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Stop Pushing Yourself So Hard: 8 Ways to De-Stress Your Mind and Body

Peaceful Woman

“Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our own needs first, and then we can give from our surplus, our abundance.” ~Jennifer Louden

I have always been really driven. I readily admit that I am an overachiever, and I have the capacity to burn the candle at both ends.

Following my dreams and creating what I imagine is my destiny takes work, real work, so I can easily spend way too many hours a day striving to bring my visions into reality.

I am hardwired to push myself naturally. I am quite certain it is a gene that I have inherited from my dad. I don’t seem to have an off switch, and that fuels me to fit as much as I possibly can into twenty-four hours.

Two years ago my off switch was shut down for me without my consent.

My world and my body were shaken and shattered into a million pieces in what seemed like a heartbeat.

Back then, I lived in a beautiful two-story home. One morning, as I headed out for my morning run, I fell down my steep internal staircase. One minute I was standing on the top step, and then the next minute I was lying at the bottom.

I suffered all sorts of injuries. Some of those injuries healed quickly, and some will stay with me for the rest of my life. But on the flip side, my fall from grace has reminded me to slow down, smell the roses, and practice self-care every single day.

I often look back and ask myself, was my fall perhaps the Universe’s way of nudging me, or rather throwing me, into a place where I had no choice but to nurture and heal myself?

Being forced to completely stop gave me the opportunity to re-evaluate my entire life. I had always taken care of myself, but when I look back, I recognize it was only on the surface. I had never stopped for long enough to prioritize wellness on every level.

Though it can be challenging to find time to practice self-care, we all need to nurture ourselves—emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally.

In retrospect, I’m grateful for my accident, as it taught me to really take care of myself. If you too are pushing yourself too hard—and rushing through life as a result—I highly recommend you (slowly) take the following steps.

1. Take ownership.

I learned that I must take personal responsibility for my wellness. We all need to do this.

I don’t mean just taking a break when we are exhausted, rundown, or overwhelmed, or when we hit rock bottom—or in my case, the bottom of the staircase! We need to form and maintain healthy habits that enable us to thrive. No one else can do this for us.

2. Commit.

In order to maintain optimum good health on every level, I have had to accept that it requires a degree of commitment and discipline. It is often when we lose something so precious, like the ability to move or to walk unaided, that we really appreciate what so many take for granted.

Do some trial and error to identify the self-care practices that help you function at your best—meditation, short walks, getting out in nature; anything that helps you recharge physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. Then schedule these activities into your day.

It might help to start with five or ten-minute activities so it doesn’t feel too overwhelming. The important thing is that you do something each day, no matter how small.

3. Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness forms the foundation of self-care, because we’re only able to identify our needs when we’re present in our bodies. I wasn’t mindful on the day of my accident, and that’s why I didn’t realize I needed to slow down.

Mindfulness also nourishes our spirit by rooting us in the present moment. By practicing mindfulness, we become engaged with our surroundings.

The best way I know how to practice mindfulness is through meditation. Meditation has given me a sense of calm, peace, and balance. It supports my emotional well-being and my overall health. What’s not to love about that?

4. Take breaks for deep breathing.

I now take regular mini breathing breaks throughout my day. Breathing is the connection between mind, body, and spirit. Taking a few deep breaths over the course of the day and deeply inhaling and exhaling energizes me.

When I breathe in now, I fill myself with gratitude for my life.

When I breathe out, I let go of all the unnecessary demands that I place on myself.

Schedule a few times throughout your day when you can close your eyes and take a few deep, cleansing breaths. It’s a simple practice that you can do anywhere, at any time, yet it can profoundly affect your state of mind, creating peace, calm, and clarity.

5. Nourish your spirit.

We often think of self-care as diet and exercise, but it’s equally important to nurture our spirit. For me, this involves getting outside and enjoying nature—a leisurely walk at sunrise or sunset, a swim in the ocean, or even just stepping outside into the fresh air and stopping to acknowledge how truly miraculous the world is. It is the simplest of acts that now fill my spirit with light.

