Is ‘overwhelm’ a common feeling in your days? Do you feel like you hardly ever get any down time to recharge your battery? Do you feel like you're tired but wired all the time? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, firstly, you’re not alone, and secondly, you are most likely suffering the effects of chronic stress.
This is a modern day woman (and man) reality that has us going through life without enjoying the ride, but instead, just trying to make it through our days. I mention women here because it’s my expertise, not because this is unique to women.
Chronic stress is at the root of so many of our illnesses, from anxiety and depression, IBS and other digestive disorders, inflammatory conditions, hormone imbalances, autoimmune conditions, and so many more. Many experts say that most illnesses start in the gut, and I agree, but stress has such a huge impact on the gut, that I think they go hand in hand, impacting each other.
This chronic stress leads to what we commonly call Adrenal Fatigue, or HPA Axis Dysfunction (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis). This happens when brain registers stress, initiates a stress response, and over time, stress hormone production gets out of balance, inflammation increases, and health declines.
The good news is that it is possible to reverse this. Eating a whole foods diet, using the right supplements, and being mindful about our lifestyle are all important tool, and I argue that mindfulness is actually the most important tool we have. Using mindfulness practices is the best way to decrease the stress response produced by the brain, and it’s not as hard as it may sound. Practicing mindfulness doesn’t necessarily mean sitting for hours observing your breathe. Although this is ‘very’ beneficial, there are many other ways we can practice mindfulness and get all the benefits.
Mindfulness simply means being fully present. In any healing program I create, I always incorporate a mindfulness practice. I even created a whole tool called My Soul Challenge, which promotes mindful living and self-care in order to inspire and motivate others to make time for this practice in their daily lives.
Here are four mindfulness hacks that you can start practicing today to start brining more calm into your day:
Digital detox: Set a time to retire your electronic devices for the day, and be strict about it. Also, limit your consumption of digital media. Rather than grabbing for your phone and mindlessly scrolling through, put it down and use your time to read, listen to music, go for a walk, spend time with family or friends, etc.
The blue light we are exposed to from screens is very stimulating for the nervous system and the amount of information we consume per second is extraordinary, it bombards our brain with information that we try to process. We feel good for a second when we get boost in dopamine by seeing the novelty of a new post from our favourite blogger, or a new like on your photo, but this is distracting and in the end only increases the stress response from the brain.
Avoid multitasking: We live in an age of multitasking, checking emails, working and eating, all the same time. Although this may feel like we're being more productive, it's actually an enormous stress on the body, which increases fatigue and overwhelm and decreases productivity. It’s actually more productive to do one task for 45 minutes, taking a short break and then starting up again.
Set time aside for your snacks and/or meals, and set a time aside for each task you need to do in the day. Notice how easy or hard this is for you, and notice how your productivity, concentration and overwhelmed feeling change when you focus one one task for 45 minutes spurts at a time,
Grounding ritual: Have a grounding ritual that you use as a way to slow down and bring attention to what you're doing and in what direction you are going with your day. This can be as simple as a few deep breaths in between meetings or tasks, or it can be as elaborate as a rose-petal essential oil Epsom salt bath at the end of your day or a the end of your week.
Having a grounding ritual is a moment in your day where you can relax, gather your thoughts, or take a second before turning the page and moving on to the next part of your day, wether that is your next task in your day, or transitioning from work to home or to go to bed. This grounding exercise helps decrease the stress response, and even if it’s just for a few minutes in your day, over time, you’ll get great benefits.
Plan a ‘Vacation Moment’ in your day: Take a moment in your day where you feel like you're on vacation. Disconnect from everything, step away from your work and have that moment of bliss in your day. This used to seem like such a luxury to me and actually, a waste of time in my busy days. There was no way I had time to do this. But taking time to have a really nice cup of tea, taking two minutes to focus on your breath, going for a walk outside or meeting a friend for lunch in the middle of my work day actually tremendously increases focus and productivity for the rest of the day, while decreasing the feeling of being overwhelmed and completely stressed out.
Start by incorporating one or two of these things in your day, and increase from there. The result will be better health, increased energy and happiness, better relationships, increased productivity at work, and an increased feeling of calm in your day.