Our CEO, Lara discusses: Overcoming Stressful Moments

overcoming stress

Stressful moments often come at us when we feel we can cope least.  A daughter’s melt down, the frustration of filling in online forms that don’t then work, ETSY and overwhelmed by work and family demands… in just one moment. 

Not all stressors are within our control, but some are. What is more, we have a great deal we can do for free that helps us deal better and indeed perhaps even allows us to gain from stressful moments. Yesterday was one of those times when I had to STOP INHALE RESET and simply do the best that I could do. 

I am a pretty hard working Mum of three teenage girls, have an elderly Mum, 2 dogs and never enough time for my friends as I love my work, which I appreciate is lucky. I have built a full life and at the age of 52 and I am trying to squeeze every ounce out of what I can achieve, experience and gain from interesting experiences, learning and growing in these challenging times and I hope to leave a genuinely solid example of how to make the most out of life to my children. 

"One certain way to reduce stress may be to say “no” more often"

Yesterday, like most days I was reminding myself to take control over the parts of my life that I could change and control and were indeed causing me stress. Today I am doing even more to reduce the relentless demands but actually I also take time to reflect on how lucky I am to have a full healthy life with choice. Choice is the most powerful word I use to shape all my thoughts, actions and intentions. Life is full of choice and decision making matters so I pride myself on making decisions as sensible and as fast as feels right. Recently I sold my shares in a company - a really good decision as despite wanting to be involved, my pace of work meant a break down in the relationship with the founder. My fault and a great lesson learnt to change the things that cause upset and move on. 

One certain way to reduce stress may be to say “no” more often. Choosing to be positive is a good start. If you come away from the news feeling down, don’t watch it! You can massively take back control of your days and time if you really stick to a mantra of what rows your boat best, saying no to much and knowing that ultimately in saying no, you are still pushing on in the direction that makes you happiest. I recently chose not to invest in a brilliant online company called Betterspace as I simply am not techie and it is my choice to say no and to invest in things, products, articles which make me truly happy.

Recently I have found, like many others, that taking on more than I can handle, and as juggling many responsibilities as I have been has literally left me feeling overwhelmed. Being selective about what we take on — and saying no to things that will unnecessarily add to the load — can reduce your stress levels. Not to mention the importance of still finding time for others… like the other daughter currently in her room quarantined. 

"some people say, reframe your thoughts, I saw, change the routine as well"

It reminds me that we all have the rest sometimes. Some people say, reframe your thoughts, I say, change the routine as well, treat yourself (within your means) and learn new things that help you overcome the negative. Become a positive energy for success. I do believe my energy can be infectiously good as can the leadership I try to demonstrate everyday but equally.... Nobody is perfect and we all have our “moments.”

I learned years ago about the power of breathing initially in a sports context for control of not just the body but the mind, seems to be a much tougher challenge for us all. Try learning about mindfulness. There are several methods for increasing mindfulness, including mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, yoga, meditation and I believe the most powerful of all, have a plan! Make time for taking back control, make time allowances for staying on top, give yourself a break, literally and in reflection remember all the positive things you will still be doing. 

A recent study in college students suggested that mindfulness may help increase self-esteem, which in turn lessens symptoms of anxiety and depression. I wonder sadly how well this is being communicated to those currently locked down in the madness of Covid control which is out of hand. 

For a super easy and quick stress reliever, try chewing gum, did you know the explanation for why this might work / does work is that chewing gum causes brain waves similar to those of relaxed people. Another is that chewing gum promotes blood flow to your brain. Additionally, one recent study found that stress relief was greatest when people chewed more strongly – I wonder if that is more consciously? 

MY BIGGEST challenge today is the lack / restrictions on spending time with friends and family.

I am a bit bored of my family if I am honest, and I know they will be bored of me. We all need social support from friends and family, so last night I drove to my Mums to give her a hug as one of my own self awareness facts is that when I look after and give to others, I feel better immediately and without fail. You can change stuff to help you get through stressful times. Equally just a walk in the woods can do wonders for your health. 

One study found that for women in particular, spending time with friends and children helps release oxytocin, a natural stress reliever. This effect is called “tend and befriend,” and is the opposite of the fight-or-flight response, it may also be that a problem shared is a problem halved and others may have a more positive outlook on something that you feel you are not dealing with, or indeed, a solution? 

We have to learn to overcome adversity. Just yesterday my daughter literally had a melt-down. Tears, tantrum, not throwing things, (so that’s progress and a wonderful hug and an apology after the event)…and of course at the end of the day cheerfully raided the tea bags,  and disappeared back off to University. This drove my reset. 

Reminding me to be kind to myself – and do what you feel is right for YOU – however much we are needed and I always put family first, one of my most helpful thoughts is that I am sod all use to the family if I am utterly miserable. 

"I am NOT a believer in finding the perfect life"

This week like every week I find myself juggling and fighting for a better balance, not balance itself as I am NOT a believer in finding the perfect life. The thought that we can keep all that comes at us / all the demands on us / all the needs from us by others in balance is simply bonkers. I rather prefer to accept, as long as I lead a life doing the best I can all will be well. In my case exercise is the absolute best of stress release. Factually it lowers stress hormones – such as cortisol, and the endorphins we release during exercise could be described as our naturally created pain killer. 

"My confidence grows when I exercise regularly"

The recovery value of sleep improves sleep quality, today I feel better. I went to bed early, which I consider a treat. I changed a habit I have of watching the news as I stop the digital and catch up with the world, chose not to set an alarm and hey presto, I feel better today as I write. I write because I love my work, but sometimes I also write simply to download. My confidence grows when I exercise regularly then I feel more competent and confident in my body, which in turn promotes mental wellbeing. I have a yoga company and last night I did stretching exercises with the daughter that earlier that day had the melt down and she too went back off to University ready to conquer the world… and other stupid online forms that caused the meltdown. Exercise need not be ferocious, a simple walk, dancing, whatever takes your fancy. What do you feel you need? Rock climbing or yoga.

So what else can I suggest, benefits of Covid in my life… no more relentless London trips away from home, I have reduced my caffeine intake which creates anxiety. People apparently have different thresholds for how much caffeine they can tolerate.

If you notice that caffeine makes you jittery or anxious, consider cutting back. When I was trying to get pregnant and gave up coffee I literally had the shakes. And a final take away which most definitely is simple to apply, easy to adapt to and utterly priceless is learning to breathe really consciously. This is your brilliant body's answer to many problems – the question is do you respect and take care and listen to your body enough? 

The science of how mental health works is as follows: Mental stress activates your sympathetic nervous system, signalling your body to go into “fight-or-flight” mode. During this reaction, stress hormones are released and you experience physical symptoms such as a faster heartbeat, quicker breathing and constricted blood vessels. I used to twitch and find it literally difficult to take air deep into my body, holding onto the chair arms to help by lifting my frame… I was in a poor state. Consciously we can develop better breathing habits. Deep breathing exercises can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the relaxation response. The goal of deep breathing is to focus your awareness on your breath, making it slower and deeper. When you breathe in deeply through your nose, your lungs fully expand and your belly rises.

This helps slow your heart rate, allowing you to feel more peaceful. I now feel more peaceful but that is also because I have removed stuff from my plate, I hope to give back by sharing that you are not alone in your stressful times and I am smiling once more as the day will be manageable.