It’s that time of the year again. Especially here in the Nordic countries the long slide into the darkness of winter sucks energy and can leave us feeling drained. There are less daylight hours. It can feel like a morning turns into an evening in a matter of few short moments. While nature quiets down to rest and hibernate, the rest of the world keeps working at full steam. As a result many of us rush and find this builds up. Our stress indicator lights frequently flash bright red. Are you paying enough attention to your stress management?
The modern mindset that looks up to efficiency and the culture of being on the move 24/7 keeps us exposed to an endless stream of impulses around the clock. Having to continuously hurry is part of today’s world and we are increasingly left to manage the resulting stress on our own. Stress management has become such an important life skill that it should be taught in schools.
Stress is part of life
Stress is part of life, whether we like it or not. Some of its causes are things we can control and some are out of our control. In everyday life stress can easily take over and without us noticing take a tight hold of our life and routines. How does that happen?
There are many roads that lead to stress and many causes for it.
One of them is the very human need to fulfill our purpose and to live up to the expectations we and others have for us.
We want to be appreciated by others, to feel accepted and to help. All of this is natural for the human mind and makes it challenging and conflicting when we try to be aware and awake to notice the moments when we need to say no and draw boundaries. We would rather stretch them!
For these and a multitude of other reasons stress can often build without us noticing and little by little we simply adjust to the ever growing hurry. It becomes the new normal. This can lead to a situation, where there is never time to rest and recover.
When this goes on, a time will inevitably come, when the body and mind are not able to relax even in rest. Does this sound familiar?
Is your stress indicator light stuck on red?
Recovering from stress requires simply rest and space, where your brain and whole body can recharge and relax sufficiently.
This is vital; without adequate recovery stress will eat up our energy and at some point we simply won’t have enough left. For the most persistent achiever this can be a long process with multiple stages, which eventually leads to a severe exhaustion.
Exhaustion or a state of burnout means experiencing continuous stress symptoms and fatigue. The body and mind do not recover from them even during rest in spare time. Everyone who has experienced burnout, myself included, knows that this is not about being a hero, quite the opposite.
Stress and its symptoms are unique for each person. If the days start to feel like soldiering on and constant achieving, or you feel like you must hurry from one thing to the next, that you have difficulties of letting go or relaxing, you feel constantly down, joyless or irritated and you have problems related to sleep, memory or concentrating, your stress indicator light is already far into the red. For most of us, the body tries to resist with tense muscles, headaches, stomach problems and other alarming signs.
If you feel like this applies to you, please stop before you have to.
Put a stop to the hurry and ask yourself: “Where am I going and why?”
Often the tools for self-care of stress and stress management can be found through your own wisdom. The difficulty is realizing early on when to use them! First it can be helpful to check your “basic settings” and make any adjustments you need to make to the balance between your exercise, rest, diet, work and spare time. Next, it is time to dig deeper, check your priorities and consciously create time for the elements in your life that nourish you and increase joy, pleasure and gratefulness in your life.
What kind of things nourish you and bring you more energy? Music, books, nature, relationships, pets, swimming, sports, yoga, hiking in the nature, handicraft, carpentry, volunteering, gardening or something completely else – what?
Books on stress management can be very beneficial as well as provide new realizations, if you would like to have more information, deeper change and more support for managing stress. There is no shortage of books on this topic these days, quite the opposite!
Reading provides knowledge and understanding, but to support concrete lifestyle changes and maintaining them it is worth it to consider a group you like that could provide peer support, *courses and private professional guidance.
If you suffer from prolonged stress and severe stress symptoms,
please consult your doctor first.
Mindfulness and other support
Skills in stress management require above all self-knowledge, desire and courage to assess yourself, your habits, values, attitudes and choices.
In addition it takes an extra-large portion of self-compassion. Overachievers are known to have a shortage of the latter. <3
The transition is by no means fast and like Jon Kabat-Zinn mentions, it is never easy, because you have to confront yourself.
Kabat-Zinn (born 1944) is a professor in preventative medicine. While at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (USA) he founded and directed the Stress Reduction Clinic, where he developed a course on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The course, developed in the 1970s, has since been widely researched and is known all over the world.
Strengthening your skills and practicing mindfulness
is a journey that rewards!
When you recognize and are aware of your own habits, thoughts and attitudes, the increased self-knowledge and acceptance increases overall wellbeing. Knowing your own values and making conscious choices based on them makes life more meaningful.
It is warmly recommended that you make use of all the professional help and support that is available to you and that applies to your situation and needs. But the harsh truth, which is also a blessing, is that only each one of us ourselves can make those conscious choices, that will change our life and the way we see it.
Thank you for reading and for sharing this article to those who are interested!