seasons of stress

Finding Balance in Seasons of Stress

Autumn is traditionally a season of rest – a time to go inward, take stock, and celebrate the harvest. A cosy time during which to sleep more, bake bread, and indulge in extra Netflix.

But many of us rather find ourselves in a season of stress as end of year work pressures face off against the impending holiday rush.  Despite our best efforts, we can’t seem to keep our healthy habits going. And as the grey skies set in, everything can feel a little bit harder.

In my post Feeling Lighter and Brighter in the Darker Months, I talk about how the transition to the darker months impacts our mood and energy and what we can do about it.

In the meantime, I’ve pulled together some tips to help you find balance and keep your health a priority, even when it feels like the forces of time and stress are fighting against you.

Sometimes doing one kind thing for ourselves can help us feel more capable and in control no matter what life might be throwing our way.

Remember that in seasons of stress, we ask more of ourselves. To find balance, we must therefore give more to ourselves too.

What will you do for yourself today?


If you’re losing your grip on your good habits as you grind away towards a deadline, let sleep be the one non-negotiable.

Yes, prioritising healthy eating is important, but without sleep, hormones that regulate your appetite and blood sugar will become imbalanced. You will want to eat all the time, and unfortunately, you won’t be craving kale.

Yes, regular exercise is associated with innumerable health benefits, but if you sacrifice an hour of sleep to fit in an intense morning workout, you may be pushing your body too far.

In seasons of stress, we need to bring balance. 

Take a moment to tune into how you are feeling before you start your day on autopilot.

What does your body really want?

Is it an extra half hour of sleep?
An invigorating workout?
A cuddle with your kiddos?
A walk in the fresh air?

Remember that you have the flexibility to choose what will support you the most right now.


When pressures run high, it can be tempting to grab a coffee and a quick bite on the way out the door or even to skip breakfast all together. Unfortunately, this usually sets us on a blood sugar roller coaster that leaves us hungry, shaky, and depleted only a short while later.

Eating a protein-rich breakfast supports better blood sugar balance and satiety meaning that you will feel full and have more energy for longer.

Examples of breakfasts containing good quality protein include:

  • Warm porridge oats with stewed fruit – sprinkle with mixed nuts and seeds for extra protein
  • Avocado on toast topped with a poached egg and greens
  • Natural yogurt (especially Greek or Skyr) topped with granola (not too sweet) and fresh fruit
  • Homemade smoothie made with full fat, protein-rich yogurt
  • Easy protein pancakes made with eggs, banana, and chia seeds. Top with almond butter
  • Smoked salmon with sliced avocado and sourdough toast

Grabbing a handful of almonds or walnuts is a great way to work some extra protein into your morning on those days when you don’t have time to sit down and enjoy a proper breakfast.


If you have to ask more from yourself right now, how will you counterbalance this?

Picture an old scale with your stress and pressures piled up on one side. What support do you need to add to the other side to bring the scales into balance?

Maybe you can have your meals delivered for a few weeks or ask for help with childcare or house cleaning.

Maybe you could schedule yourself a massage on Friday after work or a weekend brunch catch up with good friends.

Could you book your next hair appointment so it’s on the calendar before you actually need it?

Give yourself 5 minutes just to sit and think about one area of your life where support could really make a big difference to your health and wellbeing. Then talk it over with your partner or a friend and figure out how you can make it happen.


When working long hours, whether in an office or at home, it’s easy to spend massive amounts of time indoors and forget to see the light of day. Try to schedule daily walks in the sunlight or at least seat yourself close to a brightly lit window. This will help keep your circadian rhythms running smoothly and support better quality sleep.

If you’re spending a lot of time on your computer late at night, it’s worth thinking about how you will manage your blue light exposure.

Use of smartphones, laptops, and other blue light emitting devices at night confuses your circadian rhythms by sending your brain the signal that it’s daytime.

This can interfere with the production of melatonin, disrupting not only your sleep, but also other physiological processes associated with darkness such as appetite regulation.

Most newer computers have a warm setting that can be activated in the evenings so be sure to take advantage of this and dim the overall brightness setting down.

Take regular breaks away from your screen (at all times of day).

If you cannot avoid being on a device at night, perhaps the best option is to order yourself a pair of blue light blocking glasses and make it a habit to wear them after 6pm.

Not only will you support better sleep, but you will be supporting your overall health.

If you’d like to learn more about how light exposure is affecting you, be sure to check out my article Feeling Lighter and Brighter in the Darker Months.


Herbal teas come in a wide variety of flavours with beneficial effects to suit any mood.

Need a little energy? Try a green tea for increased alertness.

Need to decompress? Try some relaxing chamomile.

