We can all experience stress, such as chronic fatigue, body pain and auto immune diseases. This can lead to depression, insomnia, addictions and anxiety. This issue has spread 10x as much as it was a generation ago due to our nervous systems not being able to deal with the stressors of the 21st century. Work, finances and social life all add to the stress in our lives and for some people extreme stress has just become a way of life. Anxiety and depression has somewhat been normalised and sometimes not seen as a problem, but it is. Hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are raised under stress to prepare the body for action. Muscles tighten, senses are sharper, heart beat raises and our blood pressure rises. If our fight or flight response is stuck on all the time it affects the way we feel and think. The good news is as humans we have the ability to re wire our brains to deal with problems, mindfulness can heal this damage. Most of our stress is built upon things that are out of our control and we have the idea that if we just fix each problem that comes along we will be ok, but unfortunately there are always going to be problems so it’s not how you fix each separate issue but how you train your brain to be able to receive and handle each problem that comes along. Bottom line is, don’t focus on fixing each problem that comes along. Focus on how you can better handle problems. Then, stress will become more manageable.
Important advice on making changes to your lifestyle... 1. START REALLY SMALL. If you take too much on too fast you are far less likely to succeed, you will get over run with the things you have to do and may end up giving up. Instead of going from 0 to 5 gym sessions a week, start with 1 then build up. Instead of changing your diet overnight, add a vegetable to every lunch then build on it. Instead of meditating for 30 minutes every day, start with 5 then build up. 2. GET HOOKED ON A HABIT. Once you start on a habit, don’t let go of it. Think of it like a project you have started, once you start a project you want to finish it and make sure it’s complete. So write your habits down, document them in some way to make sure you keep track. If you need to drink 8 cups of water a day, make a checklist and check them off every day until that habit is solidly in your routine. 3. MAKE YOUR INTENTIONS CLEAR. Don’t be vague with your habits like saying ‘I will try get in the gym 2 times this week’. Put it in your planner that you are going in the gym Tuesday and Friday evening this week. Then you owe it to yourself to commit to your habit and you are much more likely to succeed. 4. CELEBRATE YOUR SUCCESSES. Like many people it’s easy to beat yourself up over the bad things in your life, SO make sure you celebrate when you get things right! (And I don’t mean celebrate a gym session by eating a chocolate bar). But make it clear to yourself that you’ve done something good, this activates the reward circuitry in your brain that releases key chemicals which gives you feelings of pride and achievement, this will empower you and give you more chance to succeed in the future. 5. HAVE A STRONG ENVIRONMENT. This will effect your choices massively. Have you ever seen a packet of crisps or box of sweets in your kitchen and snacked on them needlessly? There is an idea called ‘activation energy’ where there is a certain amount of energy that triggers your habit. So instead of having a few treats on your kitchen table put them right at the back of the most furthest away cupboard, this will require more energy (although it might seem small) but the idea is you will make better choices without the immediate temptation. Or even better, eliminate the temptation by removing them OUT of your environment. 6. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SUPPORTERS. People that are in your life impact your decisions quite a lot, the people you surround yourself with can affect what choices you decide to make. So if you associate with people that are having frequent takeaways and watching a lot of TV, you are more likely to adopt these habits whereas if you create a better surrounding of healthy eating people that exercise then you are more likely to succeed in this atmosphere. If you REALLY want to make a change to your lifestyle then create a support group that inspires you and picks you up when you fail. 7. PRE-COMMIT TO YOUR HABITS. Imagine finishing work and you planned to go to the gym but you’re tired and you can’t be bothered. What if you already promised a friend you would be there? Or you already posted on social media you’re going to the gym that night? Or you promised a family member you would give them £10 every time you fail to go to the gym when you said you would? This just gives you an extra amount of accountability to give you more chance of success! FINALLY, every habit you attempt to make, think of it as a behavioural experiment. If you get it wrong, it’s just something you can learn and work on. If you get it right, well done and it’s something you’ve learnt about yourself. Think about the short term goals and break them down. If you stick to the process you are a lot more likely to succeed in your long term goals!