6. Beware the “busy life.”

We seem to wear busyness like a badge of honor nowadays. Often being busy just creates the illusion of being successful, but how successful can we really be when we’re stressed, exhausted, physically and mentally depleted, and missing out on opportunities for joy in our daily life?

We may have responsibilities and obligations, but we all have the power to scale back. It might not be easy, but it’s possible. I don’t know about you, but I refuse to use being too busy as an excuse for living a beautiful life.

7. Keep it simple.

It is often only when we finally slow down that we’re able to recognize all the chaos that can fill our world. Keeping life simple is now a priority.

I have removed blockages, obstacles, and any hurdles that may trip me up and stop me from moving forward. I can see clearly now and I am open to accepting more love, laughter, joy, and happiness into my world.

Recognize all the unnecessary hurdles you’ve placed on your own path. Where can you simplify or scale back? Where are you creating unnecessary stress or drama in your life? What would you need to let go of or do differently to create a simpler life, with more time for yourself?

8. Recognize and eliminate energy drains.

When you are exhausted from a challenging situation, and your energy is depleted, it is vital that you learn to manage and replenish your energy—mind, body, and spirit—so that you can recover quickly.

While I was recovering from my injuries, I had time to evaluate who and what drained my energy. I have learned to manage my energy daily, like I would manage my finances. I no longer invest my time and energy into anything that does not give me a positive return.

What drains your energy? What habits, activities, or relationships aren’t healthy for you? What, if eliminated, would provide a huge sense of relief?

I received a huge gift after the fall—the kind of gift that can only be received when you are ready and open to acknowledging that there is actually always a gift in even the most challenging of circumstances.

My gift was a huge reminder that life is precious and should never be taken for granted.

I am worthy of self-love and self-care every day. We all are. For every positive choice we make, we support our mind, body, and spirit. Self-care fuels us with the strength and energy we need to achieve all of our dreams.

Peaceful woman image via Shutterstock

About Jo Ettles

Jo has worked as a wellness consultant for eight years alongside some inspiring health care practitioners. She is also a published author of two self-help books. With an education in nutrition, weight loss, weight management, anti-ageing foods, meditation, and stress management techniques, Jo has assisted many people to change their lives for the better. Visit her at http://www.joettles.com.au.

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  • Delson of Source Living

    Great post Jo! Taking time out to relax, have fun and laugh is a great stress relief, I’ve found. One of my favorite ways to de-stress is to walk barefoot on the grass for 10-15 minutes and watch the blue skies, breathe in the fresh air and if it’s time, watch the sunset 🙂

  • Jo Ettles

    Thanks so much. I appreciate your comments. We are surrounded by so many miracles but we get so busy, we often miss them. Whenever I am around water, I always feel better. The beach is my favourite place to de-stress. Thanks for taking the time to read my little story.

  • Pallavi

    Awesome post Jo…got me thinking !
    We do feel important if we are busy, but never pay closer attention to what is keeping us busy 🙁
    Hope you are doing well… 🙂

  • Jo Ettles

    Thankyou Pallavi, I am well and I hope you are too. I have learnt to pace myself since my accident. That fall changed my life, but now I llok back, it changed my life for the better.
    Warmest wishes to you 🙂

  • I commend you for re-framing what in most people’s perspective would have been a terrible misfortune into a pivotal event that helped you to grow. One of my friends broke his leg several years ago, which effectively ended his firefighting career.

    When I asked him what he thought of the accident, he said that it was the best thing that ever happened as it allowed him to try new things. So, it was the same for me when I developed what would I would later find out as chronic back and leg pain (at the time, I had assumed the worse and that it was something else).

    The illness forced me to reevaluate my life and start making more healthy choices, such as starting an exercise program for the first time in my life and eating much more healthy. I also found the personal development industry. I’m glad to say that it’s been 3+ years now and I’m still going to the gym 3 times a week. I’m feeling the best I’ve ever felt!

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  • JoAnn Saccato

    This is a great path to a happier and healthier life! Particularly building self-care into our routine rather than waiting for the crash, or fall, as the case may be!