Are we doing too much? | Pamela Spence

busy woman at photocopier

Most of us recognise the feeling of just managing to tread water – only just spinning all the plates, the dread of not knowing how to stop and the fear that if we do everything will come crashing down.

Life today means multi-tasking is the norm. Career, home, kids, no kids, friends, pets, me time. It’s a lot. And it isn’t what our nervous system was made for. Did you know we were built to live 80% of our lives in the eat/sleep/rest/relax/digest/have sex zone and only 20 per cent in the stress zone? Do you know anyone living that life?

Of course, humans are adaptable and learn to cope, but over time stress takes its toll. At first, it’s little things like feeling tired more than usual, being ratty with our loved ones, having less enthusiasm for spontaneity, craving time alone. Then insomnia can creep in, anxiety, headaches. Self-care begins to feel like a chore, the symptoms start mounting up and we start to wonder whether there’s actually something really wrong with us.

For most of us the answer is very simple. We’re trying to do too much and we have no idea how to stop. And as a recovering over-achiever I can tell you that it is possible – nut it takes a little time and guidance to avoid more overwhelm. The internet is full of courses and free downloads enticing us to clean up our diet, do a 5-day challenge, exercise to increase our endorphins, eat healthier, take this supplement or buy that miracle herb. Not only that but we have to watch our food labels, avoid toxic chemicals in our beauty products and make choices that are better for the planet. The result, unfortunately, tends to be just more overwhelm and guilt as we spend money but don’t see the results. Because we are confused and still feel tired all the time.

So let me introduce you to your adrenals. They are the key to the problem. These two pyramid-shaped glands that sit atop your kidneys pump out adrenaline, cortisol and other hormones that set the rhythm of your nervous system. We all know the feeling when adrenaline is pumping – it’s the classic fight and flight response. But when there is no actual tiger to face, we end up in a long term, low level activated state that stops us slipping into that lovely eat/sleep/digest/relax/have sex zone and keeps us hyper aware. Over time, the knock-on effect is rising anxiety, palpitations, difficulty sleeping, poor memory and concentration, difficulty word finding. Oh, and did I mention that your body starts to put down more belly fat in this state? As for libido – forget it!

Looking at it this way, your muffin top could be telling you more about your state of mind than your diet.

If this sounds familiar to you, rest assured, it does for around half of my patients too. Here are some of the key things you can do NOW to turn things around:

Cut the caffeine

I know how it feels to be draining every last drop out of the cup to keep going but in the long run it just makes things worse. You don’t need to cut it out, just cut it down. Instead of reaching for the same old cuppa all day, make your hot drinks work FOR you by opting for specially formulated herbal teas. As the Twinings herbalist I help them build their Superblends range to deliver real benefits. Opt for herbs like ginseng and guarana to avoid the caffeine jitters but perk you up when you need it. Later in the day blends with passionflower and valerian will help you to get better quality sleep.

Eat every three hours

Sound like too much? As women we really need to put some fuel in the system every three hours to keep our blood sugar level. If we don’t, our adrenals need to pump yet MORE adrenaline into the system to raise our sugar levels so that the body can function properly. High protein does the job best – so a handful of nuts and seeds by the kettle or on your work desk is an easy way to remember and simply eat a handful every three hours.

Step away from your task list!

It sounds counter-intuitive, but when you are feeling overwhelmed, stopping and taking time out, even though it feels like the LAST thing you want to do, will make you so much more productive when you come back to it. My favourite saying is ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ and it’s absolutely true. Self-care means being able to do a better job of looking after everyone else. Being in nature is a natural de-stressor so even if it is just five mins in your garden, the proven benefits can be yours.

To find out more about how to stop without it all falling apart, you can download Pamela’s guide to making your hot drinks work for you and you can join the waiting list for her new online membership opening late September. This community of like-minded women will learn how to detox their lives and stop without crashing, feeling calmer and re-energised and they’re kicking off with a free online retreat week to reset your stress levels and get yourself a clear, easy to execute plan for the months ahead.

Pamela SpenceAbout the author

Pamela Spence is a medical herbalist, writer and educator and runs a successful clinical practice from her home on Scotland’s beautiful west coast. She is the Twinings herbal expert and teaches internationally both informally and on professional herbal training courses.

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