Wellness By Russell Smitheram It’s exhausting, isn’t it? Living in chaos. You’ve got so much on your mind it becomes a heavy burden. A burden that distracts you from what’s important. A distraction that makes you feel tense and pent up. You feel frustrated because your sense of fulfillment has deserted you. Life feels mundane. Here you are riding the hamster wheel of life feeling overwhelmed and burnt out as everything spins around you and merges into a blur. You know what’s causing it. It’s multiple things. Maybe you’re over committed and have no time for yourself and feel trapped. Perhaps your finances are tight just as the car breaks down and unexpected debts start landing on your door mat. You might even be under pressure from your boss to stay late more often but there’s tension in the family because you don’t spend enough time with them as it is. Maybe it’s all of the above. Maybe it’s all of the above and more. See, stress has a cumulative effect. We can usually deal with a single source of stress without too much of a problem. But when multiple sources of stress stack up on top of one another life starts feeling hectic. When it reaches this point the last thing you want to do is bury your head in the sand. Avoidance is like adding rocket fuel to an imminently raging inferno. You need clarity. A way to cut through the fog. Something to underpin your energy levels so you can deal with the sources of your stress one thing at a time. Here are eight daily habits that will help you do just that. Get Up One Hour Earlier This might sound counter-intuitive if you’re tired and burnt out. You want more sleep not less, right? I get it. But getting up an hour earlier is a golden opportunity to have some time to yourself. If you use this time wisely it sets you up nicely for the rest of the day. You could have your first cup of coffee in silence, read a book, go for a walk, listen to a podcast, draw or write poetry. It doesn’t matter what it is, the point is to do what you need to do to feel calm and ready to take on the day. Start Being Grateful It’s easy to overlook the things we take for granted. We’re often so zoomed in on our daily strifes that we forget how lucky we really are. When I started my gratitude practice I struggled to come up with much. Then I realised how grateful I was to have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in and food to sustain me. We often overlook these basic needs that many others don’t have. Being grateful brings our lives into perspective. So what are you grateful for? Try and find three things to be grateful for every day. Start Saying No When life gets busy and the weight of stress becomes too much to bear it can be too easy to say yes to every request that comes your way. Maybe you’re afraid of the how the other person will react if you say no. Maybe you feel that by saying no you’ll feel even more stressed because you feel guilty about letting somebody down. Either way, you have to draw a line in the sand. You have to set limits. When you’re up against it you need to preserve your energy levels not expend them even more. Meditate For 10 Minutes Giving yourself just ten minutes of head space every day can do wonders for you. This is the perfect exercise to do first thing in the morning. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never meditated before, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just take a few deep breaths to start, in through the nose and out through the mouth, then focus on the rise and fall sensation as you breath. It’s normal for thoughts to come and go so when a thought intrudes just bring your focus back to your breath. You’ll be surprised how light and energized you feel afterward and it’s a good way to start the day. Give Yourself Permission to Stop You know what it’s like when you’re up against it. Things get left undone and it causes you more stress because you’re trying to play catch-up. Your mind and body end up screaming at you to slow down. Listen to these signals. If you want some down time, have some down time. Believe it or not the washing up can wait, is it absolutely essential that you go to the shops today? It’s perfectly ok to nurture your energy levels and take some time out every once in awhile, even if it’s only for half an hour. Organize Your Time If you feel that time is constantly slipping away from you and there isn’t enough time in the day to do what you want to do then consider spending five minutes every morning planning your day in advance. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Start by getting a diary or calendar and blocking out time for work commitments, appointments and social/family time. Then guard what’s remaining so you’re in control of how you spend what’s left. Journal Journaling is a great way to transfer your thoughts to paper. I spend five to ten minutes every evening reflecting on my day. I include what I did, what I felt good about, what I could have done better next time as well as whatever might be on my mind. Journaling is a useful tool to gain clarity about a situation or circumstance. You can combine this habit with the gratitude practice as a positive way to end your day before you hit the pillow. Exercise Nothing combats stress like a long walk in nature. Bird song over the sound of leaves brushing in the Spring breeze is a mood lifter in itself. A run is even better for combating that nasty stress chemical, Cortisol, but if you aren’t into running or long walks in nature not all is lost. Going outside and taking a few deep breaths is better than nothing. But if you can get outside at least once per day and get your circulation flowing I find it to be the best stress busting strategy of them all – but you’ll find what works best for you. It’s tough when life gets overwhelming, no doubt about it. Though it might feel like it, it’s not the end of the world. Remember, everything that’s happening right now is temporary. It’ll pass. You’ll survive this. Nobody said it’d be easy. Whilst I can’t promise you that these habits will lead to a stress free life, I can promise that they will ease your stress if you give them a chance and use them daily. They’ll give you the boost you need to gain the upper hand on stress. So start today! Choose one or two of the habits above and make the time to try them before you go to bed tonight. After a few days add some more habits to your routine and take note of how you feel as you progress. Now go out there and show stress what you’re made of!