When we're busy and feeling overwhelmed one of the first things that goes out the window is self-love. Our eating and drinking habits may begin to favour convenience foods and liquid stimulation - hello bottomless cups of coffee. A racing mind may infiltrate our sleep, in which we struggle to switch off, and our exercise routine may be exchanged for a nose-dive onto the couch after a busy day at work.
We're a society where busy is the new norm. Our commitments are sky-high as we juggle work, a social life, a family and everything in between; with a triple-shot espresso clutched in one hand and a buzzing mobile in the other. No matter whether we feel we're hypothetically afloat or sinking within this reality, a common byproduct of an overly demanding schedule is stress, and too much will leave us feeling frazzled, tired and wired.
Stressful busy periods in life are inevitable, but if you're starting to feel overwhelmed then it's important to put steps in place to restore balance. We can't continually withdraw from ourselves without depositing a little love back in, otherwise something's got to give. Here are some tips to inject some balance back into life:
1. Guard your mornings and bedtimes
This time is precious - it's a space to ease into the day ahead or unwind our mind before sleep. Although sleep is vital, waking up half an hour earlier for a little you-time, whether that be a gentle stretch, a morning walk in the sun or some general life admin (all before checking your work emails!), will help calm your mind and collect your thoughts before heading out the door. It's the same deal with enjoying a bath or reading a chapter of your favourite book before bed - it's a time to release stress from the day and will support restful sleeping habits.
- Start to bring some mindfulness to your morning and evening habits - are they putting you in a good frame of mind for the day ahead and leaving you rested before bed, or is it quite the opposite?
- Steer clear of your mobile, emails or social media right after you wake up and before you go to bed. At night the bright blue-light of the phone may suppress melatonin release, a sleep hormone responsible for helping us fall asleep. Remember we want to wind down before bed, not wind up!
2. Be mindful of food and drink choices
When we're busy we may tend to eat out more, skip meals, reach for stimulants e.g. coffee or energy drinks, or convenience sugary foods. However, many of these food choices will only leave us feeling more depleted and set us up on a blood sugar rollercoaster of up-down energy levels. Stress can really take a toll on the body, and the foods we eat will help support our system during busier times. With time being a factor try these tips:
- Ensuring we're prepared with nourishing meals for the week doesn't mean we have to spend hours the kitchen. Start to prepare meal in bulk and freeze portions for speedy meals on-the-go - soups, curries or bolognese sauces all freeze well. For tips on how to meal prep check out my guide for beginners here.
- Look into healthy meal delivery services in your area if you don't have a lot of time to prepare meals at home.
- We can't always control our food environment, but we can control our choices. Aim to make the best possible choice from your options, and don't attach any guilt to your food choice.
- I love coffee like the next person, but aim for the first thing to enter your body in the morning to be big glass of water. We're naturally a little dehydrated when we wake, which may contribute to grogginess and feelings of tiredness.
3. Try brain dumping
If there's a million and one things floating around your mind, start getting into the habit of brain dumps. A brain dump is where you take pen to paper (or finger to keyboard/mobile) and list everything that's on your mind and needs to be done. It can be anything from "finish work assignment" to "wash sheets" to "buy socks" - whatever's floating around in there. Its function is not quite a to-do-list, but rather a master dumping ground to get everything in your brain out. This will help ensure a) things aren't forgotten and b) stress is minimised, as when we have a million and one things floating around our brains our attention is also in a million and one places, which can be incredibly draining.
- Pick out a designated notebook for your brain dumps. Keep it accessible, whether by your bed, on your work desk, or in your bag.
- Brain dumps are great first thing in the morning to focus thoughts or at night to process the day. Spend five or so minutes completing one, or until you feel you've got everything down.
4. Schedule in quiet periods
Commit to scheduling quiet periods into your day. If time is really of the essence, even ten minutes to clear your head will make a difference. Try sitting outside with the sun on your face (sans phone), do some deep belly breathing, read a chapter of your favourite book, listen to your favourite music, brew your favourite tea and slowly enjoy a mug, or even have a quick period of shut-eye. Quiet periods offer a chance to pause, rest and reset, and will do wonders at rebalancing our energy levels.
- Put your phone on airplane mode - keep your quiet time for you.
- Breathe - in moments of craziness, take time to take deep breathes. Slow breathing decreases our heart rate and switches over our nervous system from fight/flight mode to rest/repair. Even just 10 in a moment will help immediately calm you.
5. Unplug and set boundaries
Technology has made us accessible 24/7 around-the-clock, making it difficult for many of us to truly shut off - there's always a potential email to check, someone to text or a social media feed to scroll through. Technology is particularly useful at keeping us connected and up-to-date, however it's important to put boundaries in place, even when busy. When we're relaxing the pinging of a phone is enough to set off a wave of stress, particularly after a week of non-stop pinging at work.
- Keep phone use at a minimum right when you wake up and immediately before bed.
- Avoid phone use at meal times or when with family and friends - instead enjoy your food and the moment to connect with others.