Just like everyone else in the world, I have had my fair share of stressful experiences. Some of these events have made me stronger, some have made wiser, and some have left me more fearful than before. Worse is the fact that some of these experiences have guided my current thoughts and behaviours unconsciously, perpetuating more stress. Stress can be a cruel teacher if left unchecked.
We all know stress can be a healthy response sometimes (insert the proverbial running from the tiger analogy here). I know we use our stress response to act, react and keep ourselves safe.
However, if you are like me, sometimes/a lot of the time, you can feel stressed and you have no idea why. Sometimes life is moving along seemingly just fine, but yet not fine, if you know what I mean.
If you look on Instagram or Facebook or any blog on stress, you can almost always see the same recommendations; take a bath, read a book, assert yourself and make time for hobbies. While all of these things are great, they have never helped me calm down long term or deal with my abundance of stress.
What HAS helped me to cope (the most) with the negative effects of stress are:
1. Meditate and Write In a Journal Every Morning Upon Waking - This is probably the most profound way to deal and build resistance to stress in the long term (but also in my opinion, the hardest and, at first, the most annoying thing to do.)
a.) To mediate; start in a relaxed position, close your eyes and focus on breathing. Don’t try to force questions or put stress on your meditation. Just try and relax, clear the mind and breathe. At first, you might try for 2 minutes and increase this as you become more disciplined.
b.) After you are done meditating and your head is clear and your body feels relaxed, write in your journal on one page (with the date) your intentions for the day. Keep it simple, don’t over-plan. Then on the other side of the journal write down what’s stressing you out right now. Don’t try to fix, don’t try to overthink and don’t feel guilty for what you write down.
2. Eat a Balanced Diet - People who feel stress tend to overeat (ever heard of "stress eating".) They also tend to overeat carbs. I feel this is because the body does what the mind tells it. When the body perceives stress, it wants to boost immunity and carbohydrates are the quickest way to do this. Obviously, the opposite can happen where stress can cause you to lose your appetite. In either cases this is proof to me that eating proper in times of stress should help. Eat plant based, complex carbohydrate dishes that are warming, nutritious and make you feel neither full or hungry after. Eat regularly, and try not to go too long between meals.
3. Remove The Toxins - You need to become a toxin detective.
Remove toxic chemicals, cleaners and air fresheners from your house (like, today.)
Stop putting unneeded chemicals on your skin and hair.
Eliminate toxins from your diet. Buy organic as much as possible. If you feel it is too expensive then learn to eat less.
Pay attention to toxic people - maybe you can’t eliminate them, but just being aware can help you to cope.
Try to eliminate as much plastic and packaged goods from your life as possible. If what you are consuming is bad for the environment, know it is not good for you either.
4. Supplement your Body with Herbs and Spring (or Filtered) Water - Take as much herbs as you can afford that will help you to build resistance to stress. Ashwagandha, Holy Basil, Reishi, Lemon Balm, Brahmi etc. are all examples of amazing herbs that can help you deal with stress naturally. Drink water that is filtered and hasn’t had the minerals removed from it. Let the wisdom of the earth support you to heal and deal with stress.
5. Talk To Somebody on The Regular - Get a therapist (preferably one you like) or someone you trust. Humans need connection to grow and be healthy. It’s important to talk honestly, be vulnerable with people and know you aren’t being judged or criticized. Also, sometimes, by just talking out loud about something you can find out what’s really bugging you.
We live in stressful times and sometimes with stressful people. Some stress we can control, some stress we can’t. The long term effects of chronic stress are scary (think: death) but we can do a lot of things naturally to help and keep ourselves healthy. On top of the things listed above we can also make sure we connect more with nature, stop trying to do so much, take better care of our sleep hygiene and learn to declutter our lives and minds. I will write more about this in the second part of this blog post in the coming weeks. For now keep safe, know you’re loved and make yourself a priority.