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Doug talks about the three-step program he has devised for staying calm, healthy and mindful in his everyday life.

This can help if:

  • you’re stressed-out, run-down and not looking after yourself
  • you want to build your resilience and support your own wellbeing
  • you want a healthy body and mind.
Boy in grey shirt smiling at camera

Recognising the need for change

When I was 19, I wasn’t very good at dealing with stress and managing my life. I woke up some mornings as early as 5.30, got ready for the day and attempted to finish my readings for uni while standing on the train. I’d still be half-asleep, desperate for a coffee and feeling overwhelmed by thoughts of all the commitments I had at the time.

Most days I wasn’t eating well, and I was only getting about six hours’ sleep at night. The glands in my neck were often swollen from fighting a cold I couldn’t get rid of, my skin was pale, and I’d be sweating by 8 am. I knew it must be possible to ‘do life’ better – to organise myself more efficiently in terms of looking after my physical wellbeing while also meeting my commitments.

Learning to be mindful

I’m now 22 and my body and mind feel better than they ever have. I think the most important thing I do is to take a moment, several times during the day, to think about how I’m going and what’s affecting that. This is a part of being mindful.

For me, being mindful means that I stop what I’m doing and check out how my body feels and what sort of mental state I’m in. Do I feel tired – should I go to bed early tonight? What am I thinking about – are these negative, stress-related thoughts? Am I hungry – do I need to eat? These are just some of the ways I ‘check in’ with myself during the day.

Putting the three steps into practice

Here are the three things I make sure I focus on every day to support myself and keep my stress levels in check.

Healthy body

  • I drink water throughout the day.
  • I eat natural foods and avoid too much sugar and fat.
  • I eat enough to meet my energy needs, and I make sure that I plan my meals if I have a busy day.
  • Ideally, I do stretches twice a day. Stretching is incredibly good for you! I find that it makes me feel like I’m ready to run at any moment.
  • I exercise at least a few times per week (and I usually take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator – this adds up!).

Calm mind

  • Sleep is important for the body and the mind – I’ve set a benchmark of a minimum of eight hours a night at this point in my life. Everyone’s sleep needs are different, and it’s important to know yours and to meet them.
  • I meditate at least every few days, or more often if I feel I need to. Meditation is a different thing for everyone – for me, it means time spent focusing on my body and allowing my mind free time to roam and eventually to clear.
  • I keep two journals. Every night, just before I go to sleep, I write down what I did that day, who I did it with and where I did it. My second journal is a thought journal that I write in whenever I feel the urge to put my thoughts and feelings on paper, whether in good or difficult times.

Organised life

  • At the beginning of every week I plan my time, make a note of deadlines, and prioritise my commitments.
  • Most nights before bed, after writing in my journals, I make a to-do list for the following day that’s loosely organised by time.
  • I have regular contact with close friends. I make sure that my other commitments don’t prevent me from seeing them, because time with friends reduces stress!
  • I aim to communicate well with the people I live with – my family or my housemates.

So, these are the main things I do to keep myself healthy and well, and to make sure that stress doesn’t take over my life. It’s taken me years to figure out what works for me, and how to put these practices in my life, but nowadays I barely think about them – I just do them, because they’ve become part of my every day.

What can I do now?