Category

Stress management

Learn how to be less stressed

By | Mindfulness, Stress management

Creating a life in which you are offsetting the stressful times we live in and countering the distractions we are all dealing with day to day is not difficult but we do need to learn to do things differently.

Here is a selection of our favourite resources here at Lilo that summarise some of the key research and strategies you can put in place to be less stressed.

Making stress your friend

In his incredibly popular TED talk, Kelly McGonical summarises research that concludes that our beliefs about stress may be even more important than how stressed we are when it comes to our health. In one of the large study she describes, it was found that people who rated their stress levels as very high AND believed stress was very bad for their health had a 20% increase in dying prematurely! Importantly, she also describes how we may be able to address this increased risk. This is critical viewing for anyone serious about reducing the harmful effect of stress in their lives.

How to reduce workplace stress. The evidence.

| Stress management at work | No Comments
I have written before about an insanely toxic corporate workplace I worked in for three years… Looking back, for the life of me I can’t work out how I managed to...

The harmful effects of stress if left unchecked

For the majority of us too much stress is likely to be harmful in a number of ways if we’re not taking steps to do something about it. This TED Education animation by Madhumita Murgia clearly explains how stress is harmful to our wellbeing, and what we can do about it.

The power of presence

This TED Talk by Matt Killingsworth summarises his own research in which it became glaringly clear just how powerful presence is for happiness. He studied large numbers of people across many countries and cultures and found that regardless of what you are doing, or what you are thinking about, we are happiest when we are present instead of mind-wandering. The other staggering finding in this research was that participants spent 47% of their time mind wandering, in other words not present.

Nature as medicine

For a variety of reasons, we are all spending less and less time outdoors. This National Geographic article reviews a book called The Nature Fix by Florence Williams and explores the research that strongly suggests what many of us feel instinctually, that spending time in nature is very good for stress levels.

In summary

Lastly, this New York Times article is a great summary of all manner of things to try to reduce stress, some of which we’ve already covered and other strategies such as ‘stress inoculation’ a strategy which proposes that “regular exposure to small amounts of stress can inoculate you from the most detrimental effects of stress when you suffer a big stressful event in your life.”

For more inspiration and information on how to create a life with less stress, sign up to Lilo’s newsletter below.

Stay in the loop

Your beliefs about stress could be killing you

By | Stress management
Danger your beliefs about stress could be killing you image

The title of this post might sound a bit dramatic, but hear me out. While I am a huge advocate of creating a lower stress lifestyle it turns out that our beliefs about stress may be even more important than how stressed we actually are.

There is persuasive research supporting this idea—being very stressed AND believing that a lot of stress is really bad for your health appears to contribute greatly to premature death. And just like Kelly McGonical in this TED Talk, I’m feeling a bit implicated here!

In fact, researchers estimate that more than 20,000 deaths a year in the US may be due to the belief that stress is bad for your health. Gulp…

I’ve been teaching people that stress is bad for your health for a good few years now, and so when I realised that this belief may well lead to premature death I decided I would do everything I could to spread the word about this research.

So how did researchers come to this conclusion? Their experiment really blows my mind! Approximately 29,000 people were asked how much stress they experienced in the year prior, and whether stress affects their health. Then they followed these people for eight years to monitor death rates. I know, crazy right!?

It turns out that those who experienced a lot of stress AND believed that that stress affected their health were 43% more likely to die prematurely than those who only reported experiencing a lot of stress.

But there’s more. The TED talk mentioned above, aptly titled “How to make stress your friend”, goes on to cite other research in which participants were taught that stress is good for their health. They then measured how much participants’ blood vessels constricted in response to stress and discovered there was a marked decrease in those who had been taught that stress is good for us.

As stress is known to be a factor in premature death from heart disease and vasoconstriction—constriction of the arteries—is a factor in this, it makes complete sense then that if we can successfully change our beliefs around how bad stress if for our health, we may well reduce our risk of premature death.

