Has there ever been a time when you’re up against the clock? The deadline is looming. Your significant other isn’t happy because you’re still at work but you’ve just got to get your head down and get it done?
We could talk about all the things that you can do around that moment in time, such as boosting sleep quality, scheduling, in active recovery or, more importantly, making that active recovery bespoke to you so that it supercharges your recovery every single time.
We could talk about the herbs, the food, the nutraceuticals that you can lay over that dialled foundation so that you’ve got that boost when you need it most. But when you’re in that moment when you’re panicking deep inside about what’s left to do, or you’ve read that paragraph three times now because you’re wired and tired, what can you do to help yourself in that moment?
This common mistake adds to your stress
The biggest mistake I see when people are stressed at work is that they think they need to hype up in order to work for longer.
They forget to move. And I’m talking about getting up from your desk, not just going to the gym or walking around the block. They’re glugging down another coffee or another energy drink.They reach for that candy bar. It’s instinctual.
The most addictive food is
The science tells us that under pressure or when we’re not feeling good. The combination of fat and sugar, it’s eight times more addictive than cocaine.
Dr Nicole Avena of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai says that the most addictive food is that slice of pizza because of all that sugar in the tomato sauce, closely followed by chips, cookies and ice cream.
And I’m making you hungry right? But it’s ok. Your mind is just trying to help you feel good amongst a not so good feeling situation. So instead of licking the salt from the bottom of that packet of chips, or crisps if you’re in the UK, have a play with my three favourite hacks for overcoming stress in those moments.
Choose Ginkgo over Coffee
Instead of reaching for that third or fourth coffee, take some ginkgo instead. Ginkgo is not for you if you’re on blood thinning medications such as warfarin.
Check in with your herbalist if you’re on any medication before you take a herb or a supplement to minimise those herb drug interactions.
But here’s what I love most about ginkgo. Firstly, it’s neuroprotective. This means it protects your brain. But also in terms of dealing with work stress, ginkgo increases focus and concentration, and it supports memory recall. You’ll get a similar ‘I’ve just had a coffee feeling’, but without that coffee dip that comes a few hours later.
Why are you reaching for that coffee?
Now, here’s something interesting I noticed with my coffee choices. Often I fancy a coffee not because I want a coffee, but because I’ve forgotten to move, especially when you’re down that spreadsheet rabbit hole or I’m craving some variety because I’ve been fixated on something for too long.
So if you fancy a coffee just check in with yourself and make sure it’s actually the coffee that you’re fancying.
How taking a break serves your creativity
It’s like when you’re in the shower or you’re walking the dog and the great ideas come flooding in your mind is still processing in the background. But you’ve released the mental handbrake by focusing on something else, particularly if it doesn’t require a lot of processing power.
The Superhero pose
This suggestion may feel a bit too weird to do at your desk. If that’s the case, take yourself off to the loo and do it there. Do you remember the first time you watched or read superman or wonder woman comics? Do you recall the superhero pose?
Legs hip width apart.
Hands on your hips.
Chest full and open and up.
Gaze directly ahead.
Are you doing it with me right now? How do you feel?
Researchers have found that if you strike this pose for at least two minutes, your testosterone increases and your cortisol levels go down.
You’re probably aware of testosterone’s ability to make us stronger by building muscle mass and helping us to become leaner by supporting our fat metabolism. But did you know that testosterone is responsible for our inherent competitiveness and it helps us to focus. People who have low testosterone levels report feeling low on energy, poor memory, less endurance and strength.
Cortisol is sometimes referred to as the stress hormone. It does lots of great things. So please don’t think of cortisol as the common enemy. But cortisol is inflammatory. And high levels that circulate in your body for too long can have significant health consequences.
Breathe with intention
This third hack works every single time. It’s the power of the 4-7-8 breath. When we’re stressed, we tend to shallow breathe. You can tell you’re shallow breathing because you can see your breathing through the movement in your shoulders.
So let’s reset our breath and get those shoulders back down. Instead of breathing into the top of our lungs, we’re going to shift our focus, and we’re breathe all the way to the bottom of the lungs.
So let’s play with this together, place your hands across your belly around where your belly button is and the tips of your fingers are just touching.
Now imagine that your belly is a balloon. And your intention is to slowly fill that balloon. Notice how without even thinking about it as you do this. Your fingers are moving apart. And then on the out breath your diaphragm does all the work. It gently deflates that balloon.
What’s the 4-7-8 breath?
We do those breathing into the belly breaths nice and slow. But we will use the focus of counting to aid us in relaxing.
Breathe in for a count of four. Hold for a count of seven and breathe out for a count of eight.
Do this for three cycles. At the end of the third 4-7-8 breath, find your own natural rhythm in your breath. How do you feel right now?
If you’re not feeling calmer, slow down your count. And do it again.
When you’re in the midst of a stressful event, reach for these three hacks.
- Choose ginko over coffee.
- Strike a superhero pose, and think about your
- 4-7-8 breath.