If you had asked me if I was living a Pure + Simple lifestyle a few years ago, I would have had to sheepishly admit that I was not. Of course, even by then I was already armed with Ayurvedic knowledge and TCM theory, but sometimes you push your better judgement aside despite knowing better.
When I returned back from Australia and we opened our second Pure + Simple location, I was overwhelmed with stress and began neglecting my health. I skipped meals and got little sleep. Of course this translated into under eye bags and a loss of muscle tone. I have never really dealt with stress very well – as a Pitta-Vata constitution, my Pitta self has goals it intends to execute and deadlines in which it wants to do this, and my Vata self worry about this…a lot.
But the world works in the most wonderful ways because Stress Councillor, Natalie Shay, landed right into the palm of my hand. Literally… I met her while giving her a facial, and its a good thing I have some sense because by time she was toned and moisturized I had already booked my first session with her.
Now, you may think having a councillor just for stress is excessive – Ben with his naturally grounded British way did – but to me (and my naturally neurotic North American way), emotional well being is a pillar of good health and we must put as much care and energy into stress-management as we do our diets, self-care and exercise programs.
So what exactly does a stress councillor do? Would having to put extra time aside be even more stress-producing? The Beauty of Shay’s program was its simplicity. There were measurable metrics to monitor my success with and we started with a booklet of questions filled with thought-provoking inquiries of many sides of me – from the regularity of my body, to my feelings on my career’s progress. What we found was that we I was in burn-out or close to burn-out in most categories. But what she also explained to me was that I would easily feel unable to cope with situations of distress if I wasn’t nourishing my body properly or sleeping enough.
She set gradual goals like “take an hour for lunch at least three times a week”, and “eat breakfast everyday, even if its something small”. But she didn’t just dictate these common credos but also gave me quick but nutrient-rich recipes to do this as well as body-relaxing breathing exercises. Just with these slight changes, I began to see my mind and my blood sugar balance out and felt much better.
To some, this sounds like common-sense, but to those of you who are like me who can get so swallowed up by your own anxieties that you begin to think that everything is urgent, and your body is less of a priority than your goals – its really helpful to know that enlisting a stress councillor is an option, and that it can be a worthy investment. Because as that small voice which tells you to “take it easy, and be gentle on yourself” gets more and more faint, and the adrenaline from stress-related dramas becomes more and more invigorating- you become less and less capable.
And the whole program was easy to do as her time-pressed clientele, she does her consultations via phone. I actually had one of my sessions blackberry while in transit from one spa to another (it wasn’t the most grounded conversation, and I don’t think she was impressed).
But what I really appreciated about this process was that you had someone reminding and encouraging you to take care of yourself. And Shay does a very good job of this – not from an uber-zen high ground, but a relatable voice of a woman who is also a young, ambitious professional. When I was feeling like work was overwhelming and that leaving at six o’clock was unrealistic, she would say “I know how you feel. But, what is it that is important that you cannot leave until tomorrow? Will you even be as effective as you would be with some rest?”
The process is also one which has an end-date (which I also liked). After six sessions, the goal is to have you be able to be independent and able to deal with stress with these newly learnt tools. In my last consult, we retested me on the same metrics we began with, and I improved in every segment (this as not a surprise as my skin looked less sallow and my body felt stronger).
I think that my success not only because this had forced me to commit to concentrating on reducing stress, but also to really reinforce the mind-body connection. What we do physically influences how we view the world and ourselves so deeply. So many of my clients see this first-hand from stress break outs, dehydration fine lines and dark circles. While good skincare is important, I know that the root of the issue is how they feel emotionally, and the therapeutic value of a facial helps much more than the thorough extractions of hydrating masks. For really high-strung clients, I refer them to Shay.
And while I don’t believe that someone else can supplement these changes in our behaviour, and that we are in control of our own attitudes and tensions… sometimes a little guidance from a pro really helps.