Relax

Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down.

One of my favourite phrases. I can relate to it on many levels.

People start with good intentions when they try to soothe you with their words. However, sometimes, we just need another person to agree that our spiral of panic is valid, and then offer us a helping hand up from the wreckage when the time is right. Whilst in full-on stress mode there’s no room for reason or logical thought, the priority is solely trying to alleviate the stress-out in whichever way which works best for you. Only then can you think clearly once more.

Stress can creep up, particularly as we move into the festive period. Identifying and acknowledging your stress is key. When you recognise that you’re about to hit a full-on stress spiral – it’s time to act. So here’s my top relaxation tips. Maybe one will work for you too;

  1. Take a shower. More specifically, a 20 minute long toasty-hot shower. Stress manifests as both a mental and physical drain. A shower can counter-act this burden in 3 key ways; the heat and steam lessens the strain on your body, the water droplets hide your tears, and the repetitive sensation of the water bouncing off your body takes your focus away from the issue troubling you. Basically showers are miracle workers.
  2. Go for a walk. I would always insist that I walked to my school exams, no matter how heavy the rain got. Even now I still like to walk off my stresses. It might be as simple as walking to the coffee machine and making a cuppa before I reply to that tricky email or taking a wander to the corner shop. It makes sense – walking increases endorphins, which gives you a happy boost. Perfect.
  3. Bach’s Rescue Remedy. Now this one might be a placebo effect. But for me, it does the job. I’ve been using the drops since my teenage years, though nowadays there’s sprays, melts, chewing gums and pastilles. I associate the taste (and mild burning sensation!) with self soothing. This in turn gets me through the worst of the panic.
  4. Have a hot drink (with no distractions). It’s amazing how many problems can seem less arduous after a cup of tea and a nice biscuit. Make it a double layered biscuit, or if you’re feeling particularly flash, perhaps even a hot chocolate with marshmallows for extra comfort points.
  5. Complete a mundane task. Something that doesn’t require thinking. This might be colouring in, knitting, doing the washing up – anything that’s available to you at the time. Knit one, purl one, knit one, purl one…
  6. If all else fails, hug it out. Grab a loved one, pet or cushion and squeeeeeze tight.

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Breathe

I’ve been away for a while. A lot has been going on; I’ve changed jobs, I’ve changed out my car (after 8 happy years of motoring together), I’ve been juggling a busy schedule and I’ve been working hard to maintain my commitment to volunteer each week.

What I’ve not been so good at is taking time out. Time to breathe.

I find I can’t sit still when I know there’s tasks to be done. Dishes in the sink, laundry in the basket, dog hair on the floor: these chores all weigh on my mind. I’ve realised that whilst I’ve been trying to keep the household afloat, and at the same time adapt to a new job, I’ve been letting my personal downtime slide. My “me-time” activities – reading, baking, sketching, even blogging – they’ve all fallen by the wayside. By way of example; at the end May I’d read 7 books this year. This figure, at the end of October, still stands at 7.

Mindfulness, the act of bringing your attention to the present, is exceptionally prominent in both the press and social media. Now, more than ever, we are aware of the importance of downtime and self care. It prevents burnout, allows us to appreciate the moment, and generally makes us happier people who are a joy to be around. So why do we feel guilty taking time out for ourselves? – I believe it has something to do with perception. I, like many women, feel that I am expected to portray the notion that I am on top of things at all times. After a full week of work, evening activities/commitments, cooking and housework, “down time” just keeps slipping further down the to-do list. There’s always a higher priority. I don’t want to be seen to be failing.

Today I read a BBC news article about the so-called millennial phenomenon of FOMOMG (Fear Of Missing Out on My Goals). This is the situation where the fear of missing your own personal life goals causes the goal-setter both stress and anxiety. I definitely can relate to the women in the article. I judge my “life-progress” based upon a mixture of milestones set by the generation before, the progress of my peers and the achievements of those who I follow on Instagram. Dwelling on what I have and haven’t achieved can easily spiral into blind panic. My teenage, or even early twenty-something year old self, would have anticipated that I’d be married with kids and in a senior role at work by now. Life doesn’t quite work out how you imagine it though… I’ve sometimes got to remind myself how lucky I am already.

So, in order to prevent myself from becoming a large ball of stress, I’ve decided I need to make a conscious effort to chill. I’m going to work hard at “allowing” myself free time to do all the (on the surface) frivolous tasks which I enjoy and make me chirpier in every aspect of my life. I’m not going to set any fixed targets for my downtime, for fear of adding to my already bulging to-do list. Instead, I’m just going to make time to breathe.

I’ll keep you posted with how I’m getting on.

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BBC article: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-45894506