There is no other time quite like Christmas and New Year for truly switching off from work and giving ourselves permission to relax wholeheartedly. It is the one time of year that, because everybody is in it together, we aren’t worried that we will return from our holiday with hundreds of emails to go through; we don’t have that any underlying guilt that we are approaching a deadline or missing something important, or wasting time where we could be doing something productive. No, from the 23rdDecember to the first working week of January, the majority of us actually unwind the way we should: completely. Our stress levels go down, allowing our cortisol to drop, and our work-related anxiety is relieved. But just as you really get in the swing of this slower pace of life, the working year begins again.
So, as many of us begin work again with anticipation of what lies ahead in 2020, now is a good time to consider how to manage stress and those feelings of being overwhelmed.
I always say that dealing with stress is like a game of Tetris: you need to clear each line as you go, otherwise the blocks (of stress in this metaphor) all rapidly build up on top of each other until its game over, aka you burn out. Understanding how to manage stress and any niggling anxieties that come up throughout the day is key to maintaining a sense of calm in your life. I’ve tried and tested a lot of techniques and these are the ones that really work for me:
You know that niggling feeling in your stomach; that sense of worry, panic or frustration? That feeling of stress or anxiety that creeps up on you suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere? Here is the thing about that feeling: it doesn’t go away on it’s own. You can mask it sure, that is pretty easy to do, but ultimately unless you find its source and unpack it then it will linger and manifest in other ways; you might become tired, grumpy, agitated or feel tension build up in different parts of your body. Start to get in tune with these feelings and notice when they appear. When they do, the first thing you must ask yourself is, “where is this coming from?”. Find the source of the stress. Was it something someone said to you in passing that you heard in a way that bought up some worry or old emotions? Was it the email your boss just sent you? Did you remember you had a deadline that you hadn’t completed and that made you panic a little? There is always a source. Find it and now unpack it.
What does ‘unpack it’ mean though, I hear you ask? Well, for every event that causes you to feel stress, it does so because on some level, conscious or subconscious, you have taken it to worst case scenario. For example, imagine you send an e-mail to someone asking them if they are still keen to work with you on an exciting project you have in mind. Two days pass and they still haven’t replied. You start feeling a bit anxious and stressed about this lack of response. Why? Because you’ve gone to worst case scenario and thought “they haven’t replied because they don’t want to do the project, they think the project is shit, they probably don’t even like me, and I should probably give up altogether.” Ok, maybe you haven’t gone that extreme, but maybe you have. This worst-case scenario that you’ve gone to might have happened subconsciously, or it may have been simply a fleeting thought, but either way it has left you with a feeling of stress and anxiety. When you can pause, and look at the source (i.e. the worst case scenario) you can then unpack it. Ask yourself these questions: Is this a realistic outcome? Are these thoughts really true? Is there another way I could interpret these events? Even if this worst case scenario was to happen, would I be able to face it, overcome it and deal with it?
Start to do this EVERY single time you experience that feeling of stress. Do not allow it to linger, instead face it head on and clear that Tetris line. You might have a friend you could do this with, or a partner, or you might use a journal or the ‘notes’ section on your phone. Personally, I do this with Wade and it has been pretty life changing for me. I quickly notice any stress I experience, figure out exactly where it came from, go through the questions and then very quickly the stress dissipates. I’ll usually call him and say, “I’m feeling anxious and I’m not sure why” then we chat and suddenly I’ll say “Oooh yeah this is why, it is because xyz happened today and that made me worry that…”. What I often find is that it is old insecurities or worries that have led me to my ‘worst case scenario’ and so each time I unpack it, I let go of an old block too. I’ve been doing this for a few months now, and I promise you that the more you do it, the better you get at understanding where your stress comes from, and the more quickly you are able to unpack it and let it go. Like any skill you acquire, practice is the key.
GET SOME SPACE
It’s the most obvious thing to do and yet the one that people do the least. When our minds are filled with endless tasks, responsibilities, decisions and opinions, we can feel unbelievably overwhelmed. There is a tendency to think that the only way to deal with this is to ‘power on through’ but the reality is that without stepping back and giving ourselves some headspace, it is extremely difficult to get clarity, perspective or understanding on a situation. Giving yourself some alone time to slow down your mind, untangle your thoughts and get in tune with your instincts is such an important part of day to day life.
My favourite ways to get some space: meditation, yoga, exercise (I swear all my best ideas come to me when I’m in a spin class), going for a long walk, sitting in a candlelit bath or simply lying on my bed for 15 minutes without any distractions.
In the 3 days leading up to my first workshop I was feeling extremely stressed and anxious. I was feeling nervous about standing up infront of 100 people for the first time, and I was simultaneously recording the first 4 episodes of my podcast, and with Wade away and Wolfe waking all through the night I was just feeling a bit overwhelmed. I found a CBD drink in the fridge that a friend of mine in PR had given me and I thought, why not try it? I don’t know if it was a placebo affect, but I don’t think it was because I didn’t expect it to work, but honestly I felt better IMMEDIATELY. The severe anxiety that had been building up all that day literally disappeared, and it’s like it reset me because it didn’t come back and I went into the Self Love workshop feeling so calm and empowered and the event was a huge success.
I don’t know a lot about CBD, I’ll be honest, and I’m sure like anything the more you take, the higher your tolerance to it becomes. So, with that in mind it is not something I use regularly but I do have CBD drops in the house and it’s something I would use in a ‘stress emergency’.
SET YOUR DAY UP RIGHT
One piece of advice I repeatedly give people that find themselves feeling stressed a lot of the time, is to look at how they are starting their day. Are you snoozing your alarm, giving yourself an extra 10 minutes in bed and then rushing to get ready whilst eating your breakfast half way out the door, worrying about being late for the third time that week and then feeling already agitated on your commute to work? I truly believe that how you start your day has a big impact on your overall wellbeing. Nailing a solid morning routine can be life changing. So, here is my advice: wake up earlier, don’t snooze your alarm, use your showering/self care routine as a ‘bit of me’ time, give yourself time to get a coffee and breakfast and enjoy it mindfully, write down your to do list for the day and prioritise what is the most urgent, maybe you could even find time for a morning workout to get those energy levels up, or a yoga class to start your day feeling strong and zen. Be consistent with your new morning routine to see the amazing effects it can have on your stress levels.
Stress isn’t something we can just get rid of altogether, sometimes life does present us with stressful situations, but we can certainly learn to manage it and understand how to better handle anything life throws at us so that we don’t allow it to throw us off centre. I have truly seen such a shift in the way I handle stress; I no longer allow myself to overreact to a situation, I am much more patient and trusting that things will all work out the way they are supposed to. I use the power of pause. I constantly unpack those niggly feelings and question where they really come from, and I make sure I always get some time to myself to reset. It really is about building your toolbox and using something from it every day until it becomes second nature.
I hope you found some of this helpful, message me on Instagram if you did and please share!
Wishing you all the success in 2020 and see you at one of my workshops.
Love Roxie xx
By Roxie Nafousi as published on roxienafousi.com on 9th January 2020