Friday 23 May 2014

Aviva Stress Less Challenge - week 1 update

Last week, I posted about how I was taking part in the Aviva Stress Less challenge, and now that I'm a week in, I can see a difference in how I feel and how I go about things based on the advice the experts have given me.

I know it has only been a week, but the way in which the challenge has been organised and the practical, tailored advice I have received has really helped me to reconsider different elements of my lifestyle so I can start to make small changes that can add up to a considerable change.

The life of a working mum ebbs and flows, with one week being busier or more stressful than the next down to a variety of reasons. I've had the chance to enjoy a spa break thanks to Center Parcs since I started the challenge, which was a lovely break from the norm and helped me to enjoy some down time and really made a difference. Shame I can't go every week! I've also been taking on board the personal tips the Aviva experts sent me to put some changes into motion.

Work-life balance: my main concern was how I always try to do as much as possible but sometimes there's just too many balls in the air. Dr Doug Wright from the Aviva team said that this is the way many new mums feel and suggested that I implement a priority list of actions, both at home and at work, so I can focus on what really does need to be done now and what can wait until another day. Sounds simple, but I needed this clarity and I've found that this past week, by highlighting the things I must absolutely do, I have been more focused and I've ultimately felt calmer because I know what I have to / what I can achieve and in return, I've felt a sense of accomplishment.

Wellbeing: I was feeling like I never had quality time with my husband and I just don't know how to properly relax. Doug suggested for the first week of my challenge that I plan some time into my week to properly catch up with Stephen and to talk through everything that has been going on with the both of us while he has been working away. Again, going to the spa together was a great chance to step out of our role as parents for just a few hours and to enjoy being a couple again, but this wasn't an average week. The advice is simple but it can be hard to make time so I want to make sure we continue to make the time and make the effort to talk to each other and unwind.

Diet: I've been travelling quite a bit for work these past few weeks and that combined with looking after Ethan in the evenings on my lonesome during the week means my diet has been up and down. I often eat the wrong thing when out and about or just miss a meal altogether, which I know isn't good for me. Varun Shivdasani from the Aviva team gave me a great idea; to help keep my energy levels up and to make sure I always have something healthy to eat no matter where I am rushing to, I should pack a lunchbox or cool bag with snacks. This is something I used to do when I was pregnant - I always had a good stash of food in the car! - and it's something I can easily do again. He said it was important to plan ahead, and I have really tried this week to think about where I will be and when, thinking about what I can eat in advance. I have struggled a bit with my appetite here and here so this is something I still want to work on but the tips so far have been helpful.

Week 2

I've now received my tips for week two of the challenge - I'm pleased with how things are going and how I am feeling, so here's what I will be trying next:

I completely agree with Doug that knowing when you're most productive and how you like to work is the best way of tackling things each day. I'm a morning person so anything which requires more attention or more effort, I need to make time for first thing.

I do need to rediscover a passion as my down time is just spent in front of the telly each evening and I do beat myself up about not doing very much outside of my professional and mummy roles. I used to do a lot of crafts and it is something I'd like to make time for again, so I think I'll have a good clear out of my crafting bureau this week and see if I can spark some creativity again!

The third tip, about fitness, comes from England rugby players Billy Twelvetrees and Jonny May and former Captain Mike Tindall - wowza! I really do think of exercise as a 'job' and I guess this mindset stops me from getting up and getting into gear. I'm sure I can make more of an effort and with the sun shining, walking more will certainly be easier. I'll try, I promise!

I also really like the sound of the meal idea too, so I'm really excited to see how week two goes.

I'll be posting a quick video update soon on how I'm feeling about the challenge and the tips that are working best for me but I'm already so pleased to be taking part in this. 

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