LIVING A STRESS FREE LIFE
My journey to finding balance & living stress free.
Ah, the wonders of a stress free life. Is it even possible I hear you cry? I don’t yet know the answer, but as I near thirty and my health becomes ever more important combating stress for good is a really high priority of mine.
At the end of last year I got diagnosed with bowel disease, specifically Ulcerative Colitis (Chrons being the other type), and my health got pushed to the forefront for the first time in years and years. It’s not something i’ve talked much about as it’s all new and i’m finding my way with things still.
But what I’ve learnt is that your health has to be your priority. No excuse is good enough for not looking after yourself and respecting your body and mind.
It’s easy to forget your health, mental and physical, and for it to slip to the bottom of your priority least … not least when works busy and you feel like you have no time to breathe let alone stop, but being so ill for the last 18 months and then finally finding out I had a chronic disease (which is significantly hindered and flared by stress) was the ultimate low point. Add to that the fact i’m bed ridden, on a pretty much bi-weekly basis by migraines which makes me sick and wipe me out for days at a time … change and a stress free life was no longer a luxury, but actually a necessity.
I envy those who live without stress, who find work life balance without pain and who seem to have the ultimate life balance.
But through a mixture of the career i’ve chosen and the fact i’m an exceptionally driven and hard working person (and run a full time blog alongside a full time career) it’s fair to say my life set up was (and is) a pressure ridden stress inducing one. I didn’t listen to my body … and it was only a migraine that would eventually make me stop, breathe and de-stress!
But I can no longer live like that, my UC itself requires a much healthier and stress free set up and so change was non negotiable.
And while i can’t say i’ve discovered the perfect stress free routine or daily life yet, i’ve definitely found a few tricks and habits which are helping make life a little more joyful and a little less fast pace, pressure driven & stressful for me. And truthfully … my migraines have even started to become less regular, so I think it’s working.
Today I wanted to share some of those things with you, in case you too suffer from stress and are looking to find a little more balance in your life. It’s time to start living the life you want to lead.
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO COMBATING STRESS
the five ways i’m combating stress & living a more balanced life
YOGA & PILATES
I’m a firm believer in helping yourself, to help yourself (its up to you to start living the life you want to lead), and when it comes to stress the first thing anyone suggests is meditation or a little yoga to not only start carving time out in your day for a little ‘me time’, but also to calm your mind, relax and stretch your body and generally relieve the tensions that everyday life ensues.
I’ve always loved pilates, but at the beginning of this year I finally decided to get active and sign up to a pilates and a yoga class, in order to get a little healthier, stronger and most important stress free. I had a friend who joined the classes so we spurred each other on to join, and before I knew it 6 weeks was gone, I was well and truly loving my classes and most importantly my stress levels felt significantly lower and my migraines considerably less frequent.
Right now I’m looking at ways to add a few more classes to my week & even feeling ready to get a little more cardio in too. But if you’re searching for ways to de-stress your mind and body, I couldn’t recommend yoga and pilates enough.
WEEKENDS & EVENINGS OFF
It’s all to easy to let work trickle into all your time, whether it’s checking emails, forgetting to make the point of leaving work on time, or even finding yourself thinking about everything to be done whenever your mind starts to relax. Before you know it, you realise you don’t actually have any time ‘off’, add to that my blog, for me personally if it wasn’t my job it was my blog and I really wasn’t allowing myself anytime to just stop all together.
But there are three things i’ve been doing in this space which are making a big impact.
Firstly, I make a point, on any day I can, to leave work on time. And i know all to well there are days when 11pm finishes are inevitable and a choice is out of the equation, but if this is becoming your everyday, for months on end, then something isn’t right. Either you need to consider improving your productivity and effectiveness (whether that’s where you work or how you work), or you need to have a serious conversation about work and resource with your bosses. But, as I said, on an everyday basis you should be able to leave the office on time, but it is up to you personally to make that happen. I’ve been making a concerted effort to leave the office by 6pm this last couple of months, and having an evening has revolutionised my wellbeing.
