In a few of my previous posts, I’ve mentioned some all-time-high stress levels, and that my Number One Intention for 2018 is reducing stress by giving myself the space, skills, and tools to tackle the problem head-on. I’m at the very beginning of this project, so I have plenty to learn, try out, and hopefully share with you over the next twelve months. Today, I want to talk about my top trigger for change and some initial techniques and products that I’ve been trying out.
Heading for Change
If you’ve read my 2017 re-cap, you know that last year was challenging in all the good ways possible. We achieved so much. We changed and grew so much, as a family and as individuals. It’s been crazy productive, and there were so many new things that we mastered while maintaining everything else we had going on at the same time. 2017 was amazing. But some of the moments that could have been the most satisfying, the most memorable and the most beautiful were turned into really unpleasant experiences by my absolute inability to stop thinking about everything else I hadn’t done (yet). The biggest achievements, which should have left me feeling so proud, were completely destroyed because I hadn’t done the laundry yet and the bathroom hasn’t been cleaned in two weeks and OH MY GOD I’m such a terrible mother and just shit at life. When all the stars aligned and I got a double-grade-jump job that I desperately wanted despite already having mentally written it off, my reaction was: ‘I don’t deserve celebrate until I’ve cleaned the toilet, ironed, hoovered and decluttered six years worth of files’. My weekends consisted of making to-do lists as long as my arm, and then proceeding to be so overwhelmed by everything I HAD do and all the things I COULDN’T do because I wasn’t allowed to have fun until everything was done and no way in hell was there enough time and how do I even start…. that I often got nothing done at all, and didn’t have any fun either.
Last year, when I finished my dissertation, I had an expectation that all my stress would just disappear, because this massive (and, if we’re honest, obstructive) piece of work would be out of my life. Poof. By all accounts, that’s what should have happened, but it didn’t. That was my lightbulb, my moment of clarity. About 90% of my stress was self-imposed and had nothing to do with external influences. I realised that I could not keep going like this. I decided that I needed to take some steps towards reducing stress, but I didn’t know what to do to help myself.
So, I’ve spent some time thinking about it. Since external influences aren’t the cause of my stress, it must be my reaction and attitude to things that tip me over the edge. I don’t choose to be like that, so just telling myself to relax and not get so worked up probably won’t be a productive solution. Time to bring in some external support.
Reading my Way to Relaxation
I’ve always loved to read, and I’ve seen so many recommendations for books focussing on mindfulness, acceptance and kindness that I’ve picked up a few self-help books to start me off. In 2018, I’m working my way through A Year of Miracles by Marianne Williamson. You read a page a day, and each page gives you an intention to take you through the next 24 hours. I’m really enjoying it so far, although there are definitely some ideas in it that resonate more than others. I’m planning a more in-depth review of this in a few months, when I have a more solid idea of what it’s done for me. I can already tell, however, that having a central mantra to bring myself back to when I’m starting to feel overwhelmed has been really helpful in calming myself and restoring my intention to focus on reducing stress.
I’m a huge fan of my Erin Condren planner, but I’ve found that I can go totally overboard with my to-do lists, as I’ve already mentioned. This year, I’m limiting how many tasks I can plan for the day, depending on my schedule and the scope of what needs to be done. For instance, if I need to run a few errands in town, list some stuff on eBay, change the sheets, etc, I’ll plan no more than three on a work day or five on a day off. If I have something big to do, like clean the whole bathroom, then I’ll make sure that’s the only task I set myself for that day. Whenever my my mind tries to trick me that one such task a day is pathetic (which is all the time), I remind myself that I’ve also done a full day of work, sorted my toddler out for dinner, taken her to bed – which is incredibly time-consuming at the moment – and picked up all the chaos we’ve created that day. So really, that one extra task is on top of a pretty busy day anyway, and suddenly seems like a much bigger achievement.
Props for Reducing Stress
I use ‘props’ loosely here as this post is getting very long and I don’t want to add too many more categories. I’ve been drinking a daily turmeric latte, which supposedly reduces inflammation and seems to be helping my brain. I also find hot drinks really soothing.
On top of that, I’ve been dabbling with essential oil roll-ons. I received Tisserand‘s ‘Happy’ roll-on in a TVK Beauty Box this summer and have been obsessed with it. After Christmas, I found a load of Tisserand sets in TKMaxx and just had to pick up the ‘A Beautiful Mind’ Kit. I haven’t used it enough to form any sort of opinion, but I’m particularly keen to see whether the ‘De-Stress’ roll-on can help me. I’ll keep you posted!
Just a quick note to end: this post was one of my most-requested to date, which makes me thing that quite a lot of us are way too stressed. I would love to get a conversation going around what we can do to help with reducing stress, both for us and our surroundings, to make it less so. If you have any ideas, I’d be so happy if you would reach out in the comments or on Instagram!