We are half way through the 2017 year. Your mental focus, emotional agility and energy have been relentlessly put to the test for days, weeks and months on end … and you may be holding your breath for or clenching your jaw needing another weekend away.
Why? Because stress is a given. Increasing demands on our ability to stay resilient, agile, creative, and energised are a given too.
There is an upside to stress, however. Stress releases hormones such as adrenalin and dopamine that can give us seriously cool mojo and drive to get things done. Embrace stress and the chemical reactions it causes but don’t abuse it because long-term stress, without the right resilience techniques, can, and certainly will have a really negative impact.
If stress is here to stay … make sure you embrace it and stay the ‘windscreen and not the bug’?
Two top tips to keep stress the good, not the bad, guy:
Create your own reality
Stress can have an up or a down side. It all depends from what angle you look at it. Joni’s short video shares the outcome of a research project which looked at two different attitudes to stress with two very divergent outcomes! Click here to watch it.
Change your words to change your world
The FAB Quotient looks at three dimensions that can help you to manage stress. A quick immediate win. And everyone loves to WIN right? Change your words to change your world.
Over the next week, be aware of what words you choose to describe your perception of stress … especially with your loved ones at the end of long stressful days.
Are you completely exhausted? Or just more tired than usual? Or needing to recharge?
Are you terribly infuriated? Or annoyed but not angry? Or just a little uptight?
Are things so hectic you could die? Or are things really fast paced at the moment?
Words carry energy and can change not only your own physiology and brain chemistry, but also those around you.
We’re not suggesting that you deny negative emotions or use affirmations that you don’t believe in. What we are suggesting is to use more accurate, circumstance specific words that focus on the upside, rather than the downside of inevitable stress.
Why not try this: the next time you are greeted with, “How are you?” before responding, think about the words you choose, and perhaps frame your response to highlight the upside of stress. Not easy, but not impossible!
And if words don’t work then drop out of cerebral headspace and move into your body … no, not by eating another chocolate or drinking more wine … but by tapping into creativity and physical stress release … put on your favourite tune as loudly as possible and dance around like crazy; go for a run with your fur children in a park; do a spinning or yoga class; or simply lie outside under the clouds and listen to music that makes you happy.
What else can you do?
The FAB Quotient team regularly hosts workshops addressing common issues such as: cognitive fatigue; lack of initiative; anxiety; fatigue and lack of engagement or resilience.
To sustain your motivation to change, use the three simple tips in this article.
In today’s ever-changing, busy and complex world, the need for new ways to stay resilient, to stay energised and to stay healthy are of vital importance … especially if you want to #MakeThisTheYear!
Prioritising self-care is essential for older adult wanting to maximise longevity and juvenescence (the ability to stay younger for longer!).
“Efforts to improve health are forestalled … through our failure to convert what we reliably know into what we routinely do.” Dr David Katz, founding director, Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, and current President of the American College Lifestyle Medicine.
Your life won’t get better by chance – it will get better by change. Life applauds action, not intention. Unfortunately, many of us set ourselves up for repeated failure by making too many changes to our lifestyle at once.
Behavioural science tells us that the tinier a new habit is, the easier it is to practise it and this leads to positive reinforcement which then drives further behaviour change.
To make this the year of wellness for yourself, create new lifestyle habits that will be easy to sustain and set yourself up for success both in happiness and in health!
Professor BJ Fogg from Stanford University has some very interesting research and processes to support this concept under the banner of Tiny Habits™. A new behaviour, such as drinking more water, is more likely to be successful if you:
firstly, are motivated to make the change;
secondly, keep it as easy and simple as possible; and
thirdly, attach the new behaviour to a current one, for example, have a glass of water with every cup of coffee or tea.
If integrating mindfulness techniques seems foreign … here are a few simple daily practices. The emphasis here is on daily practices to hardwire this new good habits. Looking after your deep inner world will certainly determine the quality of your outer world! Before you choose which techniques resonate with you take into account that our brains respond better to short bursts of mindfulness.
We often chat about the gold standard being 20 mins a day. However, that’s not an easy way to begin. Rather start with developing a few tiny new habits to get you going. The trick here is to polish the diamond of your third inner world DAILY!
Here are a two simple, yet powerful suggestions:
Resist opening your eyes and kissing your cell phone good morning
A mindfulness practice first thing in the morning sets the tone for your day. Start with a ‘micro-activity’ like getting out of bed and lying on your bedroom floor to do a breathing exercise for literally one tiny, short minute. Build up to three minutes, five and perhaps 20 minutes won’t seem that out of reach.
How? Breathe-in to the count of 4, hold to the count of 7 and breathe-out to the count of 8. Do this 4 times.
