How are you feeling right now? Start with your jaw. Are you perhaps clenching it? It may even be aching or throbbing from grinding your teeth last night. And your neck? Your shoulders? Are you hunching them up? And that 'gut' feel – are you feeling at peace, or are those butterfly flutterings keeping your heart racing, perhaps even palpitating? If you answered no to these questions, then you’re part of the fortunate minority. The sad reality is most of us are carrying stress with us, even while we sleep. So, very often, if not mostly – it’s subconscious stress.
The good news is that we can retrain ourselves to be more mindful and AWARE of how stress manifests physically in our bodies and minds. That is how we can learn to counteract, or at the very least, minimise the negative impacts whether in the workplace or at home. Below are two mindfulness exercises that can easily be done at your desk. They are just 60 seconds each. So, set your timer (perhaps give yourself an extra 5 seconds just to settle and relax) and do one or both:
We must control our stress levels because not only does it feel horrid to be stressed, but it's bad for us from a health perspective. And when I refer to health, I’m giving an equal rating to physical, emotional, and mental health – they are as important as each other.
Stress was (or is) intended to protect us. When confronted with a grizzly bear protecting her cute little cub, our body needs to make a plan. And let's be honest, any of us would welcome some help when faced with giant size paws, a maternal instinct, and an impressive set of teeth. This is when the fight-or-flight stress response kicks in. I’d most likely go with the flight option in this case! I have a sneaky suspicion the mama bear might come out tops in a fight.
So, in this instance, stress aids us. The body's good intentions go wrong when the prevalent stressors in today's world keep the flight-or-flight switch permanently flicked up. The long-term activation of the stress-response system can disrupt almost all the body’s processes causing a myriad of health challenges: anxiety, depression, digestive issues, headaches, heart disease, weight gain, and poor sleep, memory, and concentration.
My first recommendation would be to move to an island and swing in a hammock to an orchestra of lapping waves. Who's coming? Ok, so before we all escape to our island utopia, let's look at how to keep stress in it’s timeout corner:
And most important? Add more playfulness and laughter! This includes within the workspace. If we are to manage our stress, we need the lightness amongst the seriousness of meetings and pressing deadlines.
If you are not yet familiar with my WELLCULATOR, I encourage you to do the assessment. Points 1 – 5 that we’ve just gone over are lifestyle choices addressed in the WELLCULATOR. All other points (there are 10 in total) are related to other aspects of wellbeing such as strategic rest, cultivating joy and movement. My clients have all found this exceptionally helpful, and I’m sure you will too. You can sign up and receive the assessment as well as the opportunity to receive a weekly nudge, helping you to make the common knowledge more common practice. If all of this wellbeing stuff was easy, we would all be healthier and happier, but it isn’t, so let me help you to stay inspired and have fun along the way too!