I don't typically describe myself as a calm person, which is kind of ironic since I teach people how to ease their stress and anxiety. But I also believe that we teach best from our own experience, which is why I never taught math. I always just "got it" and couldn't figure out why students didn't understand how 5 x 5 = 25. I never struggled to learn math concepts, so when I tried teaching it, I was horrible.
I ended up teaching science and becoming a school counselor because I knew what it was like to struggle in those areas. I had to work hard to understand science concepts when I was in college, and I definitely had to work hard to learn (and am STILL learning) the life concepts that I taught as a counselor.
So when I give you this list of the 5 things that can keep you calm in the chaos, it's not because I have perfected them. On the contrary, these are things I still have to practice regularly if not daily. But I do know from experience that when I implement this process in my own life, it works! I am calmer, more patient, have better relationships and feel better mentally, physically, and emotionally. So I am sharing with you my tried and true secrets for creating a calmer life filled with more joy, purpose, and connection.
1. Focus on your priorities
It took me several years to identify my priorities. It started in my first yoga teacher training in 2006, and continued to evolve until today. Once I year or any time I go through a big life change (like, you know, a global pandemic!) I reevaluate my core values and make sure that I am living in alignment with them.
I know that when my stress levels rise, I tend to live from a place of fear and scarcity rather than trust and abundance. So it is especially important for me to take a look inward, do several of the activities that I've learned over the years, and check back in with who I am at my core. Then I can make sure that in those times when I'm anxious and my frontal lobe is not working properly, I can still make rational decisions that steer my ship in the direction I want to go long term.
2. Stay in a routine
It took me years to cultivate a self-care routine that works, and when I started working from home last fall I had to readjust. The things I did when I was working full-time in a public school are not the same as the things I did when I was starting a business from home.
Now, with the whole family home and school being done at the kitchen table instead of a school, I am having to readjust again. Luckily, I have several tools on hand from my time as a school counselor that were incredibly helpful when students needed help juggling homework, sports, family obligations, their part-time job, and time with friends. They are just as helpful now when we are balancing 3 different schedules under one roof.
Bear in mind that I'm not saying that we have a real "routine" anymore. Every day looks different and we try to go with the flow to keep everything balanced. But we make sure to build in time for everyone's mental, physical, and emotional wellness each day so we don't want to sell each other on Etsy. (See my post about this the other day!)
3. Take care of yourself
It is not easy to build time for self-care into your day. That is why #2 and 3 go together. I know what things work for me to keep my stress and anxiety at bay, and they may not be the same things that work for you. And the reality is that I may not be able to go on a 3-hour bike ride every day, so I need quick and easy things in my back pocket that I can use on days when our schedule is packed.
I have built up my list of things that help me over many years, and I now know how to recognize the signs when I am going to lose it and what I can do to make sure that doesn't happen. I have even trained my husband to point it out to me in a way that won't make me freak out on him (most days I sigh and say "you're right, thanks" even though I secretly want to slap him!)
4. Eat something nourishing
This is the number 1 thing that goes to crap when I'm stressed, and the number 1 thing that I should focus on to keep my head on straight. I know it, and yet it is still the most difficult thing for me to do regularly on this list. I think that is pretty common for most people, which is why the Clean Eating Guide is the most downloaded link on my website!
We are just now starting to understand the link between our gut and our brain, but anyone out there with a toddler can tell you what happens when they eat sugar. While we can regulate our emotions a little better than a 3-year-old after a birthday party, the foods we eat can almost instantly turn us into little Tazmanian Devils too!
Eating foods high in protein and healthy fats keep our blood sugar regulated and prevent the mood-altering late afternoon sugar crash. Making sure we get all of the right vitamins and minerals can ensure that our insulin uptake is regulated, our sleep patterns stay on track, and our hormones are balanced.
5. Connect with a mentor or inspiring friend
They say you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with. I have no idea if that is true, but I know who the people in my life are that will inspire me, challenge me, make me think deeply, let me cry on their shoulder, and tell me to "get my big girl panties on and deal with it!" (That one is my mom!) We all need our people to help us along the way.
While I ADORE my friends, I also feel that it is important to have mentors who are further along the path we are on. Whether it is a career mentor, relationship mentor, or wellness mentor, we all need someone who we can get advice from who has been in our shoes, or at least been in shoes similar enough that we might get them confused in the cubbies at the yoga studio. This is why I have several people that I work with who can help me grow, push me out of my comfort zone, and challenge me to stay mentally strong.
I am definitely not an expert on everything, but I do feel like there are some areas where I am further along the path. Professional gymnastics... no. Flying an airplane... definitely not! But living a life that is in alignment with my values, where I work to prioritize myself so I can take better care of others... that I might actually be able to help with!
If you want to learn more about what I do, how my wellness programs could support your personal journey, or just geek out on the parasympathetic nervous system for a bit, I would love for you to schedule a free 30-minute Discovery Session with me! Let's discover how we can work together to build a more mindful, active, present world!