So, what are we to do with this info?

As well as making a conscious effort to reduce the stress in our lives, by doing less where we can and more of the things that are good for stress—prioritising sleep, meditating, exercising, and spending quality time with loved ones—we can intentionally change our attitude to the stresses we have in our lives.

We might love our job that is somewhat, or even very, stressful. We don’t need to change jobs. We may be caring for young children or elderly grandparents while managing a demanding work life. We can’t change these things. There are countless reasons why we may be experiencing lots of stress.

Instead of getting rid of all the stress in our lives, even if we could, in moments where we feel the fight-flight response in full swing, our blood pressure going through the roof, we can remind ourselves that this is, in fact, just the body helping us rise to the challenges we face.

We can try to conjure a sense of gratitude at this marvellous thing we call the human body and remind ourselves that what happens in our mind can have a huge impact on our physiology. If you don’t believe me, I want you to imagine you are sucking on a lemon. Have you noticed an increase in the saliva in your mouth? That’s your mind-affecting real physical changes in your body.

So, if your highly stressful career is really lighting your fire, perhaps the joy you get from doing that work outweighs the downside of the stress. Only you can decide this though. And, by all means, still, do what you can to offset stress and information overload.

There are times in our lives that are more stressful than others. When we have young children or elderly parents that need care, or when a relationship fails, we lose a loved one or are suffering from serious health concerns. These are the times when looking after ourselves with self-care needs to be front and centre. All too often this is when it’s most likely to be put on the backburner.

It’s important to remember, too, that not all stress is created equal. Some stress is good. If we can learn to befriend stress, to see our stress responses as the body’s amazing capacity to help us rise to the challenges of life, that is a huge step in the right direction to reduce the harmful effects of stress.

Learn how to be less stressed

| Mindfulness, Stress management | No Comments
Creating a life in which you are offsetting the stressful times we live in and countering the distractions we are all dealing with day to day is not difficult but...

Your beliefs about stress could be killing you

| Stress management | No Comments
The title of this post might sound a bit dramatic, but hear me out. While I am a huge advocate of creating a lower stress lifestyle it turns out that...

Relieve stress, embrace doing less

| Mindfulness, Stress management | No Comments
I am an expert at saying no. It’s been my default for a really long time. When the incredible power of present moment awareness became so remarkably obvious to me,...

What lead to the creation of Lilo Wellness?

| Anxiety, Mindfulness, Stress management | No Comments
I spent years travelling the world, trying to fix really complicated problems in communities, met incredible people and, by many measures, was doing really well. At the same time, though,...

Relieve stress, embrace doing less

By | Mindfulness, Stress management

I am an expert at saying no. It’s been my default for a really long time. When the incredible power of present moment awareness became so remarkably obvious to me, doing less was just the way things had to be. To maintain focus, to not spread myself too thin. To give my all, wholeheartedly, to less.

I know it’s apparently phenomenally empowering to say yes randomly to absolutely everything, but I’m calling BS on this.

I know this:

To do things well you need to slow down

To slow down you need to be less frantically busy

To be less frantically busy you need to do less

To do less most of us need to say no to stuff.

This is not so new. JOMO (the joy of missing out) has been around for a while and I’ve seen a few articles about trends around staying in, and the food home delivery explosion etc. (One friend swore I had invented the term JOMO and I was I almost convinced I had too, though concede that maybe it was a collective consciousness phenomenon!)

But despite it not being new, I really think the point needs to be rammed home because there is so much noise out there saying the opposite. Push harder, say yes to everything, attend this that and the other. To have a life you can’t be still for a moment. What a crock!

The magic of saying no

To have a life really worth living I have found there is nothing more powerful than being still for many moments. And in those moments, I find the clarity in which I can decide with discernment which networking events I need to go to get ahead, and which clients I really want to work with because they are on a similar wavelength and appreciate my strengths.

