Stress. The health assassin.

Feeling in control of your life and giving yourself the time and space you need to heal and take care of yourself is essential for peak performance, injury prevention and recovery.

The fast pace of our hectic city lifestyles takes it’s toll on our ability to be resilient, to give ourselves adequate recovery time and rest, to set achieveable goals and expectations and to feel confident and positive about our minds and bodies.

Reducing stress can have a big impact on your ability to avoid injuries or recover quickly from any mishaps.

What can you do to make sure you are giving yourself the best conditions for success and long lasting health and happiness?

1. Take time out

You are in the midst of a bunch of projects, you have emails and phone calls coming at you all day, you are managing multiple important pieces of work, relationships, family, friends, and struggling to fit in exercise and rest/recovery time. Sound familiar?

You may not like to hear it, but you are headed for burnout, and when you are juggling all those commiments, you are not giving your full attention to any one of them.

Have you noticed that you can’t focus? Attention span has dropped to minutes if not seconds? Succumbing to distraction and temptation?

You may not realise now but your cognition and judgement ability is severely impaired when you are under stress. A little bet of a stretch when you have a deadline is one thing. But consistent and prolonged sleep deprivation, anxiety, feelings of being overwhelmed and disatisfied will lead to mistakes or serious problems.

2. Take time off.

Schedule some Non-Negotiable Time to rest and relax. Turn your phone off. Get away from your desk. Move your body and go to a different environment. You need to be somewhere calm and free of clutter, where you can relax your mind AND your body.

3. Relax

Do acitivies that make you happy, relaxed and give you pleasure and keep you calm. Go out into nature. Listen to music. Relax with friends. Read a book (visit your local library or bookstore for a change of scene).

4. Ask for help

Ask friends or family or a professional therapist to help you focus your activity on what’s most important, cut back on busy-work and delegate or ditch tasks you don’t realy NEED to do. Give yourself permission to switch off and wind down, and ask loved ones to hold you to this.

5. Review your priorities

Are you doing necessary maintenance on your body and mind, or just waiitng til a crisis and reacting instead of planning?

Are you focussing on what’s REALLY important to you? Are there any conflicts you need help understanding or resolving? Ask a trusted mentor, counsellor, coach or therapist for help in defining your true values. Make sure you resolve conflicts early: don’t just let it go when you know something is wrong.

6. Prevention is better than cure.

Are you eating well? Are you exercising? Are you practicing good self care habits? Are you taking ALL your responsiblities into account in your planning? Are you saying yes to things when you know you are already overloaded? Are you bringing up problems at work or home and addressing them before they become resentments? Are you taking your full holiday allowance? Are you setting reasonable limits on the demands of work or other projects?

7. Don’t ignore it, it won’t go away

If you are in pain, your body is telling you somethign is wrong. Pain can be emotional, mental OR physical. If you are feeling stressed out, chances are there is some underlying conflict you need to deal with, and when you do, everything will start working a lot better. Think laterally – the stress may not be coming from where you immediately think it is. List all the areas of you life that are going well, and what you are doing in those areas to feel in control and able to execute to your best ability. Then think about the things that are causing you stress. Can you think of alternative ways to deal with them? Whatever you are doing now is not working, so change something.

8. Outsource your self-care

Services are the fastest growing industry, providing working people with a plethora of options for staying accountable and building self-care into your routine. Make it a priority: don’t think that missing that appointment with your body is going to help you in the long run. You will be able to deal better with stress, work demands, family responsibilities, financial plans, home management, if you make your health a priority now, before it’s too late!

Get a personal trainer or coach to hold you accountable. Book regular appointments with your bodywork therapist. Don’t skip workouts: if you can’t make it to the gym, do 10 minutes of stretches and simple exercises at home. Everyone can find 10 minutes before work, in your tea break, before dinner, before bed… even a tiny bit every day is better than nothing, and helps you stay in the habit. The minimum guidelines for physical activity for health in adults is at least 150 minutes or 30 minutes, 5 times a week, including strength training as well as aerobic activity.

Staying accountable helps you keep your routine and keep on track to keep your mental and physical health in top condition.