In times of high stress, when we are feeling overwhelmed or busy, it is easy to let the things that keep us happy, healthy and full of energy slip down the priority list. Yet, it is generally these small daily or weekly routines that help us cope over these periods.
How do we help ourselves to maintain these healthy habits in stressful times?
1. Make it Easy
Finding the motivation to exercise can be a challenge at the best of times, let alone when the weather is not great or you’re feeling overwhelmed by a stressful event.
We know that exercise is great for our health, helps us manage stress and anxiety and can even improve our sleeping patterns.
In stressful times it is usually the first thing to go. Let’s make it as easy as possible through the following steps:
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, recommends focusing on the smallest possible step that will help you achieve your goal. With an activity such as exercise this could be setting the goal of getting your shoes on or getting out the door, rather than focusing on what you are going to do in your session, which can feel overwhelming. We all know that we usually feel much better once we have done exercise, it is the getting starting part that is generally difficult!
2. Practice Gratitude
When we are feeling stressed or uncertain, it is very easy to focus on all the things that are not going our way. So, what can we do to support a positive mindset through stressful periods? One of the things we can do is practice gratitude.
Research showed that practicing daily gratitude had the following affects:
Brene Brown, is a well-known researcher in leadership, wholehearted living and vulnerability. Throughout her research she identified that the most effective way to cultivate joy in our lives is to practice gratitude. She states that ‘the key word here is practice. It's not just about feeling grateful’, it's about developing an observable practice. So often we think that joy makes us grateful, when in reality it's gratitude that brings joy.’
Practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be a time-consuming task. It can be as simple as each morning, when you wake up or get to work writing three things from the last 24hours for which you are grateful.
3. Stay Connected
Over periods of high stress, exhaustion and/or overwhelm, it is common to feel like you want to withdraw from those who are closest to you.
However, there is a growing body of research around the importance of social connection to health, happiness and wellbeing.
4. Prioritise Sleep
Sleep can be such a difficult one to manage over a stressful period. So, how do we control the controllable and give ourselves the best chance of getting quality sleep.
Research shows that sleep helps our mood, helps us cope in stressful periods, can increase hormones that help us to feel full, which can help with maintaining healthy eating habits and boost our immune system.
Strategies to improve sleep:
Interesting Follow Up Reading
If you would like to read up on other healthy habits such as the neuroscience of gratitude and the power of connectedness, click on the following articles. These are some of our favourites.