To this end, I have found myself saying no in a different way lately. I thought I was already really good at saying no. But of late it’s taken on a different quality. I’ve started saying no opportunities I would have once died for!

As I travel along this business journey, I’m slowly learning to fully value my true worth. This is me saying no to offers of work from people and organisations that don’t seem to value what I do as much as I do. And that’s OK!

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to participate for free in a wellbeing expo at one of the most successful (and coolest) businesses in Australia.  (Last year they pulled a net profit of $37.1 million dollars!)

In return, if staff liked what Lilo was all about, I was told there may be an opportunity to run a workshop next year. A single workshop. I have been speaking to this organization for over a year about maybe providing them with some services.

I wrote back and told them I’d gladly do a free trial session in the case that they were interested in getting us to run a series of workshops or a course but that I was just too busy to provide services for free unless there was a likely positive outcome for Lilo. I sincerely hope they understand! I didn’t hear back…

Value yourself, value your time

Perceived value is such an interesting topic. This is not the only “offer” I’ve turned down in the last two weeks, and funnily enough, it has coincided with a number of doors opening, requests for at least three of the biggest quotes I’ve given, and a feeling that Lilo has turned a corner.

Those who really value what we do are who we need to be spending time and energy on. Saying no to other opportunities makes that possible.

So here are some ways to say no you might like to try:

Say no to free gigs/work (unless they really serve you)

Say no to going out every weekend – and getting on it

Say no to a demanding friend or colleague

Say no to cooking for others who expect it and who can cook for themselves

Say no to working late and on weekends

Say no to flogging yourself in an attempt to be successful

These are just a handful of ideas. Please think of others and share with us all what you are saying no to.

There is, of course, no way to avoid hard work if you want to be successful, but the vast majority of people I know seem to go along with the crazy idea that things must be crazy at work if you’re to succeed.

An author, and co-founder of Basecamp (a project management and team communication tool), that I can’t get enough of right now is Jason Fried. I love what he says in his book “It doesn’t have to be crazy at work”..

“People can’t get work done at work any more. That turns life into work’s leftovers. The doggie bag.”

Say no to your life (and your spouse/kid’s life) being the work doggie bag! I’m all for integrating work and life, but not work taking over your life, as it seems to for so many.

He goes on..

“What’s worse is that long hours, excessive busyness and lack of sleep have become a badge of honor for many people these days. Sustained exhaustion is not a badge of honor, it’s a mark of stupidity.”

Harsh perhaps, his words not mine. 😉 The point he goes on to make is that there’s not more work to do than there used to be, but “there’s hardly any uninterrupted time to do it.”

The answer is not to work longer crazy hours, but to manage your attention. Purposefully create uninterrupted periods or as he puts it..

“the answer isn’t more hours, it’s less bullshit. Less waste, not more production. And far fewer distractions, less always-on anxiety, and avoiding stress.

Stress is passed from organization to employee, from employee to employee, and then from employee to customer. Stress never stops at the border of work, it bleeds into your life. It infects your relationships with your friends, your family, your kids.”

To finish I’d like to share one more pearla from Arianna Huffington.

“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work instead of the quality of time we put in ourselves.”

Your time and attention are a precious, precious gift. If nothing else, I hope that I may have inspired you to at least bring a little consciousness to what you are saying yes or God forbid, no to in your life. Especially as the madness at the end of the year is upon us!

STAY IN THE LOOP
July 24, 2018 in Stress management at work

How to reduce workplace stress. The evidence.

I have written before about an insanely toxic corporate workplace I worked in for three years… Looking back, for the life of me I can’t work out how I managed to... Read More

What lead to the creation of Lilo Wellness?

By | Anxiety, Mindfulness, Stress management

I spent years travelling the world, trying to fix really complicated problems in communities, met incredible people and, by many measures, was doing really well. At the same time, though, I was suffering from horrendous self-loathing and intermittent periods of unbearable anxiety and depression. But, then, that’s not uncommon: many of us feel this way and just manage to ‘get on with things’. It took me a long time to realise that I could do more than ‘get on’—and that rather trying to save the world, I needed to work on myself.

