This week is very exciting for me – I’m taking part in the Aviva Stress Less challenge in association with the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel. The challenge will provide me with expert, tailored advice based on my current stress levels. I’ll try these out over the next couple of weeks, with the aim to commit to at least one for a lifetime, as even one small change could mean long-term benefits that will help reduce my stress levels for good. Sounds simple enough – and I could do with it right now!
So – the process is this: I fill out a questionnaire designed by Aviva’s experts, receive some top tips in week 1, try these out and see how I feel, receive even more tips in week 2, assess how I’m feeling and the overall effect my tailored stress-busting package is having.
I have high hopes, particularly given my recent problems with sleep deprivation.
I filled out the questionnaire, and quickly realised that perhaps I am more stressed than I think. When asked what I hoped to get out of the challenge, a flood of words poured out about how life is really hectic as I work after two pre-school children, I feel there are not enough hours in the day to ‘fit everything in’ and that on top of this I’m planning a wedding which will take place in August this year!
I went on to discuss how stressed I think I may be – and realised that I’m currently finding it hard to switch off in the evenings which in turn affects my ability to get to sleep. I hadn’t really thought much about this – the act of filling out the survey made me stop and assess how I’m feeling.
I stifled a chortle when asked if I’ve always felt this way – memories of lying in until 11am with nothing to worry about came flooding back. But actually, I’ve always been the type to pack a lot into my life. There have always been periods when I’ve found it difficult to unwind and let my mind rest.
So how do I unwind currently? I have a bath, I read with my kindle, watch TV in the evening over a glass of wine.
The most stressful time of my day? Mornings! Getting everyone ready for childminder or work and out of the door.
Finally, I was asked questions around my occupation, general lifestyle and diet. I probably don’t pay enough attention currently to what I eat. Apart from cheese – I always ensure there is plenty of cheese in the fridge. Can’t live without it.
I was eagerly anticipating this, and I’m pleased to say that I’ve been given a few, manageable and practical tips that I can put into practice this week. I can’t wait to get started.
The tips this week focus on work-life balance, wellbeing and diet. Apparently next week it’s fitness. I’ve recently taken up running, so I’m looking forward to those.
The tips are prepared by Aviva’s Dr Doug Wright who has worked at Aviva for 15 years from full-time practice as a GP and Paddy Anson, Head of Strength and Conditioning at Gloucester Rugby who’s tasked with setting out the training and diet plans for the players (eek – hope he doesn’t prescribe a bit of Rugby!).
Work-life balance from Dr Doug
“2 children, work and a house are enough in themselves. Add in a wedding to plan and I’m not surprised you feel stressed. The fact that you recognise this is good. Having trouble sleeping is a clear sign that it’s affecting you. Try to get more of a sense of control back into your life. We often treat everything as important, in work and home. However you can’t do it all and everything is not equally important. Ensure that everything which is on your ‘urgent’ or ‘do today’ list is exactly that so you don’t put pressure on yourself to do everything at once”.
Wellbeing from Dr Doug
“Sleep is key to feel less stressed. If you can’t switch off because you’re thinking of things you need to do then in the evening write your to-do lists (wedding/home/shopping) in preparation for the next day so you can focus on getting to sleep”.
Diet from Paddy
“There’s a number of foods you could try to help you sleep. Foods rich in tryptophan will help as these help serotonin and melatonin, which are our brains ‘sleep chemicals’. For example dairy, tuna and certain herbs like chamomile will help”.
Onwards and upwards…
So that’s me for this week…I’ll be recognising that I can’t ‘do it all’ and giving myself a break, ensuring that I have ‘to do’ lists which state which tasks are ‘urgent’ so that I don’t feel overwhelmed. If I can do this early in the evening for the next day, then hopefully my mind can chill out in preparation for sleep. I’m fine on the dairy (cheese!), but I’ll be adding in some tuna and substituting chamomile tea for the usual coffee every so often.
I also have access to qualified stress counsellors – Aviva’s Stress Angels – which is an added bonus.
Watch this space for an update!
I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.