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