Stress is something that affects us every day. (Especially now that many of us are returning to lock down and working with kids at home.) How do we learn to live with stress so that it doesn't affect us negatively?
Dr Orlena talks about preventing stress and steps to take when you feel your stress levels beginning to rise.
Today, I'm going to talk about how changing your thinking will help you cope with stress. I'm also going to share with you some tips and tricks that will reduce stress and will make you feel fit and fabulous.
Want to chat with Dr Orlena? Email her at [email protected]
Hello, and welcome to fit and fabulous with me, Dr. Orlena Kerek. I hope that you are feeling fit and fabulous.
I know that many people are going back into lockdown. I have three of my four children at home. Life never really got back to normal. I can see a lot of people are feeling stressed and anxious about how life is going to unfold particularly if you have children at home.
Last week, I did a podcast which was about my stressful morning. A lot of you said that you found it really useful to see that life isn't always easy. I do have stresses, but it's how I approach and deal with those stresses that are really important. So I thought today would be really useful to have a think about lockdown and stress in general.
Before we dive into stress and locked down and life, just a little announcement, I am doing what is called "market research." It is basically a posh way of saying, "Hey, I'd love to chat to you now."
If I can chat to you, it helps me know who's listening to my podcast and how I can make my podcast episodes better and more interesting for you. If you're interested in working with me, it's really helpful for me to understand how, what your problems are and how I can help you.
I would be really grateful if you could spare me 20 or 30 minutes to actually chat to me. If you can, then you can email me at [email protected] If you're already on my email list, you can reply to one of those emails and we can set up a time and it's just fun to chat.
Let's have a little think about stress now. What is happening in the world? I know that my mother in France has gone back to lockdown. My friends in the UK, I think they're going to lockdown. I can’t quite tell by skimming the headlines as I do. Here in Spain, we're at some kind of not quite locked down rapidly heading to lockdown.
I seem to have three of my four children at home who are strangely being quarantined from a contact that was about two weeks ago. I'm not quite sure what's happening there. The word chaos just springs to mind. Anyhow, this is life at the moment and how does it affect us all? The first thing to think about is this big question of, what is stress?
I see this idea that people think that stress needs to be a life-changing thing. Some of us have the right to be stressed and some of us don't have the right to be stressed. A good example of this would be when I was working as a pediatric doctor making life or death decisions, then clearly I'm in a stressful environment.
Working as a doctor is very stressful, but it is also a controlled environment. I think from my perspective, my experience of working in a job like that, a lot of the stress is actually the huge, great volume of work that you have. The bleep that was attached to me never ever stopped.
I remember I was on the phone, answering a bleep and going, I just feel overwhelmed. I can't answer the bleeps quick enough. People would bleep me to tell me that I hadn't answered my bleep and that would make me stressed. It was much more than making decisions about how to treat sick children because we have protocols for that.
I was trained to do that and part of that just runs on automation. This brings up the point that one of the things that we find stressful is making decisions and when we don't have to make decisions… (For example, being a doctor and having a protocol to run through.)… We just run through the protocol and that might be in a high, stressful situation, but our brain isn't being fatigued by making decisions.
On the other hand, even mundane decisions can fatigue us and make us feel stressed. An example in my life is choosing a Friday night movie with my four children, and it can feel like huge, great stress. Everybody wants something different and people are disappointed if they don't get what they wanted. Oh, the drama and the upset of a Friday night movie which is supposed to be something fun!
This idea about stress being an important thing is not true. Stress is just something that is there all the time every single day. On some days it can just be a small amount of stress and on other days it can be a bigger amount of stress.
You can also have this background stress. So obviously right now, we're living in this time of "we don't know what's happening to our world." There is just this background stress of COVID and locked down.
For me in my personal life, I have this background stress. This month, I need to find a house that we can all live in. I need to pack up my house and sort out every single item. We'll be finding a small house because there aren't any big houses and there are six of us. So what am I going to do with all the furniture? Do I want to throw it away? A lot of it's quite old. Do I want to keep it? Do I want to store it? What am I going to do with all of these things? That stress is going on in the background as well of course.
I didn't announce this. I've got an exciting Fit and Fabulous Family Summit, which I'm organising for the beginning of December. It's going to be super exciting.
