High stress levels – then what?

In my previous blog post I promised to write in detail how I dealt with my chronic stress last year. As I told, the turning point was the summer holiday when I started experiencing difficulties in falling asleep.

 

Sleep is the most important part of recovery. I did know that, but one cannot really force herself to sleep and taking sleeping pills was not an option for me. Therefore, I started tackling the stress from another direction.

The very first thing I did was downloading Headspace on my phone. Headspace is an  application using proven meditation and mindfulness techniques to train the mind for a healthier, happier, and more enjoyable life. I had tried Headspace before and was already convinced about its effectiveness. Having also tried other guided mindfulness applications I noticed that the voice matters to me! Andy Puddicombe has a voice that is calming by nature 🙂 Mindfulness is our basic human ability to be fully present, aware of our surroundings, and not being too reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around us. According to my Moodmetric levels, mindfulness is low numbers indicating inactive sympathetic nervous system.

However, after trying mindfulness a few times at home during the weekends, I realized it was of no use. It was really difficult to find a nice and quiet place for a meditation exercise. Normally my Moodmetric numbers go down steadily during meditation exercises, but as constantly hearing kids running and screaming upstairs, I could not concentrate. By accident (I got upset for not being able to concentrate and marched out for a walk), I found out that going out for a walk lowered my stress levels more effectively than meditating at home. I continued mindfulness exercises on work days.

Then I gave up on kettlebell exercises for a few months and started going for walks instead. Before, putting my trainers on just to go for a walk, was never really an option. I had this thought that going ‘just’ for a walk was a waste of (sports) time. It started to become clear for me that exercising is a good way to prevent stress, but if you are already overloaded, strenuous exercise only adds up to high stress levels.

Working less during the evenings was an obvious move of course. However, not always being able to refrain from work, I started studying how different kind of work tasks affected my stress levels. Quite soon I noticed that writing e-mails raised my stress levels easily. On the other hand, design or creative work without time pressure kept my stress levels down. As I talked about this with our CEO she had experienced the opposite – going through e-mail was less stressful for her than any kind of creative work. This is a good reminder of how we are all individuals and should find out ourselves what are the causes of stress and sources of recovery.

Also, working remotely from home helped me to keep stress levels moderate (the kids being at daycare, of course). This is probably explained by the fact that I could solely concentrate on my work without unexpected social interruptions.  

In addition, I adjusted my diet a bit. From my previous experience I had noticed that cutting down carbs and sugar kept me steadily energetic. I also started taking vitamin and mineral supplements: D3, B12, magnesium citrate and zinc to fight the stress and help the immune system.  

In October, I started seeing clear results with my stress levels. The change had happened in my mind as well – the future seemed brighter again, less worrying thoughts and more feelings of accomplishment. I was able to concentrate better, which had a clear correlation with getting more work done. All this change in my thoughts even though nothing else had changed in my surroundings. Also no difficulties in falling asleep anymore.  

Mindfulness was probably the most effective action on my way to a less-stress life. Even though I wasn’t doing the exercises for more than two or three times a week, I felt that it helped me the most. According to studies, it takes 8 weeks to get results. In that sense, I would recommend trying mindfulness even if one can not commit to the exercises every day.

One might wonder why the actions I took seem so systematic and straightforward. Is managing stress really that simple? Yes and no.  

Knowledge work productivity and wellbeing have been my area of interest for a long time. I have acquired decent theoretical knowledge of the substance through my work as a researcher, so in that sense I was well aware how to tackle chronic stress as a knowledge worker. In general, the internet is loaded with tips and guidance towards stress free life.

However, effective stress management requires lifestyle and behavioral changes. It is easy to try something for a few times, but the hard part is adopting a lasting routine. I get my motivation to take action by looking at my stress levels on the Moodmetric app.  

The idea behind Moodmetric is that everyone should find out what are their individual sources of stress and recovery. What works for me, might not work for you. The Moodmetric ring is an excellent tool to find that out.

How do you sleep

alarm-MM

 

Newborn baby is rarely something fun in the night time. Back then, I lost count by midnight on how many times I was woken up. I tried to write all the activity down on a piece of paper, but in the morning it was impossible to comprehend my scribble.

Meeting other very tired mothers the next day, it would be have been great to boast about the 30 something wake up cries to explain why I did not remember my name. I thought how eye opening (for my husband) it would be to have a tracker to tell all this and have a proof the next day!

In a couple of years this all became possible and there are a lot of devices to choose of. Showing records of bad sleep is possible and even something your occupational health carer might ask from you. Insomnia is as common as a flu and temporary night problems can be caused by projects at work, also free time, not only by your sweet baby.

Virtually all the activity trackers have included sleep tracking in their devices. Fitbit, Jawbone, Garmin, just to name a few, all have solutions that give insights to the sleep. Depending on the device, they monitor the quality and length of sleep (deep, light and REM sleep), through person’s heart rate, breathing, movement, blood oxygen level and brain waves. A simple pedometer can tell the steps you took.

Personal insight: Carrying a crying baby from 2am until 4am quickly gathers the recommended 10 000 steps per day..

The sleep trackers reveal what happens after Sandman has paid his visit. Analysis on sleep cycles can help you to take actions if you want to improve your sleep routines. Sleep deprivation has harmful effects on our human health, and even small changes can significantly improve recovery during night time.
The Moodmetric ring tells about the sympathetic nervous system activation during the night. If the system is very active, your immune system does not work at it´s full power. The ring is a simple to use reader that tells how well you have recovered from your day. As the Moodmetric ring is designed to measure stress, the night time reading gives the user valuable and important insights into the big picture. If the day was hectic but the night was spent sound asleep, it is a good indication of having stress and recovery well in balance.

sleepblog1

This is our COO sleeping like a baby after an exciting day.

 

Would you like to get all the Moodmetric news? Click here to sign up on our Newsletter!