Updated: Jun 8
April is Stress Awareness Month. Stress is basically a physical response to the body perceiving it is under attack. I know this concept isn't new to you - the image of the sabre-toothed tiger chasing us and initiating our cave woman fight or flight response has been around for ages.
But these days it's more about the constant demands on us being more than we can handle, not those rare but truly dangerous incidents.
These demands might be physical 'attack', but are also more than likely to be emotional or mental too. The feeling of never quite being on top of work as your inbox piles up ... Saying yes to the PTA meeting, even though you're exhausted, so you don't look like you're slacking ... The background guilt that lingers at the end of each day because you still
didn't find time to call an elderly relative.
The list could be pages long!
And these stresses can affect us in so many ways. For example brain fog, indecision, self doubt, irritability, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, high blood pressure, aches and pains, catching more colds than usual, altered sleep habits, low mood and more. I'm feeling overwhelmed just reading the list! Stress isn't avoidable, but we can learn to manage it. One of the ways you can do this is to prioritise things that are important to you for your physical and mental health. These will be individual to you. Though of course the general things like getting enough nutritious food, companionship, movement and good sleep are important for us all.
I have a few things that work for me when I feel tension rising. I've learned the hard way that I need to have these sanity-savers in place before I get overwhelmed. For example:
Listening to a 10 minute guided meditation on Insight Timer. When I do this it's SO simple to ease into a restful, restorative way of breathing.
Playing uplifting songs. Loudly. Dancing and singing along v important.
10 - 20 minutes of stretching. I need to do this every day or my feet get incredibly painful. Sometimes this is combined with ...
Watching a funny programme. Or something restful and easy to wash over me, like The Great British Bake Off.
Writing in my gratitude journal.
Staying well-hydrated (helps with adding movement to the day as I need to get up to pee more).
Getting outside, usually to walk the dog.
Do any of these work for you? Just don't fall into this trap - I've been known to add to my stress by trying to fit all the things in every day!
I now realise I don't have time each and every day to walk the dog for an hour, and do a workout, and meditate, and prepare a nutritious meal from scratch, and supervise the kids' homework, you get the idea.
Hence the prioritising.
So, can you be gentle with yourself but strong with your boundaries? For example, yesterday evening I said 'Yes' to a soak in the bath*, which meant saying 'No' to watching a programme with the family. I would have enjoyed watching it and spending time with the kids. But then I would still have tried to fit my bath in and would've ended up going to bed too late. And good sleep, as you know, is imperative for managing stress.
Can you say No to some of the demands on you that don't serve you?
How else can you find the time to add some of these soul-soothers to your day?
It sounds painfully obvious, but can you get up a bit earlier in the morning? 2 mornings a week I take one of the boys to swim training. Far too early for my liking. But wow do I get a lot done those days. Not just 'productive' stuff. This morning I listened to a Curable podcast while focusing on my breath. Funnily enough, after that, I was way calmer during the usual pre-school chaos.
Would you love a lower-stress morning routine? Set the alarm 10 minutes earlier. Not necessarily to 'do' a chore, just something positive for yourself.
Can you save time without multi-tasking?
My top tip here is cooking enough dinner one night to cover two nights' meals. (When I get gung ho adding heaps of blitzed veges to the spag bol, this has been known to last for 3 dinners.) That saves me an hour in the day of prep, cooking and cleaning.
There are other time-saving options here, such as using a meal prep service. (Though this one adds to my stress because of all the teeny identical packets that surface at the bottom of the fridge months after they weren't added to the recipe they were intended for.) Or get everyone in the family to take turns cooking. (But this one adds to my stress because the kitchen gets so messy. You know, that kind of mess that is apparently invisible to teenagers.)
That's enough tips for today. It's taken me so long to write this I haven't listened to my own advice and now I must quickly stretch and hydrate before starting the after-school sports taxi service!
* Here's the thing about taking time out to have a bath. You may feel you don't have half an hour to relax this way. BUT - the chances are this bath is going to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. Which is going to relax your body. And your mind. You may well enjoy a better sleep that night. Your brain will get the chance to truly switch off and be cleansed (research shows that toxins are flushed from your brain while you sleep). And when your brain wakes up rested and refreshed, you're going to feel more productive the next day. With less of the brain fog, indecision etc that I mentioned earlier. You've relaxed AND gifted yourself extra time!
Can you treat your mind, body and soul to a 20 minute bath? You could even combine it with listening to a meditation. Just don't fall asleep while you're soaking!
One of our favourite bath soaks, especially with the cooler weather arriving, is Dead Sea Salt.
It has an amazing chemical make up** that means it's perfect for relaxing, de-stressing and rejuvenating. It's a popular choice for people with sore, stiff joints, and skin issues like psoriasis, and it's soothing and hydrating for dry skin.
** Dead Sea Salt contains, for example, magnesium, potassium, calcium, sulphates, zinc, iodine and bromide.
If you'd like to try some for yourself (or send it as a gift to someone who'd benefit from a bit of TLC) you can treat yourself to our pure, authentic Dead Sea Salt bath and foot soak for only $9.50 (usually $12.50). No code needed. Special price for the whole of April, Stress Awareness Month.
PS - You can also use it in the shower as a gentle body exfoliator. Top tip - cover the drain with a face cloth so the minerals from the salt can soak into your feet for the duration of your shower.
At Salt & Oil we make magnesium-filled bath soaks and magnesium oil sprays to help you relax and feel good. And we support other NZ businesses by stocking their well-being gifts.
If you'd like to find out more, and receive a welcome special offer code (NZ only) please
sign up to our Weekly Soak email for offers and info.