I've got so many amazing people who are coming to talk to us about different aspects of wellness and family. Also, how we can reduce stress and lead a healthy life. If you have any ideas for topics that you want, come and let me know. People have already said to me that they want to know about children's sleep and adult's sleep. I'm making sure that I'm going to cover those, but at this Summit, I have to do all the organising. So that's another stress that I've put on myself right in the middle of this. Everything is happening all at once. Children have school, organising a house, organising the summit. Am I crazy? I think I am.
When we think about stress and how to manage stress, we need to have an idea of what we're going to do. I would say there are two things to think about, number one, I would always say you need that good foundation. I'm always going on about the four pillars of healthy living. More than anything, they really help us to combat stress, to live with stress. Can you hear my children screaming in the background? I have no idea what's going on. So for me, stress is homeschooling. I've told them that I'm doing a podcast and in 10 minutes I will open the door and we can see what's going on.
The four pillars are eating healthily, good nutrition. Pillar number two is exercise. Pillar number two is really good one for stress because when you go and run, just whatever your exercise is, you just really work what stress out of you. It's time to let your mind go.
It has both mind benefits and physical benefits as well. Pillar number three is sleep. I'm going to do another podcast on sleep in the next few weeks. I've just finished reading Michael Mosley's Fast Asleep Book which I definitely recommend. Sleep is so important and one of the foundations of how we cope with how we think and how our body works.
Essentially our bodies do not work well when we are sleep deprived, neither our mind nor our body. So sleep is a huge, great, fabulous thing. Well, I would like to say easy, but I know a lot of people have problems with sleep, but it is free and you can. There are lots of things that you can do to improve your sleep.
Pillar number four is what I call emotional wellness or mindset. That's really how we think about things. This is really the crux of stress because stress is how we think about things. Let's go back to my example, I have to move house now, obviously, what am I thinking about? I'm thinking about that long list of things that I need to get done a long list for me.
It harks back to my times when I was a doctor and we would always have a long list of things to do. We would write out the list a billion times and we would pass this list over. One of the things for me is I do feel that idea of stress when I think of long lists of things to do.
What else could I be thinking about? In this time of moving house, I could be thinking, “we're just going to find a tiny flat. It's just going to be so difficult or worse. I'm not going to find a flat”. Those thoughts aren’t helpful. It's really important to train your mind to look at the way you're thinking and question everything that you're thinking.
I think about my children aren't going to be homeless. I'm going to find something. I'm a resourceful kind of person. We will just make it work for a year. Once I can really grasp that thought and that way of thinking, it really just calms things down. As I say, it lets the glitter settle a little bit.
When we think about stress and the way we think, the two are totally combined. They are just the same. Stress is the way that we think about things. What we're doing is thinking about things in relatively negative and fear-inducing way. If we can look at the situation from a different point of view, then it becomes fun. I can think about it as a game. I have to take all the cupboard doors down. I have to do all of this. I'm going to chip away at it a little bit.
Before I was training as a doctor, I did medical work experience. So I must've been 18 or 19 at that time. I remember going into a hospital and I just spent a week there. I remember seeing two doctors and one was an anaesthetist, and I don't think he enjoyed his job in any way whatsoever. He said to me, "Goodness, if you can make your living doing things in a craft or artistic way, definitely go for it."
He was somebody who just felt the stress of his job. He didn't really enjoy it. In contrast, there was a heart surgeon there and he absolutely loved his job. He just said, "This is a great game," "The stakes are high but it's a great game" and he enjoyed that game so much. I'm not saying that he was frivolous or did things that weren't with gravity. Of course, he did but every patient that he had coming in, he kind of played this game of "can I save them-can I not save them?" He was totally invested in this game and he was a marvellous heart surgeon. He really enjoyed his job. Now, which doctor would you rather be treated by? I know that I would rather be treated by somebody who really loved his job. That story I think illustrates that the way we think about things really changes how we show up in life.
I guess if you were that anaesthetist who didn't enjoy his life, you can either change the way you think about it or go and do something else. Being stuck in a job that you don't like, I know that it's tough, but really, and truly it's not something that I would want to do.
Going back to this question of what do we need to do to tackle stress? Number one is to make sure we have concrete and good habits and systems in all four of those foundations. That's really the work that I do with my one-on-one clients.