When ‘The Big Shift’ finally came, in my early 40s, I couldn’t believe how simple it actually was! I’ll get to that in a moment, though. First, I need to tell you my ‘before-the-big-shift’ story, in all its gory details.

Before the Big Shift

I have lived the vast, vast majority of my life not even coming close to living to my full potential. Mind you, most people wouldn’t have seen me as an unhappy person, not even close. Much of the time, though, I was wracked with heartaches and heartbreaks, and dramas and conflicts were not uncommon.

Along the way, I travelled the world nursing and volunteering in Asia and Africa with kids’ charities doing some incredibly rewarding and, at times, equally disturbing work.

In Thailand I worked with kids orphaned by AIDS. While studying master’s in public health, I’d learned that kids in Thailand should have been able to access anti-retroviral medications for AIDS, The children I was working with were being prevented from accessing these medications by fundamentalist Christian groups. So I involved a human rights lawyer from Unicef to help them access the life-saving medication, which was incredibly rewarding and inspiring.

In the process, I fell in love with nine-month-old Suree. Very sadly, Suree passed away from AIDS-related complications before it was ordered that the kids must be allowed access to these life-saving medications.

Then there were the five years I spent flying all over the Northern Territory doing research into Indigenous child health and spending time in communities getting to know the amazing people and ways of the First Australians. I worked really hard raising a LOT of money (about $800K) to help set up some very cool projects for causes I was passionate about, mainly for Aboriginal child health.

But despite all these exciting times, there was also always lots of despair, a fair amount of too much drinking to soften the sadness, and a sizable amount of drama.

Through all this, since my early 20s, I had been doing yoga a couple of times a week, and dabbled in meditation. Though I didn’t see myself as overly spiritual, I’d always felt that if I could meditate daily I would be happier, but I didn’t understand why. Meditating daily seemed so far-fetched—like maybe I’d get there in thirty years and feel “better” then.

The “Big Shift”

The Big Shift came when I decided to do my yoga teacher training, mostly because I had back problems. So off to India I went! There my teacher, Sinduma, explained to me the power of present moment awareness in plain and simple terms I understood: “You don’t have to DO anything at all, you just have to do EVERYTHING with awareness”. Remember, at this time there was still very little in popular media in the West about the value of present moment awareness and mindfulness.

I wasn’t on some big spiritual search, but I found what I now consider to be the answer to what makes the human spirit soar. Living as much of your life as possible in the present. Easier said than done though, right? Especially if anxiety and depression are often your uninvited dinner guests. Over time, though, and with practice, all the little bits of knowledge and experience I’d gained over years were adding up. I just finally “got it” on an intellectual and experiential level, all at once in the most awe-inspiring way.

My inner critic, who had been really harsh, shut up. My mood was more even. I was happier and less stressed than I had ever been. And the remedy was just so simple! I was determined to explain to others in plain English—and in a fun, enjoyable way—what no-one for years had managed to convey to me in a way that resonated.

So now, teaching people about evidence-based stress management, focused largely on mindfulness, is my life.

Learning to be more mindful

People often marvel at how I manage to juggle solo parenting a pre-schooler and running my business, Lilo Wellness. I don’t blame them! It is a wonder I’m not tearing my hair out. There is one very simple reason why I manage and enjoy the ride. Managing stress has become my raison d’être, as the French would say—my reason for being.

In doing so, I am living the life I want, 100%. I often have to pinch myself. Oh, and if I didn’t live every moment of my life in a way that keeps my stress levels in check, I’d be in a heap on the floor! Literally. Then who would look after my son? (I did IVF solo, which is how I ended up fulfilling my dream of becoming a mum.)

