I can remember staring at my bulletin board one afternoon at work feeling exhausted and anxious. Life at home as a working mom was so crazy and work was stressful and busy. With my head pounding and my eyelids dropping, I decided I had to do something different. If I couldn’t completely change my outward circumstances I had to find a way to change my response.
I decided to start with my energy levels so I did a second Whole30. I had completed one a year prior because I was struggling with really bad acid reflux. Eating mostly Paleo and eliminating certain foods made a huge difference in my acid reflux but I was miserable not eating my favorite snacks. I quickly jumped back into my old habits after the 30 days. This time around I was so desperate to feel better I didn’t even care if I had to give up my evening popcorn, chips, diet coke or wine. It was honestly a joy to eat foods that made me want to get up in the morning.
Almost 30 days later my evenings now look totally different than before. Where I used to crash on the couch often I’m going for a run with the stroller and my daughter on her bike or I’m working out after the kids are in bed. I’m able to get up at 5:30 every day to have my devotions and a moment of quiet before the rush to get out the door.
I had to make a big lifestyle change in my eating habits because that’s what I needed. But maybe you just need a few simple changes throughout the day that can reduce your stress levels. Along with my diet and exercise I started making these next five things a priority.
I can honestly say I feel more peace than I have in a long time. I’m so thankful for the knowledge that how we care for ourselves truly affects our mental health and quality of life.
When we are busy and focused, we often take short breaths. This leaves us with less oxygen in our bodies and brains making us feel stressed and tired. Deep breathing stops the stress hormone cortisol, which causes that anxious feeling.
An easy way to take a stress lowering deep breath is to feel your belly expand as well as your lungs and hold the breath in- then exhale very slowly. Three or four of these makes a huge difference.
Get up and move.
It’s important to get out of our work environment for a few minutes. When we come back, our thoughts are clearer, our body calmer and we are more efficient at getting stuff done.
Don’t want to leave the office on your 15 minute break? Try legs on the wall, a restorative yoga move that involves lying on the floor with your legs propped against the wall for a few minutes. This move offers many benefits including helping lower back pain and promoting blood circulation back to the heart, helping you feel energized and calmer. Maybe put “break” on your door!
Studies have shown that a cluttered desk leads to stress and makes us less productive. Finding ways to organize paperwork with trays or a shelf is a good place to start. Keeping a clear desk clears the mind, and gives you more room to spread out and work. A picture of family or friends or a past vacation can also make an office space feel happier. When decorating, colors like blue and purple are calming, while red or orange can promote stress.
I like to put up bible verses that I can look at and repeat when I feel anxious. Some of my favorites are Psalm 121 and John 14:27.
Plan for the day.
Packing healthy snacks to eat during the day and drinking plenty of water is so important. Nothing kills a good mood like being hungry and dehydrated come three o’clock. Snacks with protein like almonds or a protein bar keep blood sugar steady, staving off that “hangry” vibe.
Exercise and eating healthy promote hormone and body chemistry that affect our moods. Even just a walk on a break can calm those anxious stress hormones. Self-care really is not selfish- it makes us better caretakers.
Give yourself some grace.
Accept help from co-workers and reach out if you need help. If you are truly struggling, let someone know. We all need support. No one should feel completely overwhelmed by stress. Check out a counseling service in your area. Talking to an outside person trained to help deal with pressure and stress can be a huge benefit. Above all, don’t give up and remember that life moves in seasons. This might be a hard one right now, but maybe your season of rest is right around the corner. And sometimes finding inner peace can give you a season of rest even if nothing else changes. That’s what I’ve found and that’s my prayer for you today.