Obviously, if you're struggling come and chat to me. We will see if we're a good match to work together or if I have some other resources that I can point you towards.
Another piece of the puzzle is thinking about your particular stresses. What stresses you now working from home with my children at home? I know what stresses me. I find this so stressful to be interrupted. I sit down, I'm doing a job and my children are saying, "I need help with my homework, or I need to do this."
Another thing that my husband particularly finds very stressful is that our children are noisy. All children are noisy. Kids are noisy. Have you ever stood outside a playground at playtime? Oh my goodness, you can hear a school playground, streets, and streets away. The kids make so much noise.
Kids are naturally noisy. Adults can find that stressful, particularly when it's unexpected. The sound of children jumping out and saying, "boo" is unpleasant for us. Another thing that I find particularly stressful with all four of my children is everybody talking at once. There's everybody talking at once and saying, "mommy, I need help, "I can't do this." It takes me back to that time when I was working in a hospital and had this long list and everybody wanting my attention. Everybody's saying "You need to do this first" "You need to do that first." I still on a sort of smaller level have that here within my home.
Once I have identified these stressors, I can set up systems to manage them. So one, a couple of tricks that I find really useful is something that I call "stop, drop, breathe." When I can see that my children got to the stage that they really need my help. They're screaming and shouting, and they can no longer carry on doing things by themselves. I'm trying to do something else.
I use this technique or this motto, which is "stop, drop, breathe." It just means stop what you're doing. Just spend a minute or so, or a small amount of time breathing, focusing on where you are right now. letting go of your thoughts of whatever it is that you're doing. Then you are in a better place to deal with your children.
This also helps me when I find my children on top of me. Again, stop, drop, breathe, and calming everybody down. Another thing that I find really useful is the karate chop. You chop your fingers together and you say this motto. "choose love" because I can tell that I'm starting to get angry or frustrated. I know that when I get frustrated and angry, I tend to shout and yell and turn up in a way that isn't helpful, and I don't want to.
Those are two sorts of immediate things that you can do. Really and truly, what you want to be doing is setting up systems such that these things don't happen.
For example, when being interrupted, I have a system where if I'm in this room recording a podcast, I say to them, "okay, when the door is closed, don't come in and interrupt me." I'm doing something important and I don't want to be interrupted. If I've got a really important call or a really important time that I think I just need to have this time carved out.
I do it at a time when my husband has a bit of time of work and he can take them out. Sometimes I put them in front of what we call the Japanese babysitter a.k.a the television because I know then they will be totally quiet. There won't be any of this screaming and shouting.
So it's about finding ways that you can cope with the immediate problem and how you can avoid them in the first place. I just need to train them to talk one at a time. Now my children can be so learners and this does take a little bit of time, but it is work that we're doing on ongoing basis.
I hope this has been a useful little overview of stress. I think really giving you permission to understand that stress is stress. If you don't have to be the chief executive of the world to feel stressed. Stress is something that happens. That happens to absolutely everybody on a day-to-day basis.
At certain times, like in lockdown, our stress levels go up and we need to find ways to cope with that so that we can enjoy life and be healthy and be productive. When stress gets above a certain level, it just becomes debilitating. It stops you from enjoying life and doing the things that you want to do.
So take care of the four foundations. Have specific measures in place to avoid your own specific stresses. Have some tricks up your sleeve that you can use in that moment of stress to help you calm down. Again, those are going to be different for other people.
Last week. I told you about how I smile inanely behind my mask when I'm walking back from being told off by the policeman.
Wishing you a stress-free week. If you want to come and chat to me about my market research, I would love that and look out for the Fit and Fabulous Family Summit in December. I will let you know when it's live and ready to sign up.
Have a fabulous week. I will see you next week.
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Alea didn't like blueberries until she did the Magic Likes exercise. She was eating them and enjoying them by the end of the call!
Tory stopped eating pretzels after she did the exercise.
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Dr Orlena Kerek (MBChB from the University of Bristol, UK) trained as a pediatric doctor. She is now a family health coach. She helps busy mums who want to feel amazing by eating healthy food. So they can enjoy a healthy life, get back into their honeymoon shorts and teach their kids healthy habits. All without thinking about it.
If you want a healthy family and healthy lifestyle without having to think about it. And you'd like help, book a 30 minute "Healthy Life Roadmap" call here.