When life gets stressful self-care can fall to the wayside until things calm down again. We are all guilty of it. Things get stressful and self-care is the first thing to go.
BUT, when we do this we are getting rid of the things that will help support our mind and body through the period of stress and would actually make it easier for us to cope.
It can be easier said than done, but when we are stressed out we need to be conciously choosing self-care so that we are supporting ourselves through it a bit better.
In cases where we are in chronic stress, so that is stress that is long-term, for example raising a child with additional needs or living in a stressful environment, then prioritising self-care is even more important for us then.
Stress puts a lot of pressure on our bodies and our health so it’s important that we do what we can to counteract that damage and support ourselves.
So where do we start?
I am a big believer in the adding in (crowding in) mindset. Instead of focusing on things that aren’t helpful and focusing on removing those things, try focusing on adding in things and that means that the less helpful things will naturally get ‘crowded out’ so there’s less stress and forcing about.
Things you can add in that will help support your body
Eating nourishing foods will help support your body. The best place to start with this is to learn to listen to your body and your hunger cues and eat a balanced plate. Having a good range of micro and macronutrients will mean that your body is getting all the energy it needs to cope with the stress and the energy is needs to help you do the things you need to do.
Get more sleep
It’s not always easy to get enough sleep, especially when you perhaps have a child who wakes a lot in the night or who doesn’t sleep well, or maybe you just can’t sleep because you can’t stop your thoughts from spiralling at 3am, but getting as much sleep as you possibly can is always a good thing. Our ability to cope plummets hugely when we aren’t getting enough sleep.
Don’t stress about getting a perfect 8 hours, just focus on getting as much as you can.
Move your body
I know for a lot of us, when things get busy and stressful this is one of the first things we decide we just don’t have time for.
It’s one of the ones that will help the most though.
It’s amazing how much clearer and calmer your thoughts are after going for a walk or just moving your body.
Stick to lower intensity workouts, like yoga or pilates or walking because they release less cortisol (stress hormone)
Again, it doesn’t need to be perfect, go for a walk with the kids or go for a quick 10 minute walk by yourself, roll out your mat and do a ten minute stretch routine – just move your body.
Our body holds a lot of stress and emotion in our muscles – tension and tightness, moving helps move it through us.
Shaking your body or jumping around or getting up and dancing can be very quick to help.
Breathing is a great way to regulate our nervous system. Having a slower out breath than in breath lets our body understand that we are safe, and calms our nervous system down.
You can try some simple breathing exercises, like breathe in for 4, hold for 5, breathe out for 6.
Or some box breathing – breathe in for 4, hold for 4, out for 4, hold for 4 and repeat. Visualise yourself moving around the four corners of a box as you do it.
There are loads of breath work tutorials online if you want something a bit more substantial. I’m only just getting into breath work, but I’m finding it really good so far!
Talk or journal
Talking about things helps.
If you don’t feel you can talk to someone about things – journal about it.
Another way is to talk to yourself. It can be extremely powerful. Tell yourself out loud what you would like a supportive friend to be telling you – ‘*your name here*, you are okay, everything is going to okay’.
It sounds and feels a bit weird the first few times – but it seriously helps.
Don’t underestimate the power of getting everything out of your mind.
Legs up the wall
This is a really vulnerable position to be in.
Lie on your back, scoot your bum up against the wall and have your legs going straight up the wall.
It will help reduce your stress levels and help to regulate your breathing.
Do things to take your mind of the stress
Do something for you, that could be…
- phoning a friend
- watching an episode of a funny series
- letting an icecube melt on your hand (and watching it until it completely disappears) – this is amazing for anxiety
I have recently started doing this, I’ve been doing it for about a month now and I have to admit I am hooked.
Cold exposure helps us to regulate our bodies and it also helps to increase our stress tolerance as we put our body into a state of planned stress and breathe our way through it.
It allows our body to realise that when things get stressful we can cope – we have done it before.
Start with 30 seconds at the end of your shower and build up.
I actually look forward to it throughout my whole shower now.
There are so many benefits to meditating – it can bring calm into your mind and help you to focus on the present moment rather than overthinking the future. It’s a great way of coping and it’s helpful for helping you increase your coping skills.
What things should I avoid when I am stressed out?
When we exercise it releases cortisol (stress hormone) which is fine, but when we are already in a high state of stress anyway, extra cortisol is just going to make us feel awful so stick to lower intensity workouts like walking or yoga or pilates.
This isn’t a coffee is the devil, never drink it again kind of post.
But it is a caffeine will raise your cortisol and can make stress and anxiety worse so be mindful about your intake.
2 Cups of coffee or 4 cups of tea is the recommended daily allowance.
This isn’t a cut it out completely thing, it’s a be mindful thing.
The same goes with sugar, you don’t need to cut it out but be mindful of your consumption of it as it does increase stress and anxiety levels.
Cutting it out will make you want it more and that will increase your stress levels, so instead crowd it out if the amount you eat is higher than you would like by adding in more nutritious foods instead.
But remember all foods fit inside a healthy diet.
Demonising foods and restricting them never helps anyone.
As tempting as it is to collapse on the sofa and scroll after the kids have gone to bed, or as tempting as it may be to keep pushing on into the night to get things finished whilst sacrificing your sleep – it’s not worth it.
Go to bed and get some sleep.
I hope this is helpful, what do you do when you are stressed out to support yourself?
Let me know in the comments.