Pick other ‘regular moments’ in your day as triggers for another micro activity of mindfulness
These moments become cues for your brain to shift into a mindful mode … even if for just one or two minutes. Think of this as using your windscreen wipers while driving. Your thoughts, queries and concerns can accumulate and clutter your brain, giving you the sense of having brain fog. Often we aren’t really aware that we are not as brain fit and clear minded as we could be. Like dust, particles and raindrops on a windscreen clutter the glass but we only really realise how much after we’ve cleaned the windscreen again.
Think of a few regular moments during your day that you can clean and clear your windscreen, to reset for the next hour or two. Here are my moments, beside the one that kick-starts my day on my bedroom floor:
After I reverse out my driveway, I hesitate and breathe deeply (using the breathing technique) before I drive to my clients.
I “reset”; stand still and feel my toes while I am waiting in the reception area in corporate offices.
Something else to note about waiting rooms: we are often asked to ‘go and take a seat’. I prefer to rather stand. We sit for hours in our car and in meetings. Rather stand in the reception area, relax your shoulders and jaw and use your mindfulness breathing to be present, in the moment and alert before your meeting.
EVERY single bathroom break. Take those two minutes to close your eyes and give yourself a mini windscreen wipe: a break from all the visual stimulus of the day that can clutter your brain!
Our Inner world is a reflective reaction to the outer world
Our habitual thoughts, way of being and ‘lens’ on the world that determines how we react or respond to situations and hence our experiences in and of the world. For example if you are the worrying type, you may over-plan, are probably afraid of changes, and unlikely to disrupt your daily routine with a spontaneous activity. We need to stop, take time to think of our inner world: our thoughts, our attitude, our complex emotions that drive our various ways of interacting with others.
Are you aware that there is a second layer to your “inner world”, your “third world”?
This is our true inner, deeper self and our inner life. This third world truly speaks to us as when we are in silence; when we are meditating or when we are being present and mindful such as when in deep prayer. In the mad rush of life, this is the part of the inner world that is often neglected. The part that absolutely needs to be remembered in order to address the barrage of demands and onslaught from the outer world.
How do we access this “third world”?
The simple answer is to develop the ability to be “in the moment”, to be present and to be mindful. This seems like another thing on our To Do List: which, in an overwhelmingly busy life … is anathema to most of us. Many of us feel like we are already tail-spinning through life.
In my next blog, I will suggest ways in which you can take care of you inner world.
Think of this example: you’re rushing up the road to an office block to a meeting and someone’s shopping bag splits in half and the contents spill out all over the pavement. Instinctively you’ll stop and take the time to help pick up the groceries and get the poor soul on their way. Given that you’ve done this without thinking, it’s really interesting to take note of how you feel afterwards?
Certainly uplifted, more positive and perhaps even with a spring in your step!
These small, random acts of kindness are good for you; the other person and most importantly can have a far greater influence than you realise:
Those who witness your act of good-will can be inspired to join in, or later to go and help someone else. They in turn will inspire others and your simple act has created a tidal wave of support, kindness and optimism.
When you do reach your meeting, your spirits are lifted and you feel buoyant and cheery. This is a great way to pave the way for problem solving and / or innovative thinking. In addition your positive spirit will infect those around you and your team atmosphere could be more optimistic and impassioned !
All of that from one random act of kindness.
The importance of these small, random acts of kindness cannot be understated. Go out, enjoy your day and if the chance arises, make a positive difference in someone’s life.
We know about our outer world… that mad rush of people, places, tasks, pending deadlines, discussions and debates which can also lead to conflict situations where we politely, or alternatively, aggressively, navigate and deal with daily.
According to much research there is evidence linking partial sleep deprivation, defined as sleeping less than 6 hours per night to weight gain.
How does sleep deprivation make you gain weight or negatively impact your health? 1. Restricted sleep is thought to increase the hormone ghrelin (makes you want to eat) and decrease leptin (tells you to stop eating), which promotes hunger.
2. Sleep restriction is also thought to increase cortisol release: a stress hormone.
3. People, who stay awake longer are more likely to snack excessively and possibly on the wrong foods.
4. Sleep deprivation may also alter the body’s ability to manage body temperature, which can result in lowered energy expenditure and causing easier weight gain.
5. Inadequate hours or fragmented sleep contribute to worsening atherosclerosis which increases the risk for heart attack, increases high blood pressure and risk for diabetes.
6. Disruption of normal sleep patterns results in loss of alertness, cognitive dysfunction and increased catastrophic events such as motor vehicle crashes.
7. In fact, lack of sleep is associated with the development of many mental health disorders which may impact eating and exercise patterns!
How to combat sleep deprivation using the FAB Quotient™
Stress, stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, and sugar raise the activity of the two wakefulness adrenal hormones: adrenalin and cortisol. Raised cortisol levels at night suppress the production of growth hormones, essential for daily tissue repair, and this effectively speeds up the ageing process.