It sounds like a burden, having to be healthy all the time, but it’s quite the opposite. Learning how to live a healthy, happy and present life is thoroughly joyous. Even when life if shit. Like right now. I’ve had hideous bronchitis for nearly two weeks, and spent most of that time in bed. But I don’t feel morose or sorry for myself. I feel physically dreadful, but emotionally not too bad.

My default when things are really crappy is to thank my lucky stars how fortunate I am. I mean, what it would be like to be this sick in a refugee camp—or, worse still, for your four-year-old to be this sick in a refugee camp? I don’t even have to try to feel gratitude these days, it just kicks in. And, how lucky am I that that happens?

There was a time when things were very, very different for me. I learned the hard way, through plenty of shame, anxiety and worst of all despair. I finally learned that it’s possible to be comfy, competent, happy and proud. All you need is some new skills and understanding.

Lilo Wellness

After ‘the Big Shift’, I thought, surely there are other people out there who also want to know in plain English how to manage stress and feel as calm as if they were on a holiday as they go about their daily lives?

As well as helping people with stress, Lilo’s one-on-one sessions, workshops and courses cover healthy eating, physical activity, sleep and rest (R‘n’R). But at the heart of everything we do lays the simple, yet incredibly profound, importance of awareness. Awareness in each moment—and having an awareness of quality science-based information on what works to reduce stress, so every person can give their best.

As time goes by, I have story after story of people saying that I’ve explained things in a way that has made the penny finally drop for them. There was the cynical scientist, annoyed to have mindfulness on the curriculum of their leadership training, who after one session said it completely changed her life. The positive psychology expert who had tried to meditate for years but just didn’t get it: “I don’t know exactly what it was that you said, but something just clicked.” And countless others who have said they finally grasped the what, how and why of being more present.

We can all learn how to check in with how we’re feeling from moment to moment, and when we’re looking at ‘the big picture’. Lilo Wellness can help you develop the motivation required to do so. You can become more aware of where you’re at and where you’d like to be. Then we can help you take steps to get there—one step at a time. Putting your best foot forward and creating the life you really want.

Learn how to be less stressed

| Mindfulness, Stress management | No Comments
Creating a life in which you are offsetting the stressful times we live in and countering the distractions we are all dealing with day to day is not difficult but...

Your beliefs about stress could be killing you

| Stress management | No Comments
The title of this post might sound a bit dramatic, but hear me out. While I am a huge advocate of creating a lower stress lifestyle it turns out that...

Relieve stress, embrace doing less

| Mindfulness, Stress management | No Comments
I am an expert at saying no. It’s been my default for a really long time. When the incredible power of present moment awareness became so remarkably obvious to me,...

What lead to the creation of Lilo Wellness?

| Anxiety, Mindfulness, Stress management | No Comments
I spent years travelling the world, trying to fix really complicated problems in communities, met incredible people and, by many measures, was doing really well. At the same time, though,...
Susie Hopkins deomstrating can mindfulness reduce anxiety

Can mindfulness reduce anxiety?

By | Anxiety, Mindfulness, Stress management
Susie Hopkins deomstrating can mindfulness reduce anxiety

You know the feeling. You’re cutting it fine, or are just plain running late and there’s tightness throughout your whole body. This story of mine takes the cake! It also illustrates that even someone who has full-blown anxiety can learn to stay relatively calm when the heat is on.

It was a sunny Saturday morning, and I had underestimated how long it would take to get a country wedding. And I had a small role in the ceremony.

I realised it was further than I had thought and that I was running late just in time. I had to grab my bags, baby, present, and hat (!) and run out the door. Google maps on my phone was my navigation tool and about five minutes into an hour and a half long journey, my phone was dying. I also realised about this time I was running out of petrol, and in the rush to leave I had forgotten my wallet.

To top things off, my six-month-old baby was screaming in the back of the car. It was one of the first times he and I had gone on a drive of any length together. Not a good start!

The irony was that I had been asked to do a short meditation during the ceremony. That way everyone could leave behind the rush of getting there and be as present as possible before the bride and groom took their vows. By some miracle, I made it on time without running out of phone charge or petrol. But it was a seriously stressful experience.

