Hello my lovelies! Firstly, I must begin with an apology for my prolonged absence the past few weeks; anyone who visits often will have noticed my inactivity on here and I’d hate you to think I’m neglecting you all.
The truth is, no matter much I view the world through my own rose-tinted lens and actively seek out pleasure each day, sometimes circumstances can be beyond our control and life can get a little stressful. The dichotomy of my serious political day job and my evening fashion, writing and blogging pursuits are not, I’ll admit, a common combination, but I love the balance of the two and generally merrily juggle each side-by-side. But right now, my day job (to which I am nothing but loyal) is taking a little* more of my time and energy than normal, so other pursuits, by necessity, had to receive less attention.
But because life is rarely constant (and really, wouldn’t it be boring if it were), I’ve been reminding myself of a few important lessons (and learning some others) about finding balance. So when life throws you a curveball or things get hectic, here are 10 ways to find a sense of calm and happiness amidst the stress:
1. Get organised. When things get hectic, it can be all too easy to try and avoid dealing with the situation (a fast route to chaos!). Instead, take stock and neutralise the situation as best as you can by getting organised. Break things into smaller, manageable chunks and set daily ‘to do’ lists you can work towards each day. As humans, we are naturally spurred on by success, so it is immensely satisfying to tick things off like a series of mini-accomplishments. Re-assess each day until things calm down, and take control of any situation before it escalates.
2. Set limits. Recently, I found myself working 60 hour weeks as the norm in my day job which, after travel, sleep and basic daily tasks, left just one hour to do everything else I enjoy each day (which explains why things got a little quite around here…). Needless to say, I was tired, stressed, mentally exhausted and frankly un-productive, and realised that running myself down was helping no one. Because everyone can only be stretched so much, I’m now making it a rule to set limits to what I can reasonably achieve in a day be as strict with those boundaries.
3. Switch off and take time to recharge. When I leave the office each day, I put some happy tunes on my ipod and use the journey home to literally switch from ‘work’ to ‘home’ mode. I’m trying to find moments, no matter how brief, to recharge with some peace and quiet; a good book, a yoga session or wind-in-my-hair bike ride, a favourite movie or a non-essential activity that makes me smile (because no one needs afternoon tea with girlfriends, but oh how fun it is!) If you’re not getting enough ‘happy’ time in your schedule, then literally block out some time (and stick to it!) in your diary each day or week to do something just for you the same way you would any other important appointment.
4. Make peace with the word ‘no'; embrace ‘yes’. When you’re already over-stretched, it’s entirely acceptable to put yourself first and say ‘no’ to absolutely any invitation you’re not enthused about or eliminate things which add little value or pleasure to your life. One of the great joys of being a grown-up is that we’re allowed to say ‘no’ if we want to, and not feel guilty because of it. Conversely, life sometimes throws up wonderful opportunities at the most unexpected moments, so recognise the surprise chances when they come along and say ‘yes’ to a few new things outside of your normal routine. They might just lead you to something wonderful!
5. Be kind to yourself. When stress kicks in, your body goes into ‘emergency’ mode and releases a high dose of cortisol (the ‘stress’ hormone) which, over longer periods, can have detrimental effects on your cognitive processes, weight and metabolism, immune system, skin and just about every other important bodily function. Be sure to counteract the effects by being as good to yourself as you can; eat properly (that means vitality-boosting, nutrient-rich meals rather than reaching for the sugary ‘stress snacks’), get enough rest (because no one can function properly when they’re tired and run-down), make time for your grooming rituals (because when you look good, you’ll feel good), get some exercise (happy endorphins and stress-release), and generally treat yourself with kindness.
6. Nurture an optimistic outlook. Sometimes when things get really hectic, optimism doesn’t flow as freely. But here’s the thing: while optimism seems to come more naturally to some than others, positivity is still a choice. Actively choose to view things more optimistically, and it will be easier to recognise difficult situations as an opportunity to grow and learn a new life lesson, rather than the disaster a pessimist may perceive them to be.
7. Treat yourself to a few small pleasures. Sometimes, a bit of pampering does wonders for a stressed disposition. When things threaten to get too much, I book myself straight in for a massage (my ultimate stress relief), buy myself some cheering flowers, and indulge in a small treat I’ve been longing for. It needn’t be expensive, but it’s important to show yourself kind gestures when you need a little spirit-lifting.
8. Surround yourself with those who uplift you. Who we are is so often a reflection of the company we keep, so make sure that company truly makes you smile and encourages you to be the best version of you (here’s a secret: that person we all know who secretly wants you to fail to make themselves feel better? It’s totally okay to let them go, guilt-free). If you’re having a particularly stressful week, make time to nurture your relationships and see someone you love or send a thoughtful note to a treasured friend.
9. Send out some love. Tell someone you adore just how much you appreciate them, send a surprise letter to a friend, help someone in need, pay a stranger a compliment or practise random acts of kindness. Doing something nice for others releases seretonin (the hormone responsible for feelings of bliss) in the brain, so you’ll feel happier while making someone else’s day too.
10. Feel gratitude. When feeling overwhelmed, focus on all the wonderful things you have already achieved and already have and those positives will in turn appreciate in value. Be grateful for the wonderful things – big or small – that already fill your life and you’ll find a deeper sense of happiness even when things around you are stressful.
How do you find serenity and balance when things get stressful?
Love, Miss B xx
* translation: a lot!