If you eat whole foods most of the time and exercise a few days a week, but are still tired, you're probably wondering what gives. Assuming there's no underlying biological cause, such as disease, low thyroid or low Vitamin D, which can be determined by a blood test, then stress may be undoing all of your good work.
As you've probably noticed, fatigue is a symptom of stress. The American Medical Association has recognized stress as the basic cause of more than 60% of illnesses and diseases, including chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and insomnia.
How powerful is stress? Try this.
First, think of a stressful thought, perhaps a personal situation that is tricky or a difficult person at work. Notice how your body reacts. What do you feel in your neck, back, and head? How are your energy levels?
Then think of something joyful, perhaps someone you love or something you look forward to doing. How do you feel in your body? Notice your energy levels.
The impact is powerful and immediate. It also gives you a hint about how to boost energy right now. While stressful situations are part of life, our reactions can change the experience and our resulting energy levels.
Try these three tips:
1. Change your approach to stressful situations.
Ask yourself: How can this situation be reframed to feel lighter? For example, what would you like to create in the situation? If you're having a difficult conversation with someone important in your life, see if there's a shared perspective or vision you'll both find inspiring. If you're struggling in a relationship, can you have compassion for yourself and for the other person?
Try Sharon Salzberg’s Loving Kindness mediation: repeat Be Happy, Be Healthy, Be Easy, first to yourself, then direct the mantra to someone you love, then direct it to someone you struggle with.
2. Create boundaries.
Give yourself at least one day (ideally two days!) each week to relax. Plan events and fun activities to ensure you actually unwind. Create policies at work and in your personal life that support you, such as regular work and sleep hours, or policies for how you interact with clients.
For example, if you're running your own business (and find yourself working overtime), maybe a boundary is that you'll keep your computer out of the bedroom, or that you'll stop working at 7pm no matter what. If you're in a stressful job, can you create a rule that you don't check email on weekends?
3. Give yourself a power phrase.
Give yourself a mantra to keep you living your values when things get stressful. Some ideas for phrases you could use:
- Healthy body, healthy mind
- Smarter not harder
- Joy and ease
Choose one that inspires you.
For long-term stress reduction, consider how you spend your time and energy. Do you get enough time with the people you love, sleep, exercise, play, and creativity?
If not, how can you shift to a lifestyle that serves and replenishes you? It's a process, and it won't happen right away. The first step is to give yourself permission.
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