What’s the #1 Strategy for Preventing Stress?

The simple answer: Self-care.

Self-care is one of my seven key strategies for relieving stress and is the simplest and most effective way to PREVENT stress and overwhelm from taking hold in the first place. In fact, it is a naturally integral part of all seven of them.

Yet, for most of us, self-care is the first thing to go during the craziness of the holiday season. For women like myself, we still have to take care of work, business, family and so forth as usual, on top of the added demands of the season – shopping, parties, baking, card-writing, decorating, and gift-wrapping to name but a few. And while many of these are fun things to do, it often feels like they are putting us over the edge in our already packed schedule and to-do list.

It’s no wonder that this time of year is notorious for bringing on high levels in stress.

In a workshop I ran recently, one participant described overwhelm as taking stress to the next level. If you’re already feeling stressed from work and running your home, the holidays can definitely take us into overwhelm.

In fact, you may feel you have so much to do, you don’t have time for self-care.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

You need it now more than ever, so you can cope with all the extra demands on you.

“Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
― Eleanor Brownn

Looking after yourself first means you’ll be better able to make reasoned decisions about what you need and want to do to be effective, productive and happy this holiday season. You’ll have more energy and be more available for your loved ones AND your work. You can be your best self!

So, what does self-care mean practically? Actually, it looks different for everyone, but there are definitely universal needs like getting enough sleep. Here are some of the things I do for myself regularly in terms of self-care:

  • Eat a healthy and nutritious diet as much as possible, allowing for treats, of course!
  • Get enough sleep. Apparently, the majority of adults don’t get enough. I find that if I don’t get seven to eight hours I don’t function well.
  • Move! I walk (and occasionally run!) outside virtually every day. The exercise and the fresh air both help clear my head. In fact, walking is when I often get my best ideas. I also make a point to get up and move around every so often if I’m doing a lot of computer work.
  • Take breaks! If I work non-stop without a break, I know I can’t think as clearly and I’m much more prone to mistakes.
  • Have a cup of tea – or sometimes a glass or wine – with a good friend.
  • Practice mindfulness or being present in whatever activity I’m doing.
  • And my all-time favorite, Constructive Rest!

I teach this simple and powerful self-care practice to all my clients. It’s a way of taking a few minutes time out of your day to rest and restore yourself mentally and physically as you lie down in a semi-supine position. In fact, I think so highly of this practice that a few years ago I created the 30-Day Constructive Rest Challenge, in which I encourage everyone to commit to doing it for a few minutes every day for 30 days, so they can truly experience the benefits for themselves.

Fundamental to my teaching, however, is helping you cultivate the type of thoughts, body awareness and attention to help you relieve stress in the moment. It’s this practice of mindfulness and presence that you can apply any time and anywhere, so you have the internal tools to help you effectively reduce stress and find more ease whatever you are doing.

You do not even have to take time out of your day to practice this sort of self-care – it simply requires a little thought and attention while you are doing what you do already!

The holiday season is crazy busy for most of us. I urge you to make YOU a priority this season. By doing so you will have more energy, strength and resilience to get things done AND have fun! It will not only help you be more productive, but will also give you time to be more discerning about what really matters and what does not.

So, whatever holiday you celebrate (or don’t!), I wish for you some time for yourself – to do the things that nourish you – and in turn you will lessen, or prevent, overwhelm and stress and burnout before they start.

How do you look after yourself? Is it a priority for you? Or do you neglect yourself when things get busy? What are your main challenges when it comes to self-care? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.