8 Tips for a Stress Free Life
And what I learnt from being burnt out
As I sit here working, from a cosy ski chalet amongst breathtaking surroundings, I'm grateful for my stress free life. But it didn't just happen, I had to work at it!
I think back to how my life was when it was far from stress free. Remembering the trying times and what I had to do to get to this point.
It’s because of those challenges, and what I learnt from them, that I now have this stress free life.
To understand this, let me take you back…
From about the age of 22, I suffered with regular episodes of burnout. So bad that the doctor signed me off work for weeks at a time.
For over 12 years, I mainly slept for only 5 hours a day. Going to bed at midnight and getting up at 5am. I left for work in the dark and got home in the dark.
A 4 hour daily commute meant that my weekends consisted of food shopping and household chores. Leaving very little time for sport, exercise, ‘me time’ or even socializing!
My eating habits were erratic and I never ate breakfast. My first drink of the day was when I arrived at work 3 1/2 hours after getting out of bed.
Often, I'd go 9 hours between meals, eating lunch at my desk at 11.30am and dinner about 8.30pm. And I mostly snacked on sweets, biscuits and crisps in between.
Feelings of depression increased, and I would wake up each morning with a black cloud hanging over my head. Finally dragging myself out of bed after many strikes of the snooze button on my alarm clock.
Life got better…
I was elated when I left work and my alarm clock became the happy gurgles of our newborn baby boy. Finally, for the first time in years, I felt happy, stress free and full of energy. My life was perfect, I had everything I wanted and needed.
Until this happened…
Unfortunately, those wonderful days weren’t to last. On Christmas Day, just 16 months after our son was born, my husband had a seizure.
We discovered later that this was due to pressure on his brain, from a brain tumour. The tumour was malignant; my darling husband, and daddy to our baby boy, had cancer.
At 29 years old, my life came crashing down around me. I nursed my husband for 11 months, until he took his final breath, in our bed with me lying by his side. I howled like an animal from the physical pain I was feeling.
I didn’t know how I was going to be able to carry on without him. But I did carry on! Because I had our 2-year-old son giving me the biggest reason I needed to get out of bed everyday.
But things got worse…
Six years later, our son became my reason for carrying on once more. When after a time of immense stress and many struggles, the burnout had raised its ugly head. This time though it was much worse!
I felt like I had a permanent case of bad flu...
There were days when I just couldn’t get out of bed. I slept fitfully all night and most of the day. And it was painful to lie in one position for more than 10 minutes at a time.
I could fall asleep standing up. When driving, I had to rest my aching arms on my knees whilst holding the steering wheel.
Blow-drying my hair took ages, as I had to rest my arms every few seconds. And socialising left me exhausted for days, or weeks!
Bright lights and loud noises stressed me. I had brain fog, my memory was poor and I couldn’t concentrate on anything for longer than a couple of minutes. This meant I rarely read books or watched TV.
Food intolerances were a problem
I'd become intolerant to many of the foods I'd previously been able to eat. Eating them caused painful cramping in my stomach and a mix of constipation and diarrhoea. It was as if my body, brain, digestive system and immune system were all shutting down!
I wanted to end it all…
The inability to live a normal life, and having to fight against all these symptoms just to survive, caused me to have mini breakdowns. So bad that, on one occasion, I had suicidal thoughts.
It was the fear of leaving my son without a daddy or a mummy that led me to finally seek help from my doctor. I needed to find out why I was feeling so wretched.
Help and answers is what I needed
After seeing my doctor, and an Endocrinologist, and having many blood tests, I was diagnosed with M.E., or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as it’s now often known.
Researchers estimate that there are over ¼ million people, who have been diagnosed with it in the UK, and over a million in the US. Only about 20% have actually been formally diagnosed. Worse still, children and young adults are being diagnosed with it – it’s becoming a 21st Century epidemic!
Taking a positive acceptance enabled change
I took a positive acceptance of the diagnosis, in that I finally knew what I was dealing with. My body was telling me that if I didn’t stop abusing it, it would pack up for good!
So, I took responsibility for my own health, with no help from the medical profession and no prescription or over the counter drugs. And I began to work towards a stress free life, once and for all!
It took me 4 years to fully recover. Those years were like a roller coaster, very up and down. Some of the things I did worked and relieved my symptoms permanently, and some didn’t, but eventually I found the winning combination.
My body is stronger now, and life’s challenges don’t bring me down like they used to.
I’ve had my fair share of stressful events since my recovery but, in over 10 years, I haven’t experienced burnout. Let alone a relapse of M.E.
I've finally discovered how to live a stress free life, and I'm so grateful for my health and happiness now.
No longer do I go into a downward spiral of poor energy levels or mental functioning when the going gets tough.
Catching a cold or virus is a rarity for me now. Plus, my digestive system works efficiently and I’m even able to tolerate all foods with no bad side effects.
I’m happier, healthier and more energetic now than I’ve ever been. And that's because of what I’ve learnt and the lifestyle changes I’ve made.
Some top tips to reduce stress
Here are 8 of my top tips for a stress free life. To help you prevent the stress on your body, which can so easily lead to:
- mental fatigue,
- aching muscles,
- digestive problems, and
- total burnout!
When done simultaneously, you will notice a massive difference in the way you feel.
- Ensure that your diet consists mainly of unprocessed meals, lots of different coloured fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats. Avoid processed, sugar-laden treats or drinks. Limit your intake of alcohol, and keep products containing gluten to the absolute minimum, or avoid altogether.
- Avoid looking at technology during the hour before going to bed, and unwind by reading, meditating or having a warm, not hot, bath.
- Keep to a regular bedtime and wakeup routine during weekdays.
- Walk in fresh air and nature for at least ½ hour every single day.
- Fit some Yoga, Pilates and/or dance classes into your week.
- Make time weekly for both quality ‘me time’ and fun!
- As soon as you wake up every morning, say to yourself, or write down, 3 things you are grateful for, and throughout the day say ‘thank you’ for the little things that go well.
- Before going to sleep, write your thoughts in a journal. Keep it positive and congratulate yourself on everything you achieved that day, however small it may seem.
Don't allow stress to take hold of your life
Take steps to eliminate stress from your life whenever you can. Don't reach the stage I did by not taking care of me first.
Life will always throw us curve balls
We all have choice, however hard it maybe to see at times.
What choices are you going to make?
And what action are you going to take, to improve the life you have?
I hope my story shows you that, no matter what cards you're dealt in life, from adversity can come strength, and an amazing life. Providing you're open to making a few changes!
To end, here's a photo of my darling son (my reason) and me, on my 50th birthday!