I’d like to think that I’m pretty in tune with my wellbeing needs – I know when I need to slow down, when I need to boost my body with extra nutrients, when I need to nurture myself with yoga, not challenge it with weights and I can detect depletion pretty far in advance of actually running myself down – but recently, despite my usual spidey-senses, I’ve been feeling more emotional and stressed out than usual and it’s building up into an anxiety and low-level wellness concerns and health problems.
From not feeling hungry to drinking too much coffee, from over-exercising to late night email checking, my normal balanced routine has become unsettled. The result - mouth ulcers, uncharacteristic headaches, breakouts. We all have our own weak points when our stress levels rise and you probably know yours all too well.
I can’t pinpoint just one factor that’s causing this stress, like most things it’s a combination of pressures, troubles and worries – in my personal life and troubles in the wider world my children are growing up in. When I start to feel overwhelmed and like everything is out of my control – these habits reappear and the same old symptoms flair up. It’s unbelievable how quickly our physical wellbeing so quickly reflects our emotional health.
I know I am not alone in this and that many of you also struggle with stress and feeling unsettled especially at the moment. I know you need help finding ways to keep calm and maintain your wellness when life gets difficult.
I’ve been working hard at not letting this recent bout of stress get the better of me and undo all the positive self-care, mindful workouts and healthy habits that make up the holistic path I aspire to follow. Below, you’ll find a list of the healthy hacks and daily rituals I’m relying on right now to keep my wellbeing on track – I hope you find them helpful.
This is not a long complicated programme you need to follow as I guess you already have enough on your mind and no time to spare. You can try just one of the tips or all of them, you can perform them in any order, at any time of day, whatever works for you. Let me know how you are getting on, I love hearing your stories and comments,
Keep safe and keep well
1. Exercise every day
This doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym for an hour seven days a week – simply get moving. Sun salutations first thing, a 20 minute run around your local park, getting off the tube or bus a stop or two earlier, an online yoga class at home instead of watching TV. Whatever it is, wherever you can fit it – never under-estimate the power of exercise to lift your mood and control anxiety. For me, especially when I am stressed, exercise is my top non-negotiable. How I fit it in? Rolling out my yoga mat first thing before the day gets underway, before I check my phone, before everyone else needs my time. Turning a necessary journey from a boring crawl in the traffic into a brisk walk or even a run. Joining my kids as they play tennis or go swimming rather than watching them from the sidelines.
2. Breathe Deeply
Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we are always breathing – that is why tuning into our breath is one of the simplest and most effective ways of altering our state of mind and calming our nervous system. Pick a pranayama practice and keep it in your pocket for times for stressful times.
My favourite technique? Timed-breathing where the exhale is longer than the inhale. Sit tall, comfortable and still. Close your eyes and breathe in through your nose for a count of four… hold the breath in for a count of two…then exhale gently through your mouth for a count of six. Keep your breathing even and smooth. If extending the breath length creates any anxiety there is no need to push yourself. The most important thing is that your exhale is longer than your inhale, not the exact length of the breath. Set a timer and breathe this way for at least five minutes. I am sure you will notice a difference in your mood.
3. Stop and smell the roses
If you follow me on Instagram (@lucywakefield_calmia) you will know I am forever posting photos I have taken of flowers. Even though I live in the center of London, everyday I am blown away by the beauty that is so close to us if we just take the time to stop and look. The orange blossom is out now in the parks, front gardens are filled with roses, the markets are packed with peonies. Simply stopping to recognize the beauty around us can help lift our spirits.
If meditation isn’t already a part of your day, it may seem overwhelming to add yet another ‘task’ to your already busy schedule. However, just five to ten minutes can reduce stress hormones and blood pressure as well as increasing our sense of contentment, our immunity and our blood sugar control – I don’t know about you but this sounds exactly what I need right now.
5. Aromatherapy on-the-go
I try to fill my home and office with the benefits of essential oils – from a spritz of uplifting grapefruit to keep me energised at work to a nurturing drop of Ylang Ylang in my body lotion to a sleep-inducing Lavender balm rubbed into my soles at bedtime. When I’m feeling stressed I like to keep essential oils close by putting a couple of drops onto a scarf or hankie and tucking it into my pocket or bra strap. The scent of the oil helps support me throughout the day, and people always comment on how lovely the scent is. My go-to de-stresses? Lemon, Bergamot, Jasmine, Sandalwood, Vetiver.
6. Go to bed earlier
We all need more sleep. I know going to bed even half an hour earlier can make all the difference to my looks, my immune system, my energy levels and my food choices and countless studies support this. Hands up if you stay up longer than you planned to watch “just one more” episode of your current favourite TV show, or you scroll mindlessly through your Insta feed or end up having a lengthy Pinterest session? We’re all guilty of this but try to be disciplined about bedtime especially when you have a lot on your plate. Plenty of good sleep helps us cope with what we have to deal with the next day.
7. Practice gratitude
Keeping a gratitude journal noting down the people, things and events I appreciate in my life helps reduce stress and strengthen my resilience. I find writing by hand is therapeutic in itself rather than more tap-tapping away on a keyboard and I aim to write about at least three items at the end of each day. I also find reading back over my past entries is a great pick-me-up. At the start, I was always writing on the same big themes- “I’m grateful for my lovely children, my health….etc” Now, I am noticing the subtle and small things – “It may have been raining but I’m so grateful we get to walk to school through the park and see the baby ducklings...” And remember, that you don’t have to save your gratitude for your journal. Tell the people in your life how much you appreciate them and say thanks to all the people you encounter – pass on the positivity and everyone feels better.