Staying fit and healthy doesn't just mean keeping in shape and bikini ready. If your thoughts aren't healthy then everything else just becomes much more difficult. We all have bad days or those little insecurities that turn into something much bigger in our heads. The stresses of juggling everyday life can get on top of us all and can have serious consequences. It is a scary thought that 75% of all illnesses are thought to be stress related and every day over a quarter of a million people in the UK miss work everyday due to stress.
We all need to take some time out every now and again. I know for me I really relax next to the sea. Lying down in the sun, listening to the waves lap up against the sand and breathing in fresh air is my ultimate in relaxation, however for most of us this isn't a daily reality.
If taking a holiday to a beautiful location isn't an option then it's important to find a few minutes to unwind and clear our heads throughout the day. I like to enjoy a few quiet moments in the morning before anyone is up, maybe have a drink in the sunlit garden or light a candle and take a shower or bath in the evening to zone out. I also find that a pilates session helps to ground me when I am feeling under pressure and some quiet music helps me unwind at night, helping me to fall asleep if my mind is in overdrive.
When I was has having treatment recovering from anorexia, my therapist introduced me to positive affirmations and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. Her introduction to it was "now I'm not trying to turn you into a hippy or anything but...". After years of negative thinking, anxiety and self-hatred, I didn't believe that this would actually enable me to deal with situations I found difficult. It was difficult to look in the mirror and focus on positive aspects of myself. It was alien to hear good things and I'd always found it difficult to take compliments. MBCT however, teaches you to pay attention to the present moment, rather than worrying about the past or the future, and to let go of the negative thoughts that can tip you over into depression. It also gives you a greater awareness of your own body, helping you to identify the signs of oncoming depression and ward off the episode before it starts. It is a proven way of paying attention to the present moment, using techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga. It helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, we’re better able to manage them.
More often than not I am now able to recognise when a panic attack of episode of anxiety is coming on, I am aware of the triggers and have the skills to think more rationally about the situation or if it is not the appropriate situation I can usually take a few deep breathes and decide to deal with it at a more appropriate time when I can explore what caused those feelings of anxiety to arise. It has given me the skills to lead more of a normal life, I don't generally avoid situations now because I know that I have the skills to overcome any negativity that I may face from myself or others.
Yesterday at work a volunteer told me that she had started a diet as she needed to lose a lot of weight and asked me if I'd ever tried or thought about doing that diet. The anorexic voice in my brain tried telling me that she thought I was fat and needed to go on a diet. Instead of getting upset I took a deep breath and remembered that earlier she had complemented me on how nice I looked and that she wished she could wear a dress like mine. She may have meant did I use that diet to get in shape so just replied that no I hadn't tried it and just try to eat as clean as possible and had she looked into that?
Of course I still have my off days just like anyone else. There are times when I react completely irrationally to something someone has said or done. Mindfulness takes continual practise and if I do flip out I know that I have let that practise slip. I try not to beat myself over it though, everybody has bad days and tomorrow is a brand new day. On that note, I'm about to take five minutes to sit in the garden and enjoy the birds singing before I focus on getting on with the day :)
How do you cope with stress on a daily basis? Do you take mental health days?
Linking up with Katie //Healthy Habits, Shanna // Random Wednesday