Do you feel stressed out and exhausted at the end of each day? Do you often wonder why you never seem to have any energy? If so, you are not alone. Life is so fast-paced and stressful nowadays that many of us are multitasking to the extreme – juggling a busy career and family, trying to maintain some sort of a social life and still finding time to spend with our partner, or with our friends and loved ones. A friend of mine told me recently she has not read a book for 5 years. In fact, she cannot even remember the last book she read, it was so long ago! Another friend of mine laughed when I asked her if she ever goes swimming or goes for a walk just to relax. “Relax? By the time I have time to ‘relax' it's time to go to bed!” she said.
It's a fact of life that many of us are suffering from exhaustion, fatigue and stress due to the modern pressures of everyday life. This stress causes us to sleep less soundly than we should, eat the foods we shouldn't and not look after ourselves properly. Stress puts a huge strain on our health and in particular, our adrenal glands and immune system, which means we catch colds more often, pick up bugs and generally feel run-down, worn-out and exhausted, but the great news is that there are some really simple ways we can alleviate that stress and boost our immune systems naturally, giving our body a chance to recover and find some balance (and who wouldn't want a bit more balance in their lives!) You can re-energize your mind and body very easily, just by changing your thought and behavior patterns. Who knew that making our lives a little better would be so simple!
Most of us don't get enough of it, but we all know that we need at least 30 minutes exercise every day. Now that summer is on the way, the weather should be better and the evenings a little longer. You don't need to spend vast amounts of money on gym fees or classes and you don't have to join an expensive club either. The easiest way to get more exercise is to incorporate it into your daily routine…if it is practical for you to do so, set your alarm 30 minutes earlier than usual and go for a brisk walk before breakfast. This does mean getting to bed 30 minutes earlier at night, but the benefits are enormous – a walk before breakfast energizes your body and mind, getting the blood flowing and your heart pumping. And best of all, it's free! If you can't go in the mornings, then try to incorporate a walk into your daily routine in another way – if you take public transport to work, then hop off a few stops earlier and walk the rest of the way. If you drive, then take 30 minutes at some stage during the day to go for a walk. Not only will your body benefit, but when you get back to work your brain will have received a fresh supply of oxygen and you'll be more focused and have more energy for the afternoon!
A few years ago, I suffered from ill-health and was so stressed at work that even my skin had started to suffer. I developed mild acne and felt so unwell that I just knew I had to do something about it. I was looking for a practical and simple way to improve my health without doing anything too extreme or starting a crazy diet which would leave me starving and feeling miserable. A friend of mine told me about juicing so I bought a book and quickly realized there was a totally simple way to get the essential vitamins and minerals I was missing and by incorporating juicing into my daily routine I could improve my skin, health, mood and general well-being so easily. When you make your own completely natural vegetable juices and fruit smoothies, you are getting 100% natural juices – no added sugar, preservatives or additives, just pure vitamins and minerals the way nature intended. Once you have tried juicing, you will never want to buy another smoothie from a shop! Many of the smoothies we buy at juice bars for example, contain frozen yogurt laden with sugar. I try to incorporate 3 smoothies or natural juices a week into my normal diet – I don’t recommend using juicing as a substitute for eating proper, healthy meals, but they work so well in addition to a normal, healthy diet.
Getting a good night's sleep is a no-brainer, but it's not always as easy as going to bed, dropping off, sleeping for 8 hours and then waking up refreshed and revitalized. Many of us have babies, children, stressful jobs, worries and health concerns which keeps us awake at night, so we often wake up more exhausted than we were before we fell asleep! Getting a good night's sleep is not always easy, but it is possible to improve the quality of our sleep and the vital thing is to find ways to relax our body and mind before we go to bed. Modern technology is wonderful, but many of us are spending more time late in the evening catching up on emails, text messages, sitting in front of our laptops after the kids have gone to bed, checking messages on our phones, or dozing in front of the TV before switching them all off and finally dragging ourselves to bed. If you want to get a good night's sleep, it is vital to literally “switch off” from technology at least 30 minutes and preferably one hour before getting into bed. This allows our brains to slow down and helps our blood pressure to return to normal levels before we lie down. Lots of people have different ways of relaxing before they sleep, but here are some of the practical things we can do to relax our body and mind…
Meditate: 10 minutes of deep breathing and clearing your mind before bedtime is amazingly good for you…iTunes has an abundance of meditation music and programs to choose from if you feel like you need a bit of help learning how to do it, but once you start to do it you will be amazed at how good you feel and what a difference it can make.