Feeling tense? Try a ginger tea, which can also help to settle a nervous stomach.

When you add herbal teas to your daily routine you will also increase your hydration, which can be neglected in times of stress. You will also potentially crowd out a little caffeine.

Herbal teas are additionally high in antioxidants and polyphenols, which will give your health a boost as well. Plus, they often come in pretty boxes that can be uplifting just to look at.

Take yourself on a date to your local tea shop or health food store and choose a few to try.

Sitting for 5 to 10 minutes with a warm cup of tea can be a nice little ritual for yourself – an island of calm in stormy waters.

And you can even enjoy your tea with a biscuit if you like!


When we are stressed, our digestion tends not to work as well.

If you try to eat in a rush between meetings or while you are stewing on a difficult problem, you may wind up with indigestion or heartburn. This can also leave you feeling sluggish the rest of the day.

If you know your day will be intense, choose easy-to-digest foods such as soups, stews, and mild curries.

You will be giving yourself nourishment, hydration, and warmth without the need for heavy lifting by your digestive system afterwards.

And since you will probably consume these meals a bit more slowly, you may find a little extra time to relax and enjoy your meal.


Mindful breathing is an excellent way to calm your nervous system at any time of the day.

If you’re running from one meeting to another, you can probably still find one or two minutes to sit quietly and breathe – even if you have to hide yourself in the restroom! You can even do these breathing exercises during a meeting, and no one will be any the wiser.

This relaxation technique helps switch on the parasympathetic nervous system, helping you to feel calmer and more centred. This makes it especially beneficial to practice before you eat.

To prepare:

  • Find a comfortable place to sit
  • Place your feet on the ground and rest your hands comfortably on your lap
  • Relax your shoulders and your jaw
  • Look for any other areas of tension and release them
  • Sit quietly and take a few normal breaths

To begin:

  • Count slowly to 4 as you breathe in through your nose
  • Hold that breath for a count of 4
  • Release the breath for a count of 4
  • And hold for a count of 4.

Repeat this for 4 cycles.


One of my favourite tips is to create a morning routine.

Before reaching for your phone, checking social media, or worrying about the day’s agenda, carve out some time just for you.

In a season of stress, even 5, 10, or 15 minutes can make a real difference.

You can include anything that helps you feel good:

  • Stretching or a short yoga routine
  • Sitting quietly with a cup of tea
  • Writing something in a journal (such as things you are grateful for)
  • Brainstorming ideas for a desired future vacation
  • Reading a few pages of an inspiring book
  • Saying some positive affirmations to yourself while you brush your teeth…

It doesn’t have to take long, but simply by honouring this little ritual for yourself, your self-esteem will get a boost, and you will start your day feeling more centred and in control.

Try including different things in your morning routine and notice what give you the most lift.

9. Check your connection

In seasons of stress, you may find yourself shutting out the world as you put your head down and keep pushing forward. Over time, this can feel very isolating.

Make it a point to connect with someone who matters to you each day.

Or carry a notebook with you to write down some things that help you stay connected to yourself.

Recall the warmth of happy memories with pictures on your phone.

Listen to a favourite music playlist.

Or watch something that makes you laugh.

Sometimes taking a few minutes to reconnect can give us a much-needed emotional boost.

10. Avoid late night snacking

If you must stay up late working, it can be tempting to snack to keep your energy up or to stem boredom.

At night, your body is winding down, making you more tired and less alert. Snacking can provide a short-term boost of focus, but it can be counterproductive over time.

Late night snacking confuses your circadian rhythms and puts stress on your digestive and metabolic functions, as they must shift gears to process incoming food instead of handling their regularly scheduled nightly programming.

Studies are increasingly finding that late night eating is associated with a range of metabolic dysfunctions including excessive weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes. We are not designed to eat at all hours of the day and our nightly fast is essential for rest and regeneration.

Experiment with other ways to keep your energy up such as going for a short walk, giving a quick call to a friend, or doing 20-minute work sprints with 5 minute “fun” breaks in between.

Better yet, get a good night’s sleep, and you will likely be more productive in the morning.

Bonus Tip: Ask yourself whether this is truly a “season” of stress

Seasons of stress come and go. A few days or even a few weeks of pushing through and we can normally bounce back relatively quickly with a little extra care.

But what if your season of stress just goes on and on?

What if long hours are an expectation of your high-pressure job?

Or you’re an entrepreneur who always feels spread too thin?

Or a working mom who’s trying to juggle multiple responsibilities with no time left for you?

This is when it can be helpful to build in some outside support with a coach or therapist who can help you keep your health and wellbeing front and centre.

I hope you found these tips helpful, and I am sending my encouragement as you navigate this season in your life. 

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