The last few years have been been tough ones in terms of the amount of stress I’ve had to deal with. This is my personal guide to what has worked for me and helped me.
For The Mind
Having a focus and a purpose helps me keep on top of things and at the same time make time for fun things. I’ve used The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to help me with this. It’s a book I’ve read a number of times from my early twenties onwards and I would wholeheartedly recommend it. Particularly helpful recently has been the sections about how we choose to react to things that happen to us. This has been a bit of an eye-opener for me and has seemed very relevant to my recent experience. Despite going through a hard time lately I’ve made significant progress towards a number of the goals that I set last summer.
I also recently read The Stress Solution by Dr Rangan Chatterjee which covers a range of stress management techniques. I found a number his suggestions for positive thinking and his breathing exercises very useful. I didn’t agree with everything in the book (I wasn’t convinced by his section on social media for instance), but it is a useful summary of easy things you can do. I’m planning to try his eating the alphabet approach to getting a varied diet. On bad days, I’ve found his idea of having only one or two things on the to do list and counting the day as a success if they get done, especially helpful as it’s realistic and achievable plus you make progress that way even if it’s slow.
I’ve also been reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo. There’s been a lot of interest in her Netflix show (which I haven’t seen), but I don’t agree with everything she says – I’m more into hanging than folding and I have more hanging space than drawer space anyway. However, I do find that decluttering is a good way of dealing with stress and this book has spurred me on to do some of that. I do find that organising things reduces stress as well. A number of years ago (7 plus) I organised my tops by colour and I have maintained this ever since. It really made finding things a lot less stressful and I’m going to extend that to more of my wardrobe now and to other aspects of my life.
Meditation is a great way of improving concentration if that is something you are struggling with. I don’t really enjoy or want to meditate on a daily basis, but it is extraordinarily effective. I tend to do it for a week or so at a time and I do about 5-10 minutes a day. I’d recommend looking for the Headspace app. I use the free version and I find that’s enough for my needs, but if you get into it you can subscribe and have access to a lot more.
For the Body
For me swimming is a great way of exercising. It keeps me fit and builds muscle tone. It’s not expensive either. It also has benefits for the mind too as I find it is a great way of switching off as there are no phones in the pool and I find my mind is taken up concentrating on my stroke.
Over the last 7 years I have been going to an Iyengar Yoga class either once or twice a week. This works well for me as it is a very precise form of yoga which means that you aren’t likely to injure yourself. You take time to get a pose right and use props to hold yourself in the correct position. Concentrating on holding poses creates space in your mind too.
I also love walking. I try to fit walking into my weekly routine. I almost always walk to the swimming baths and to our local shops. I try to walk whenever I can around the city, but once a week I do like to get a countryside walk in.
Sleep is something I have struggled with for years. It’s not that I have a problem falling asleep, I rarely do in fact, but for many years I suffered from sleep deprivation. My son often used to wake at night and even after that he was an early riser. I did pretty much all the getting up for him so lie ins were rare and I always felt I wasn’t getting enough sleep. Over the last few years I have been able to get more which is helpful and I do feel better for that. I no longer crave sleep in quite the same way as I used to. Recently though I read Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams which was very interesting. I have always known that sleep was important, but I hadn’t realised to what extent. Since reading the book I’ve been making more efforts to make sure I get enough sleep and I’ve found that beneficial.
I have been planning out my weeks to make sure that I don’t take too much on. I don’t schedule every minute, but I do work in hourly blocks during the time H is at school. This means I can be flexible when H is at home. If things are likely to crop up during the week to add to your growing to do list, then leave a slot or two free. If you are like me you won’t have any trouble filling those slots if something doesn’t need doing urgently and without much notice. If you need to fit those things in, you will have some scope as your week won’t be completely full. This feels better than taking something off the to do list undone or working yourself too hard to get the extra stuff done. I’ve found it’s helped me keep a better balance.
What has worked for you as a way of dealing with stress?