finding balance

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One of the greatest motivations for slow living is the dream of having a less stressful life. Many people associate stress with being busy, and that can be true, but isn’t always the case. More often stress reflects the chaos within us which needs attention. If your mind is calm then a busy day is less likely to cause panic or anxiety. A stressful experience at work is less likely to impact upon you, and screaming children or an encounter with an angry person is less likely to tip you over the edge. Unfortunately when you are immersed in stress, it’s very difficult to see the woods for the trees.

In mid 2013 I decided to take extended leave from my job. I had been working one 12 hour night shift a week, packing kids off to family or friends so that I could go to work, and then cramming in a few hours sleep the next morning before leaping back into the chaos of my life. I was often grumpy and short tempered, and the cumulative effects of the night shifts were taking their toll. I realised that my stress levels were raised almost all the time, and that I needed to do something to restore my inner peace.

I bought a book called The Hormone Cure by Dr Sara Gottfried. I’d heard Sara speak online and her methods really resonated with me. I immediately started using them to reduce my cortisol levels (which were confirmed as super high by the quiz at the start of the book – like I didn’t already know!). Cortisol is the hormone we need to get us out of trouble when we are in stressful or dangerous situations. It’s very useful, and at normal levels in the body it does have some positive effects, particularly on your immune system. However when your cortisol levels remain consistently elevated, it means that the chemical feedback loop which moves you between a stressed state, and a relaxed state no longer works very effectively. It’s like someone has hit the fast forward button and you can’t find the pause. Your stress levels become chronic. I would get angry about something the kids did or didn’t do, and I couldn’t come back down again for ages. I felt terrible. Chronic stress also impacts on your  immune system, by seriously depleting it. It also affects the stability of all your other hormones. Before you know it, it’s more than your stress levels which are out of whack.

So I wrote a huge list of cortisol reducing strategies on a blackboard in my kitchen. Then I worked really hard to do as many of them as possible, as often as I could. It became my absolute priority. I meditated almost every morning for 15 minutes before the kids woke up. I started doing online yoga classes in my lounge room, often involving the kids, which was very sweet. I had weekly acupuncture (at Endeavour College in East Perth, which gives huge discounts on natural therapies done by final year students), I stood on my head a lot, hugged a lot, I walked with girlfriends, did alternate nasal breathing, laughed a lot, just stopped a lot, stopped drinking coffee and alcohol, breathed…and after about 3 months I noticed a dramatic change within. And the best part of all, is that all of these stress reducing habits have become permanent habits and it feels great.

Shared at With Some Grace, 18th July 2014 for FYBF

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16 thoughts on “finding balance

  1. Thanks Jenny, it is a bit of a game changing book really. Sara is what they call a root cause analyst, so as a gynaecologist she looks really deeply into why things happen, rather than just treating symptoms. She rarely recommends any sort of drugs, it’s all lifestyle changes. Just makes sense! I should be on commission shouldn’t I?

  2. Hi Michelle

    As you know I am following Sara Gittfried’s advice also and have finally come up to breathe too. Her techniques seem so simple but i have found they take practice. Thank you for putting me onto her. I am spreading the word with every woman who mentions anything to do with stress and hormone imbalance.I should be on commission too! 🙂

    Love Mish D

    • Yes!! I will send her a link to my blog! I have now bought 3 copies for other people and recommended it to heaps more. It’s so simple, but life changing. Great to see you here Michelle

  3. Thanks for stopping by. I will definitely check out your blog. I just saw your ‘about’ page and that you are in Ibiza…beautiful! Surely you can’t get too stressed there!! Michelle

  4. Great post, I need to check that book out, I to have moments where my shoulders are nicely tucked right under my ears, as supposed to hang right below the neck as they are supposed to 🙂 I could do with a “detox”, thanks for sharing!

      • Yes, stress can “make or break” a person. A little is good, a lot is bad for your health. I’ve had to much stress at work lately, it’s time to take a step back and take care of me 😉 and your post was a great reminder, to slow down!

  5. I think what I’m doing wrong is what you tried to do, pretend as though I could cope. I need to take time. I do take 10 minutes for a coffee in bed in the morning before we do the breakfast/chaos routine. Maybe I need to go to bed earlier too? Thanks for sharing x

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