If you have taken the Vitals© survey mentioned in one of the previous columns – “Stress self-awareness: identifying your stress levels & personal stressors” – you will have met the jelly babies – the coloured figures that summarised your current stress status.
Each figure is surrounded by a circle of varying thickness – think of this as a ‘force field’. The thicker the force field, the greater your resilience and ability to rise to meet life’s challenges. The opposite is also true – if your force field is damaged, even a relatively weakly thrown curve ball can sneak through and knock you out.
Most good toolkits contain a variety of tools for a variety of jobs – forgive the DIY analogy, but I am a hapless yet enthusiastic handyman. Similarly, building resilience is best approached with a fistful of tactics. So, put on your safety goggles, don your hard hat and let’s open the lid and take a quick peek inside:
Sleep: This is an active process and is as important as eating well or going to the lavatory (you know how you feel when you don’t do either of those properly!). Sleep is the body’s natural repair cycle and is one of those areas where quantity and quality are needed. Most experts recommend between 6 and 8 hours per night for adults.
- Max two cups of tea/coffee per day.
- Cut out caffeine 6 to 8 hours before going to bed.
- The bedroom is for sleep and sex. Get rid of the TV.
Diet: What you put in is what you get out. We all know this but are possibly scared by having to go to the extremes most diets suggest. I need to make it clear: I am not a dietician and any radical changes to diet or exercise levels should be done under professional medical guidance, however, if you are reading this you have at least a modicum of intelligence and hopefully some common sense. Absolutely eat a little bit of what you like occasionally, just not all the time.
- Eat more low GI foods.
- Chew your food thoroughly and slowly – aids digestion and you eat less.
Exercise: Helps our bodies ‘mop up’ many of the so-called stress hormones and also releases others that make us feel good. It helps aerate our blood, burn fat and generally improve self-esteem. One of life’s great paradoxes is that the more exercise you do (within reason) the more sustainable energy you will enjoy.
- Do activities you enjoy – walk the dog, dance, gardening.
- Little and often – try and raise your heart rate and get a little sweaty 3 to 4 times per week.
Relationships: At our core we are emotional creatures and need the interaction of others to make us complete – hence the cliché “no man is an island”. Importantly we need to have a good relationship with ourselves before we can have similarly meaningful ones with others. The power of connecting with another human being is immense and we need to take the time and energy to invest in our relationships.
- Treat yourself with respect – engage in positive self-talk.
- Do one random act of kindness every day – what you put out, comes back.
Me Time: This is all about doing things for yourself just because they feel good for you. We accept the concepts of investing in our education, financial wellbeing, the ‘stuff’ that clutters our homes; but how many of us really invest in ourselves? We often abandon the joyful pursuits we engaged in as children and young adults – why? Because they won’t earn us any money? Look back to your childhood and take some cues from there; as long as it isn’t illegal or immoral, go for it!
- To engage in guilt-free ‘me time’ make time for your family members and friends to do their own thing too.
You can’t fix everything with a hammer (as tempting as it may be to try!). Similarly, pounding away at the gym whilst starving yourself of sleep is not only unbalanced, but actually dangerous. Balance and moderation in all things. Slow and steady builds resilience – after all, your life is a marathon, not a sprint.
**In the next column we will expand on the concept of time & energy management before we delve deeper into the toolbox – you need to make space in your life cupboard so the toolbox doesn’t get lost and forgotten.**