How to relax (when you're stressed AF)
I've got a shit load on my plate at the moment. I am not complaining about it, It's amazing and my heart is bursting with excitement, but it's still stressful, and stress is a fact of life.
One of the projects I'm working on is particularly creative and I find that if I'm even 2% more tired or stressed or even dehydrated, I see about a 67%* decline in general brain function and my ability to be creative and efficient. (*Obviously these stats are completely made up, but rounding up the percentage doesn't hold the same weight. 67% is just so much more legit right? Point is, you get my point.)
The irony of the situation is that I'm so busy that if I take time to relax, I get less done, which makes me more stressed. Sound familiar? I'm sure we've all experienced that conundrum at some stage in our life - perhaps it is life.
However if your work is better quality you’ll spend less time on it, the only way to achieve quality work is to have quality rest. So finding clever ways to get R&R is actually a must.
Now when I’m this busy (and stressed) I’ve got one of two options;
- Quit, shave my head and eyebrows and become a tibetan monk. I’m not joking, that is something I’ve always been interested in. Or;
- I can just make my relaxation practices more yielding and consistent which will enable me to be as effective as Donald Trump’s publicist but as chilled as a Caribbean coconut vendor.
This week I've compiled for you some quick and effective ways to become more relaxed in less time - Kind of a busy Londoners guide to calming down - no it doesn’t involve signing to plants or investing in crystals (even though I do both those things);
- Wake up in the Amazon: Unfortunately I’m not referring to online shopping, I’m talking about the actual Amazon (yes the one we keep cutting down to support our ever growing beef addiction). If not the Amazon, perhaps you find the beach more relaxing? What I’m referring to is your Alarm. Waking up to those naff alarm presets on your iPhone are hardly conducive for a relaxing start. I have set the following songs to wake me up in the morning. It prompts me to wake up calm, it’s also a reminder to meditate before I even leave the bed (see point 2). These are some of my favourite wake up songs/artists;
- Meditate before you caffeinate: Following on from above, as soon as I wake up, I meditate. Hence why my alarm sound is key because I don’t have to look at my phone to turn off the alarm, the sound actually gets me into the meditation. The morning meditation is simply deeply conscious and mindful breath awareness - it’s nothing too complex. Just allowing the senses of my body to take over before my mental (or to-list) awareness takes over. Researches at the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy in Wake Forest's University School of Medicine found that even 4 days of brief meditation can improve the ability to sustain attention.1
- Set regular stretch reminders on your phone: Apparently, since the invention of smart phones, our attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds (less than a gold fish). However our ability to multi-task has improved. Great, but my job requires more than 8 seconds of my attention, and I’m sure yours does too. Setting regular breaks to stretch (which will improve circulation to the brain) but will also alleviate the pressure that comes from trying to stay focused. I set a reminder every 45 minutes to get up, move and stretch and I find it helps tremendously.
- Stop doing HIIT: If you’re stressed, why would you go and elevate your cortisol in a highly excessive way. High Intensity Interval training is great for burning fat, but NOT for supporting a calm body and mind. Don’t over do it. If your diet is in check, twice per week will be enough with one steady state cardio session if you’re really hell bent on fat burning.
- Spend time in Nature: It’s hard in London, I really struggle with this one however it does reduce activity in the part of the brain that is responsible for depression and anxiety - so it’s kind of important.
- Eat to nourish: Optimal brain function is fuelled by proper nutrition and potentially even nutrient timing. The reason I prefer to have carbs in the evening and protein in the morning is because Carbohydrates stimulate the release of serotonin (the netflix and chill neurotransmitter) and Protein (in particular Amino acid, Tyrosine stimulates Dopamine production and release (the gratification / motivation neurotransmitter that just helps you get stuff done like a boss).
- Tech Detox: I have a rule, no social media past 9pm. It’s not necessary and at night time, my only time to let my brain recover, I don’t need to be getting into the deep vortex that is stalking your ex boyfriends new girlfriends dog. The scientific reasoning behind this tip is related to the disruption of our circadian rhythms with blue light technology on laptops, tablets and smart phones. It can actually wake us up and over stimulate the brain which in turn will effect the quality of your sleep.
- Uplifting pre-bed reading material: So whatever you think about before you sleep is going to marinate in your subconscious for a good 6-8 hours. I have a strange obsession with reading true crime novels, but I had to stop because although they took my mind off work, they weren’t exactly cultivating beautiful thoughts before bed. Before bed I choose philosophy as it is a humble reminder of bigger and usually more positive concepts.
I really hope these help, as beautifully put by the incredible Vivian Greene, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, t’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Life can be stressful, it’s how you choose to react to the stress that determines your ability to survive and thrive.
If all of the above fails you can always book on my retreats:
Greece: 14th - 18th September in F_ Zeen Resort, Kefalonia - book here
England: 7-9th October in Champney’s, Forest Mere - book here