From Dr. Libby Weaver
Condition your calm
It doesn’t seem to matter if we have two things to do or two hundred, we can be in a pressing rush to do it all – yet for many of us it rarely feels like we are in control, or on top of any of it. In fact, our desire to control even the smallest details of life, can be part of the challenge.
I wrote a book called Rushing Woman’s Syndrome because of the increasing number of women I was seeing as patients whose health was suffering because they couldn’t keep up. They were feeling overwhelmed, stressed and rushed to the point that their physical and emotional health was affected. As a health professional that’s what I care about, but what I also noticed was that many of them felt it was compromising their performance in the work place.
The rush starts and finishes with you. After all, we are busy with what we say yes to. Many women have a tendency to want to be all things to all people and we can find it difficult to say no. But what this rush is communicating to our bodies is changing the face of women’s health as we know it, from worsening PMS to IBS, from losing our tempers with loved ones or colleagues, to feeling like we just can’t cope with day-to-day demands – let alone achieve our goals.
In the rush of it all, how can you slow down? Small steps can result in large pay-offs when it comes to your sense of calm, your happiness and sense of well-being. Here are some tips to get you started on how you can condition your calm:
1. Address your caffeine consumption
In a world with a significant coffee culture it is no wonder many people have become somewhat addicted to their daily caffeine fix. However, what is often not considered is the impact caffeine has on our already stressed/amped up nervous systems. Caffeine drives the production of adrenalin, one of our stress hormones, which is also why it makes many of us feel alert and energized. The flip side is that often it can lead to mild anxiety and further perpetuate the biochemical effects of the stress we already encounter. Green tea is a wonderfully uplifting beverage to consume, in place of coffee – or to help you reduce your consumption. It contains an amino acid called l-theanine which boosts energy levels but also helps to keep us calm. Packed full of antioxidants, it’s a health promoting alternative to coffee, with much less caffeine.
2. Take a nap
Instead of reaching for another coffee or tea – recharge your batteries properly. Taking a fifteen minute nap is a great way to reset your nervous system and wake up feeling energized. While this may not be practical at work, it’s a wonderful thing to do on the weekend.
3. Create a tech-free zone in your home for one day a week.
It’s hard to imagine a world without the sounds of cell phones and emails – but it is possible. Take a break from technology once a week (preferably on the weekend), and feel your nervous system start to calm (it can happen almost immediately). Allow yourself the time to just be. Schedule this at least once a week and become stricter with yourself around the use of your phone, laptop or tablet in the evening.
4. Revaluate the to-do-list
Revaluate your to-do-list. How many of the items on there need to be done by you? How many can be done by a colleague, family member or friend? How many of them need to be done at all? How many of them need to be done now? One of the ways we can create more calm on daily basis is to revaluate our work load and prioritise.
5. Learn how to say no, gently
If this feels really uncomfortable for you, make a list of what energizes you and what drains you. If the ‘drains me’ list is longer, start by cutting back on one of those activities or obligations. If that’s not possible then whenever possible seek help from a friend, loved one or colleague. You show strength, courage and honesty when you can ask for help.
6. Put your legs up the wall
A great way to help you breathe diaphragmatically is to lay on your back with your legs up the wall. Lie in this position for 5-10 minutes and focus on your breath. Place a folded towel under your back or bottom for support if you like. Take ten minutes to fully relax into this pose; it’s especially delicious with some soothing music. Diaphragmatically breathing helps to activate part of the nervous system responsible for eliciting calm feelings.
7. Creating calm with movement
When you feel like you have a one-way ticket on the stress express, it’s not uncommon to be drawn to high intensity exercise in an effort to “sweat it out.” While that most definitely works for some people, it might not work for you, plus long term, high intensity exercise can drive processes inside of us that drive oxidation and inflammation – essentially the way we age from the inside out. When you have been in a constant state of stress, you tend to neglect or even avoid calming activities. Consider enrolling in a meditation course and committing to do so with a friend, or go to a restorative yoga class. Incorporate a breath-focused practice in your life, whether that is mediation, yoga, tai chi, Pilates or even just 10-15 minutes everyday where you focus on slow, belly breathing. This is one of the best ways to switch off your stress response. This isn’t being indulgent – it’s incredibly necessary for your health. If you feel like canceling on plans, snuggling up on the couch and reading a book, do it! Far too often we ignore our own intuition about what we need in each moment. Make a conscious effort to tune into and act on this.