Deep breathing for stress and anxiety does help

Talk about an opportunity to practice what I preach! For most of the journey, my body was tensing up like nobody’s business. I really think I’d have turned around and gone home if it wasn’t for the skills I feel so incredibly lucky to have to stay relatively calm.

Softening my body repeatedly, talking calmly to my son, and most importantly, breathing, slow deep breaths, right down into my belly, enabled me to get there in one piece. I’d focus on the feeling of the steering wheel in my hands, and my bum on the seat, and soften and breathe deeply again and again. I got there, donned my crazy hat (did I mention it was fancy dress?) and found a moderately quiet place to breastfeed my little boy.

And then I stood at the top of a flight of stairs dealing with the nerves of public speaking. 150 pairs of eyes looking up at me,  I asked everyone to take a few nice big slow deep breaths. Right down into their bellies.

I asked them to soften their forehead, jaw and shoulders, to feel their feet firmly planted on the ground. I asked them to try to let go of the journey here, and anything else going on in their lives. So we could all be as present as possible to witness the marriage of our two wonderful friends.

People loved it. I had that many people come up to me later to thank me for helping them to chill a little and enable them to really drink in the moment. Little did they know that I was struggling hugely to be present myself, that I was somewhat traumatised by the sequence of events that had unfolded for me that morning… But I was a lot less stressed than I might have been.

Few people are naturally calm – myself included!

I am NOT a naturally calm person. It appears very few people are, having asked many. And I’m quite certain that this is why learning to be more mindful has been so powerful for me. It’s also why I’m so determined to help others learn these skills. Before I made mindfulness meditation part of my everyday life I used to suffer from terrible anxiety. I can vouch for the research that shows it reduces anxiety and stress.

These days it virtually never rears its ugly head. However, when there’s an anxiety-producing situation like this beauty of an example, it reminds me of a time when I used to have bouts of feeling as anxious as I did on this day, but for no reason whatsoever. It was so horrible. It’s difficult to explain to others who haven’t had full blown anxiety.

In our crazy busy stressed out world, it’s not surprising that being under huge amounts of stress for prolonged periods as so many of us are at work, coupled with poor sleep patterns, not enough exercise and a crappy diet, that rates of anxiety these days are through the roof. One in three women and one in five men suffer from anxiety at some point in their lives.

So, can mindfulness reduce anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problems in Australia. While this is a somewhat comical story about a crazy set of circumstances, what it shows is that even someone who has had full blown anxiety can learn to stay relatively calm when the heat is on.

Whether in the workplace or in life in general, when we come to better understand how to manage stress we can meet the challenging times in life, and let’s face it, there are many, with more calm, grace and humour.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again; there is simply no way in the world I’d have been able to do IVF, have a baby on my own and managed to get my business up and running without my mindfulness practice. And on that note, I’m going to go and do some meditation practice, right now.

If you want to hear more about how I addressed anxiety and everyday stress get in touch at susie@lilowellness.com.au.  I’d love to share more about what worked for me!

Learn how to be less stressed

| Mindfulness, Stress management | No Comments
Creating a life in which you are offsetting the stressful times we live in and countering the distractions we are all dealing with day to day is not difficult but...

Your beliefs about stress could be killing you

| Stress management | No Comments
The title of this post might sound a bit dramatic, but hear me out. While I am a huge advocate of creating a lower stress lifestyle it turns out that...

Relieve stress, embrace doing less

| Mindfulness, Stress management | No Comments
I am an expert at saying no. It’s been my default for a really long time. When the incredible power of present moment awareness became so remarkably obvious to me,...

What lead to the creation of Lilo Wellness?

| Anxiety, Mindfulness, Stress management | No Comments
I spent years travelling the world, trying to fix really complicated problems in communities, met incredible people and, by many measures, was doing really well. At the same time, though,...