Secondly, and this relates mostly to my blog but work emails too, actually committing to time ‘off’ is the only way to truly let your mind relax. Holidays, weekends, evenings, previously I was always available, always logged in & always keeping on top of emails (even when I was the other side of the world on trips to Thailand etc). But once again i’ve made a concerted effort to turn things off in my personal time. The liberation once you get over the urge to check is undeniable.
And thirdly and finally, any excuse for a weekend away of course, but I’ve genuinely found making the most of my weekends and in particular booking a few spa weekends or staycations is the ultimate sanctuary and chance to unwind. It’s not always possible, but simply weekends out of London and back home make the world of difference.
Perhaps the biggest change was the mental shift. It’s taken probably 10 years so this is no quick fix, but most the stress i was feeling, was a result of how I was reacting, behaving and dealing with situations. I am an exceptionally driven and ambitious person, and I know that’s fantastic, but what this drive trapped me into was the feeling that nothing was enough, good enough and that only the absolute best delivered the absolute quickest would be good enough.
This pressure on myself has no doubt helped me achieve all the successes i’ve had in my career and enabled me to run my blog full time at the same time, so I wouldn’t change it for the world. But I needed to release the pressure I was putting on myself if I was going to start living a little stress free, if I didn’t change my goals I’d feel anxious I wasn’t working on things, so I had to re-think big!
First of all I changed my attitude to blogging, i worked so hard for nearly five years producing daily content on my blog and felt consistently disheartened by a lack of success (success in my eyes) and found myself constantly comparing my work and successes to others, I focussed solely on my blog and got left behind on Instagram and overall just found myself slipping further and further down a rabbit hole. Until I changed my attitude …
I focussed on quality over quantity, real relationships over social ones & generally updated my strategy and goals to reflect the times & my life.
And it wasnt just blogging, it was at work and general things too. I stopped putting so much pressure on myself, i relaxed my goals & deadlines I’d set myself and focussed on living a little more instead. All my travels at the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017 were the perfect opportunity to reset my way of thinking.
BETTER TIME COMMITMENTS
The key to truly making new habits and behaviours stick is a true commitment to them, and that’s what I did, I made a commitment to my time.
Leaving work on time & having an evening, and a commitment to actually going to bed on time too! They sound simple, but ensuring you have a proper work life balance and a proper amount of rest time is key if you want to negate stress. Your body and mind must feel rested, strong and content to deal with situations pragmatically and calmly. The more tired you are, the more you’re likely to get stressed by situations that perhaps don’t really warrant the stress!
FUELLING THE INSIDE OUT
And finally, and the bit I’m still working on now, is nourishing my body from the inside out. Much like sleep, having enough and the right food is another super important factor in feeling well and importantly balanced. It’s incredible how much rest and food can affect your mood and emotions, and innately your stress levels.
Alcohol is incredible detrimental to my UC and so overall I’m trying to limit that, but perhaps the biggest shift is trying to eat more regularly and I’m hoping to embrace a few more vegan principles into my diet too! I’m a huge healthy eater in terms of what I consume, but I often don’t eat until the afternoon, and end up over eating at dinner because I’m starving.
But as part of my quest to combat stress, healthy routines are key, so from leaving work on time, to switching off my emails for proper down time, to getting to bed on time and waking up to a proper breakfast and healthy diet. Food prep isn’t easy, it’s time consuming, but this is one area I’m continuing to work on and hope in time will only help the balanced life i’m working towards.
WANT TO READ MORE ON COMBATING STRESS?
Whatever your situation, there is hope and most definitely ways to reduce and start combating stress and importantly find better balance in your life. If you’re struggling with a stressful period right now, just stop and commit to resetting your life again, start small, but gradually find ways to live a little more mindfully and importantly start living the life you want to lead. Start small. In time the impact will be big.
I’d love to know how you’re managing stress and whether my personal journey and tips have helped inspire you to start living a little better?