In yesterday’s post I talked about stepping back and gaining a fresh perspective on stressful situations. Today, let’s start with a question: What makes a situation stressful? Your answer will be different to other people’s answers. What causes your cortisol levels to rise may not have that effect on another. Your stress levels are your response to the person or the situation – it is not actually that situation that is stressful. The situation triggers a stress response in you.
Let me illustrate this with a story.
We all know that it can be `too quiet’ when we have toddlers and young children around. And most parents have got a list of horror stories to prove this.
Just the other day Sharon was busy doing the usual things that mothers of little children have to get done. The three eldest were at school and Miss 4 1/2 was at home. She was set with the iPad watching an ABC TV Kids program and relaxing on her bed. She was occupied…… and quiet. After a while Sharon thought that the quietness was too good to be true and needed to be investigated. She walked into the bedroom to find Miss 4 1/2 happily (and quietly) …….eating bacon. (LOL. A true paleo kid!!!) She had gone to the fridge, gotten out the container of bacon, removed the fatty edges (putting them back into the container, neatly of course) and had eaten the meat. A whole half a kilo!! (a pound). In fact she had eaten ALL the bacon in the fridge. She’d also had the last of the maple syrup from the bottle, and the last four apricot balls that had been set aside for school lunch boxes the next day.
I wasn’t there to see it, but I know her response on discovery would have been a cute little smile and the comment `Dont worry Mummy. It’s OK.’
Right now you are probably having a bit of a chuckle. But how would you have responded? Would you have remained cool and calm? Would you have yelled? been really mad at the child? Or…….? It really does depend on a whole lot of things doesn’t it. Are you tired, sick, rushed, busy, relaxed, calm, happy, sad….?
The main thing that will change as a result of how you react will be how stressed you feel, and thus your cortisol levels. And we all know how bad that ultimately feels. It’s time like these that we need to step back and get a fresh perspective.
We could look at some positives of this situation – no one was hurt; Miss 4 1/2 had been quiet and left Mum to do her work; Mum got the work done; there wasn’t a huge mess to clean up. Or we could look on the negative side – there was no more bacon left so they had to think of something else for breakfast tomorrow. There’s no more maple syrup left – darn, that was the expensive brand. In this situation the straw that broke the camels back was that there were no more apricot balls left for school lunches the next day. That meant having to either make more, or make something else for the next day. And the days were already FULL. So the stress in this situation was really about a lack of time.
We are all going to face many situations that will trigger a stress response is us. In order to pursue a healthy lifestyle in this we have to move in to some stress management. We have to put things in place in our life that will reduce the levels of chronic stress.
Wellbeing is about how you eat, sleep, think, and move
Let’s look at some tips in each of these categories….
Many of the stressors that we will face over the Christmas season will be around the area of food & drink. If you are hosting a celebration at your place then it can be relatively easy, but if you are going to someone elses place it becomes more of a challenge.
- Make plans so that you have `clean’ food available – both at home and when you go out
- Offer to take food to contribute to the day’s meals (particularly nibbles)
- Prepare as much as possible in advance
- Decide in advance that you will eat clean
- Make sure that you get a full eight hours of sleep every night
- Remember that sleep is what restores and heals your body
- Don’t leave this vital part of a healthy lifestyle out of your days just because it’s busy
- At a minimum, go for a walk each day. It doesn’t have to be an aerobic workout, just a pleasant, relaxing walk.
- Plan to have some play in every day – for you and the kids (together is good)
- Don’t set unrealistic goals for this time. Going to the gym is not what is important. You can get your movement in other ways, and include others.
- Get some vitamin D each day
- Don’t forget to feed your mind and spirit in this time – you’ll need it!
- Set your mind on success.
- Set your mind on the goal of coming through the Christmas New Year season feeling fantastic. (Where you set your mind is where you will go.)
- Have realistic expectations
- Plan your response to the questions and comments about what and why you eat (or don’t eat)
- Get some `me time’ to re-group and reflect on the day each day
- Take ten deep breaths
- Have a cup of tea!!!
Stress: Remove or Reduce
The best principle I have found is to think: REMOVE or REDUCE. Ask `How can I remove or avoid the stressors?’ If it’s not possible to remove the stressors, ask `How can I reduce the effect of the stressors?’, `What can I do to reduce the power of the situation to cause me to feel stressed?’
If, after yesterdays post, you wrote a list of things that cause you stress over the Christmas season, it’s time to take a look at that list.
Go through each thing and ask the remove or reduce questions. Think about how you can remove or reduce stress in each situation and write down your action plan. You’ll be ready to face the world with new resolve to succeed.
If you find that you can identify the stressors, but can’t come up with ideas of how to remove or reduce, feel free to ask (in the comments or by email). We would be happy to offer ideas. And maybe others will have suggestions that would help you.
Be looking out for some great Christmas recipes in the next few days!!