So a sensible starting place for a good night’s sleep is to eat a diet that manages your blood glucose levels. (More about how to do this is found in FAB Quotient Book 1)
Calming Minerals – A lack of calcium and especially magnesium can trigger or exacerbate sleep difficulties because they work together to calm the body and help relax nerves and muscles, thus reducing cramps and twitches. Magnesium levels may well be low if you are particularly stressed or consume too much sugar. Your diet is more likely to be low in magnesium than calcium – so make sure you are eating plenty of magnesium-rich foods such as seeds, nuts, green vegetables, wholegrains and seafood.
Some people find it helpful to supplement 500mg of calcium and 300mg of magnesium at bedtime.
Doing regular exercise also helps you sleep better. This may be because exercise helps ‘burn off’ excess adrenalin and generally helps stabilise blood sugar, which regulate energy levels. Avoid exercise 3-4 hours before sleeping unless it is stretch based such as pilates or gentle yoga.
Try using Breathing techniques to relax your mind and de-stress before bedtime. This will reduce your cortisol levels.
If you would like to learn a calming breathing technique called the 4-7-8 breathing process, read FAB Book 1 available at www.resilientenergycenter.com. The book also contains a step by step process on how to powernap effectively to help combat sleep deprivation.
For many people with chronic sleep issues, simple lifestyle changes can help. These good habits are known as “sleep hygiene” .
• Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
• Make sure you are comfortable – get the right linen and wear sleeping garments that create ease for you.
• Use the bed only for sleeping or sex.
• Limit the time you spend in bed. Turn-in only when you are sleepy. If you don’t fall asleep within 15 minutes or if you wake up and can’t fall back to sleep within that amount of time, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy again.
• Keep the bedroom cool, dark, and as quiet as possible.
• Replace a worn-out or uncomfortable mattress.
• Take a hot bath before bedtime
We talk about our hectic lives: being stressed, feeling exhausted, no time to see our friends and certainly zero time for hobbies. We tend to exacerbate this and harp on about the negativity in our country, the economy and political players which all stress us out! But, there is the flip side: there is both positive and negative stress.
Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal has just released a book called: “The Upside of Stress” – why stress is good for you, and HOW TO GET GOOD AT IT.”
She offers a contrarian view of stress and cites studies showing that pressure harms only those people who believe it is harmful. McGonigal’s research shows that people who embrace stress and use it to fuel their efforts are happier, healthier and more productive. She says that stress stimulates physical and neurological changes that boost energy, confidence and empathy.
Can stress be a ‘resource’ for you?
The latest paradigm-smashing studies show that the stress response enhances performance.
Businesspeople negotiate more effectively
Students get higher marks in tests
Athletes become more competitive
Surgeons improve their dexterity
So embrace your adrenalin surges – feel them, use them and most importantly RE-LABEL your experiences: use words that allow the benefits of these surges to ‘shine’.
Of course … don’t drive in 5th or 6th gear all the time … you need to idle, and park at times, where your body is in a state of ease and coherence. It’s like minimising your coffee intake – when you need that real kick one strong cup of coffee gives you, take much-needed vooma. In this way you’ll truly feel and sense the benefits of increased adrenalin.
Instead of saying: “I am stressed; I am hectic; I am overwhelmed; I am exhausted” … how about using different words, such as: “This is challenging; stimulating; putting fire in my belly; making me re-look my assumptions; putting ‘vooma’ in my tank?”
The lights we are talking about here are our “screen lights”. Harvard researchers tell us that these lights disrupt our melatonin production and hence our quality of sleep. Spend your last waking hour before you go to sleep with a book that intrigues you, stimulates thoughts that are not work-related or that simply makes you smile.
Hide your phone – pick up some paper and a pencil.
We are so used to typing that making notes, doodles, sketching, colouring in (although the new adult colouring books are gaining momentum) is long forgotten. By using pen or pencil and paper …we actually reactivate a few new neural pathways. Keep your brain fit and VARY your activities. After dinner … kick back for 15 minutes and doodle or design something on paper while listening to classical music.
Kick start your day differently
Don’t be tempted to roll over and pick up your phone as the alarm goes off (even if it’s on your phone).
Get out of bed and lie on your bedroom floor and use the deep breathing technique called : 4-7-8. Google Dr Mercola and he’ll show you how, or simply try this: it’s simple! Breathe in for 4 counts. Hold for 7 counts. Breathe out for 8 counts.
When you’ve done this 3 times …stay still and ‘listen to what pops to mind” … you might surprise yourself by harnessing and developing your intuition. Learn to listen to it.
You don’t have to do all three of the suggestions from tomorrow. Start with one this week, add one next week and at then when you’re ready add the third.