Most of the time, if we are stressed, tense, feeling overwhelmed, it is because we have needs that are not being met. Some of these needs can be obvious, we just haven’t got the opportunity to meet them in that moment. Some of them could be needs we tend to bury, ignore, overlook or dismiss on a regular basis.
When thinking about finding more moments of calm in your day or week, here are my top ten things to consider:
Forgive me for stating the obvious, but you will not be calm if you need to use the toilet and you are putting it off because you are “too busy”. Meet that need when it arises. Your body will not let you rest or concentrate until you do.
Stay hydrated. Preferably with water. We all have our favourite drinks to get us through the day, but those are treats – punctuation marks during our waking hours. What we want to have with us all the time, or as much of the time as is practicable, is a drink of water. We all function far better when we are hydrated – a key need to meet, every day.
We all have our own approaches to food, diet, mealtimes, snacking, health, weight and calories. What we all have in common though is that without sufficient fuel we cannot function at our best, and we cannot find calm if we are not keeping our body fuelled. I am not here to offer diet or nutrition advice, but if you are not keeping yourself fuelled in a way that works for you, those calm moments are going to be difficult to reach.
How many times do we hear the phrase “take a deep breath”? How many times do we actually do it? When we are feeling stressed or overwhelmed it is actually very difficult to persuade ourselves to breathe deeply. Our body is in fight mode, adrenaline is flowing, our brain is convinced that if we stop to take a breath the prehistoric monsters will get us (or brain being stuck in the stone age. It’s not always very smart). We have to use our human brain to take charge of the responses that are coming from way back in our evolution and force ourselves to stop and breathe deeply. No matter what is happening, facing it with a calmer brain and body will have better results. Assuming prehistoric monsters are not actually on the rampage. It’s rare, let’s be honest.
We all know that if we just got enough sleep life would be so much easier, so I am not here to tell you to go to bed early. What we often forget though is that rest does not have to mean sleep. Rather than bouncing from task to task to task throughout the day, how about we give ourselves a break? Close your eyes in the car and breath slowly whilst counting to ten before you go into that meeting. Stare out of the window while you drink your coffee instead of scrolling Twitter. Think about something completely unrelated to work for five or ten minutes before going back to the matter in hand. The phrase “ a change is as good as a rest” is a cliché for a reason. Take a break at any moment you can.
And if you get the opportunity to take a power nap during the day DO IT! Always give yourself permission to rest when you can.
This one is particularly important in the winter: how often do you get outside? I don’t mean for bracing walk in the wilderness – that would be lovely, but we’re talking here about an ordinary day. Don’t underestimate the power of just standing outside breathing in the air while the kettle boils, or in between taking out the trash and scuttling back inside. Notice what a difference it can make, some fresh air on your face.
Believe me, I will not be telling you to cut out sugar. That would be pretty hypocritical when I eat as much cake as I do! But. We do know that sugar gives us highs and lows and has an effect on our mood. If we have something sugary early on in the day, we are then dealing with a sugar crash that we probably solve with more sugar, and then another crash later on that we solve with more sugar – the whole day becomes ups and downs in mood that makes it difficult to find the calm. So enjoy the cake, but be mindful of when in the day you are embarking on the sugar rollercoaster.
Again, I am not here to talk about joining a gym. I am talking about moving our bodies in a way that isn’t from the office chair to the fridge and back again. If you can do something active once a day it makes a difference. If you have a fitness workout you can do, great, but it doesn’t have to be that full on. Yoga with Adrienne is my go to on YouTube for yoga videos of different lengths and intensity. Yet even that could be more than you really need. Kitchen dancing? Most pop songs are 3-4 minutes long. Turn the music up loud and dance like a drunk seventeen-year-old for 3 minutes. Trust me, you will feel the benefits in terms of mood and stress levels.
I know, I know, we’re British, we can’t talk about such things, and trust me I will never bring it up in a coaching session. We can pretend I never mentioned. But. If you are not meeting your sexual needs, it’s hard to find the calm. We are human. Our bodies work a certain way. These needs are as important as water, fuel and rest, and it would be remiss of me to leave them out. I will leave this Instagram link here as it is honest, helpful and realistic and we will never speak of it again.
Another one that is hard in the winter, but daylight is so important for mood and stress levels. I have a Beurer TL 30 Ultra Portable Daylight SAD Light (available from John Lewis. Many other models and brands are available) and I really do notice the difference. If I put it on in the morning when I wake up it helps my mood and makes it easier to get up and get on when it’s dark outside. Or keep one on your desk for a daylight boost while you are working.
Shouting at ourselves is not helpful. If we cannot do the things we want to do it is most likely because we haven’t met our key needs. Forgive yourself for having needs, forgive yourself for not being a perpetual motion machine. Work with your needs and you will find more calm in your day. More productivity will naturally follow.
Helen Calvert, October 2020