Take a bath: the majority of people shower nowadays and haven't taken a bath since they were kids, but a few candles and a couple of drops of your favourite oil into running water is pure heaven at the end of a long day. We might not have time to do this everyday – but even once or twice a week will make a difference to our body and there is nothing like water to calm the soul at the end of a long and busy day.
No caffeine after 5pm: I am as guilty as the next person for loving my cuppa in the evenings, but after literally years of broken sleep, getting up to the bathroom 2 or 3 times a night and weird dreams that played out like horror movies, it was time for me to call it a day where my late night cup of tea was concerned. Now, if I really want to have a hot drink in the evenings, I will have hot soy milk with a teaspoon of honey, or peppermint tea but again, no later than 8pm. Our body has a way of telling us what is good for us and what is bad for us and if you start to listen to it, it will work better for you.
Healthy and nutritious food is essential to keep us feeling well, particularly during times of stress when our body becomes depleted of essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. When our stress levels go up, our body automatically goes into the “fight or flight” response which, once upon a time, was essential for keeping us from getting killed by wild animals or slain by enemies. Nowadays, our body still goes into the same response, but we don't need to run away or protect ourselves from being attacked so our adrenal glands go into overdrive and our body quickly becomes tired as it tries to get our blood pressure and our heart rate down and keep our hormone levels stable.
We cannot always prevent stress, but if we put healthy, wholesome food into our body we keep our vitamin and mineral levels up, our immune system strong and we are less likely to become ill. Ditching bad foods such as saturated fats, sugar, additives and cola drinks and replacing them with goodies like vegetables, fresh fruits, lean meat, fish, eggs and natural foods such as pulses, grains and seeds which contain essential B vitamins (great for our nervous system), amino acids, and wonderful minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc, will all help us fight nasties, such as colds and bugs and prevent us from getting life-threatening illnesses.
Reduce stress and increase your positive outlook
Everyone's life contains a certain amount of stress, no matter who you are or what you do in life, but the key to managing stress is to reduce it, whenever and wherever you can. A lot of people think that they don't have any control over stress in their lives, that it somehow “controls them”, but if you can identify the particular stresses in your life and decide which of them you can either reduce, or eliminate completely, then you are halfway there. For some of us, stress can come from having to cope with difficult situations at work, arguments with our children or our partner when we feel overwhelmed and tired, or often from worries about finance, health or the future. Some of these stresses are more difficult to control and we may not always have influence over them or be able to eliminate them. But, there are also other types of stress – being late for an important appointment, panicking when there are too many things to do around the home and not enough time to do them, wanting things to be perfect all the time and feeling guilty or bad when we cannot make them perfect, having a bad day and replaying the things you could have done, or should have done, in a particular situation – and these are stresses that we absolutely can control.
The reality is that most of the things we worry about and panic about never actually happen. They start off as small worries and before we know it, they consume our every waking thought and even wake us up at night and stop us from resting properly and getting a good sleep. Before long, this becomes toxic to our body and mind and we feel completely exhausted, just trying to “deal” with it all. But, if we can change our thought patterns from negative to positive, we can easily reduce or eliminate some of the things that make us stressed.
If we realize that we have full control over our thoughts, we can choose to worry, or not worry about something. We can choose to be stressed, or not to be stressed! It really is that simple. For every one thing you find yourself worrying about, write down three wonderful things about your life that you are thankful for. Try to turn the negative thoughts into positive ones whenever you can. If you can do this, you can actually effect physiological changes in your body! Negative thoughts are so powerful – but positive thoughts are even stronger. If there is only one change that you can make in your life, change the way you think. The power of the mind is stronger than we realize.