Rachel Grunwell shares her knowledge on stopping your everyday busy and finding a better work-life balance.
Words Rachel Grunwell. Illustration UNA Studios
There’s a reason why adult colouring books have become such a massive craze: they promote mindfulness as well as being an antidote to anxiety and stress.
In today’s world, being stressed has become the ‘normal’ state of everyday for many of us, but we need to be mindful that long-term stress can harm our body and beauty.
Living life on adrenalin can affect the appearance of our skin and our happiness levels; it can give us roller coaster emotions and interfere with our digestive systems.
Stress promotes excess cortisol, which can slow the metabolism (so losing weight becomes a battle).
Living life in constant top gear can also lead to burnout or feeling overwhelmed and this can potentially spiral into depression.
This is a very real concern. At least a third of the population – or even up to 50 per cent of New Zealanders – are highly stressed or depressed at any one time, according to Tony Dowell, Professor of General Practice at Otago University. He predicts that anxiety and depression are set to become one of the biggest burdens on New Zealand health services by 2020 – behind heart disease, strokes and cancers. It’s therefore important for us to find strategies to live more in the moment and take time to relax.
From my own personal experience, I know how important this is. I’ve struggled with some extremely stressful times in my life. Everyone struggles on occasions and no one is bullet-proof.
I’ve found some strategies that genuinely help me to de-stress and bolster my happiness levels, so I thought I’d share some of them.
Exercise fuels happiness – it’s scientifically proven. So, choose something that ‘moves’ you. I feel good when I run, for me it’s a form of moving meditation. I feel free and I get that ‘alive’ feeling when I’m out in the fresh air – sunshine or rain. I delight in seeing beautiful places as I plod along. Running allows me the space to think and I promise you that the ‘runner’s high’ truly exists. Being fit and strong helps with my energy levels and having running goals helps to motivate me. I’m no longer bothered about whether my bum looks big in a pair of jeans;
I care more about how my body can be healthier.
Yoga helps me to unwind too and to centre myself. It empowers me, grounds me and takes me to my ‘bliss place’. I belly breathe while stretching out and this helps to slow my heart rate and calm my nervous system.
The ‘yoga way’ is about striving to live a good life and be kind to others. I’m not perfect at it, but it has taught me to be more mindful with everything I do. It’s helped me so much that I’ve trained to become a yoga teacher and I love helping others with this tool. One of my favourite relaxation techniques is to lie still on a mat for five minutes with my hands by my sides and my eyes closed.
I focus on even inhalation, even exhalation. I slow my breath and tune out from my to-do list. I am then mindful to relax my whole body, one part at a time, from the tips of my toes to the top
of my head. I always feel calmer after this practice.
Other things that help me tap into my inner calm include getting seven and a half hours of sleep each night (seven to nine hours is recommended), eating ‘real food’ and making sure I don’t indulge in too much caffeine, alcohol or sugar.
Dowell says it’s all about finding joyful things that resonate with you and then simply doing them much more often. Other activities that can help you achieve a Zen-like state include stroking a cat, watching a comedy, fishing, baking or gardening. And those adult colouring books can be a good distraction too. It’s all about finding the things that brighten our days.