I live a busy life. I’m a self- starter, I run a couple of businesses and a couple that are in start-up. I wear multiple hats and dance between being a small business operator, mum, speaker, mentor … the list goes on. I sometimes take on more than I can handle. I think I actually like and thrive on being under pressure and having a lot on my plate. I’m sure I’m not alone.
On the other hand, I understand the importance of balancing a high pressure environment with fun, rest and rejuvenation. if I don’t, I self-combust.
Here are my top 5 tips for managing stress or in other words, balancing out the chaos!
1. Surfing & Salt water
Since I’ve retired from Aerial Skiing, I’ve really fallen in love with surfing. I live by the sea and there’s something healing and cleansing about being in the ocean. When I’m surfing, I don’t find myself thinking about anything else other than reading the ocean and catching that next wave. I am totally present and it’s a real escape for me. It’s also a great workout and endorphin rush so there’s no surprise that it sends me into a state of bliss! Give it a go this summer. If surfing isn’t your thing, grab a boogie-board and just catch some waves. You’ll have a blast!
2. Exercise - Any kind!
There’s nothing like sweating the day away with some exercise. We all know exercise has a number of health benefits namely the fact that it reduces cortisol levels (stress hormone) in the body and gives us a nice endorphin fix as well. You don’t have to do a lot of exercise to reap the benefits. I try to do a little everyday because it makes me feel good! My favourite form of exercise at the moment (other than being in the surf) is trail or beach running. I love the softness of the bush trails under foot, or hopping randomly along a rocky shore. I love the smell of the forest and the changing terrain. If I’m short on time, I’ll go and find a hill to run up or a set of stairs and just commit to doing something physical that will increase my heart rate and work up a sweat!
I always say “Yoga is my medicine”. It’s true. Yoga allowed me to have longevity as an athlete and it’s helping me have longevity in life. It’s grounding, it’s calming, it’s challenging and it makes me feel amazing. It’s a total stress reliever and an activity anyone can do. It’s best to find a teacher that will give you one-on-one tuition (which is the way yoga traditionally is taught) so that you can practice correctly and to your skill level.
4. Sauna – another form of sweating it out!
There’s a reason for why Finnish people are one of the most chilled out nations….and it’s not because of the freezing winters. The Sauna is a ritual in Finland (and most Nordic countries) that detoxifies the body and relaxes the mind. It’s a ritual I have also married into and love. Sauna eases stress in a number of ways. It's a place of warmth and relaxes tight or achy muscles, it’s a quiet space free of outside distractions and a place to decompress and let go of the day. Sauna improves circulation - especially when alternating it with a roll around in the snow or cold plunge into a freezing lake! (a cold shower will also do the trick) and stimulates the release of endorphins. I also love using essential oils in the sauna. Just add a few drops of your favourite scent to the the sauna bucket and splash it on the rocks. I always leave a sauna feeling calm, happy, refreshed and ready for a blissful night’s sleep. Make sure you drink plenty of water after a sauna to stay hydrated.
5. Be Present
I think a major cause of anxiety for a lot of people is being overwhelmed by our never-ending-to-do list. I’m guilty of that too from time-to-time! However, one of the most important skills I learned as an athlete was the ability to stay present and focus on one thing at a time. If I find myself thinking about all the tasks, events, projects I’m working on at the moment, it’s no surprise that I conjure up feelings of anxiety. Who wouldn’t? We can’t work on everything at once, so I have to stop and remind myself. “Where are you Lydia?”, “Be right here. In this moment”, “Focus on one task at a time”. I also find it helpful to write down my top 3 priorities for the day and stay focused on those.
I think the most important thing to remember here is good old Newtons Law. “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. Work must be balanced out by play. Exercise must be balanced out by rest. If you’re too rigid and structured, throw in some spontaneity. If you lack structure and discipline, start by adding a couple of ‘non-negotiables’ to your day until they become routine.
I hope these tips for managing stress are helpful. They sure are an integral part of the way I manage stress. Life is best lived in balance!