for a moment to regain perspective.
Do something you find relaxing - listen to music, do something creative, garden, meditate or just go for a walk. Any form of exercise can help with stress. Relaxation techniques don't necessarily take a lot of time. There's deep breathing, stretching or visualising something that really makes you feel happy or relaxed.
Progressive muscle relaxation
Do something you find relaxing - listen to music, do something creative, garden, meditate or just go for a walk. Any form of exercise can help with stress. Relaxation techniques don't necessarily take a lot of time. There's deep breathing, stretching or visualising something that really makes you feel happy or relaxed. Sit or lie down somewhere quiet and comfortable, then close your eyes.
Tighten and relax your muscles. Start with your feet and work up through your legs, your torso, your and even your face. When you tighten the muscles, do so for about 30 seconds and then let them go really loose. Feel which parts of your body are tight and do them again. Relax completely and feel your body become heavy. When you are ready to get up, do so slowly and gently.
There are a number of different ways to meditate. You can learn by going to a class or use tapes or books. Here's a simple technique you can try:
- Make sure you are somewhere comfortable and quiet
- Sit or lie without crossing your legs or arms
- Listen to your breathing. As you become aware of your breathing, start to count each breath. Each time you get distracted and lose count, just start counting again
- Do this for just a few minutes to start. Gradually increase the time spent until you are meditating for just 15 or 20 minutes
Tips on time management
As we get stressed, our time management deteriorates. Take some time to take stock and review what you want to achieve. It helps to include personal goals as well as work goals. Once you are sure that you know what you want to achieve, write a list of the things you want to get done.
Most 'to do' lists tend to be prioritised by urgency rather than importance. This can mean that while you're getting the urgent things done, the big things get left behind. Try prioritising by the impact the activity has on your goals instead. See if you can start with the thing that will move you forward the most. This is not always possible, but approaching your time management this way can reduce overall stress because of the sense of achievement that comes with it.
Get rid of daily irritants/tolerations
We all put up with things that drain our energy unnecessarily. For example, if you have a messy car that irritates you every time you get into it, address the problem and take the time to get it cleaned.
Write a list of the 10 things that you put up with that drain your energy. As you deal with the list and cross items off it, you'll feel your energy and sense of well-being increase. If there are some things you cannot afford to change or need help with – get creative. It could be that someone else will help you out if you can do something equally supportive for them.
It's all about Balance
Women have traditionally been the central axis of family life. The bearers of children, the wipers of noses, dispensers of band-aids - often while juggling careers as well. We travel through life and our roles evolve. As our children grow and perhaps become parents themselves, rather than needing us less, it seems that we are more in demand than ever. Now, in addition to being mothers we find ourselves as support people for our own aging parents, husbands going through mid-life crises and girlfriends facing similar issues.
All this nurturing can take it out of a woman. So while you may be busy nurturing and feeding those you love, remember to nurture yourself and feed your spirit.
A few tips to help you keep that sense of balance:
- Take time out for yourself – whether it’s a regular yoga class, a walk in the park or time to read a good book.
- Make sure there are people around to support you. It’s great to be needed, but everyone needs to have someone to share concerns with…even you!
- Learn how to say ‘no’. It’s hard to do at first, but once they get over the shock, they’ll realise it’s not that you love them any less, just that you want to make sure that you’ll still have energy to love them tomorrow.
- Laugh – it really is the best medicine. Seek out funny books or movies, surround yourself with people that make you laugh.
The wonders of aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils made from plants and flowers. The different chemical makeup of oils generates scents or aromas, and is thought to induce a range of emotional and physiological reactions.
Essential oils can be applied in different ways, including directly rubbed onto the skin, added to bath water or vaporised in an oil burner.
Aromatherapy has been practised in some form or another in many cultures for thousands of years, but has not yet undergone the same scientific scrutiny as conventional medicines or even some other complementary therapies. Studies have shown that aromatherapy can play a role in addressing forexample:
- Digestive problems
Essential oils to try
- Eczema – sometimes known as dermatitis, eczema is an inflammation of the skin that produces flaking, scaling and itching. Occasionally fluid-filled blisters are present. Try: geranium and lavender
- Headaches – the most common causes of headache include allergies, eyestrain, stress, tension, hunger and exposure to irritants such as perfume. Try: chamomile and peppermint
- Insomnia – habitual sleeplessness, repeated night after night. This means either not being able to fall asleep when you go to bed, or waking up and not being able to get back to sleep. Try: chamomile and lavender
- Stress – a term used to describe any reaction to a physical, mental or emotional stimulus that upsets the body's natural balance. Try: lavender and sandalwood