I'm one of those annoying people who have a hard time relaxing and can't sit still for more than 5 minutes. I have a free evening and think to myself, right - this is my chance to unwind, I'll get home, walk the dog and do a quick clean and cook before plonking myself on the sofa with a magazine, some treats and my favourite film BUT before I know it, it's 10pm and I've managed to sit for all of 5minutes, instead I've blogged, baked, emailed, worked and generally stressed myself out even further. Yes even the things that should be relaxing and enjoyable become stressful. I often put too much pressure on myself to be achieving and even when I'm physically relaxing, my mind is in knots, thinking about how I can progress at work, at Crossfit, in rehearsals and generally, how I can be a better person. Sounds exhausting right?!
Stress is our bodies way of protecting itself, when we feel threatened we get stressed, encouraging adrenaline and increasing our cortisol levels. This triggers the bodies 'fight or flight' mode which makes us more alert - your heart rate and breathing increases, muscles tighten and your blood pressure rises. Yes, stress isn't all bad - it helps to keep us on our toes and avoid danger should we need to... the problem is, we often don't!
So with a busy month ahead, I've taken it upon myself to take time out every day to de-stress (or at least to try!). Here's how:
Go for a short walk: We often associate walking with stress, trying to get to work or to the next meeting. We are physically moving forward but our minds are elsewhere; our to do list, the disagreement you had yesterday or what you are having for lunch. Mindful walking teaches you to be in the hear and now. Notice what is going on around you, listen to the sounds, feel the ground beneath your feet; the muscles in your body working. Try practising mindful walking on your way to work - or better still visit your nearest green space for an evening stroll.
Colouring for adults: It may sound silly but adult colouring books are the new trendy way to de-stress and practise mindfulness. They give adults a creative outlet, it doesn't require much logical thinking and is very nostalgic - think back to the last time you coloured in, I bet you didn't even know what the word stress meant, let alone experienced it (and please don't stress out about colouring out of the lines!)
Read a book: Whens the last time you got into bed early and lost yourself in a good book. As we get older we can suppress our creative imaginations, focusing too much on on the seriousness of real life. And if you don't have time to read a novel there are plenty of short story books out there waiting for your to lose yourself in.
Write for fun: Or better still, why not try writing a short story, or maybe even try your hand at poetry. But make sure you are doing it for fun. As a writer I sometimes forget to enjoy it and focus too much on deadlines, getting the next post out and basically writing because I have to and not because I want to. Remember, this is for you and for no-one else.
Stretching: Morning, noon and night - take some time out to stretch. Whether you're practising yoga, working on mobility or simply stretching to wake yourself up - get your mat out and do it! You can even take time to stretch at your desk - there are plenty of short videos out there showing you how!
Write to do lists: Sometimes sleep is the only time I get to truly destress, and even then I start thinking of everything I need to do the next day, week, month and things that may not even happen. If this sounds all too familiar make sure you write a to do list every night before you go to bed. Get your thoughts out of your head and on to paper - then forget about them until the morning when you're ready to take action.
Establish a routine: You may see the weekend as a time to go out and party, or to catch up on sleep but try to go to bed and get up at the same time. Once your body establishes a routine you'll more likely be able to relax.
Breathe: Yes, breathing is the most natural thing we do, but do we really concentrate on the breath to ensure its of good quality. Our day to day breathing is generally very shallow and we don't even notice we are doing it. I suggest taking up to 10minutes out of your day to relax and concentrate on breathing deeply; feel how your stomach expands and retracts with each breath. Both yoga and meditation are also great ways to practise quality breathing. Trust me, you'll feel like a pretty large weight has been lifted off your shoulders.
Put on some music: Lets forgo the heavy metal and rap for this one and put something on a little more chilled. Maybe some classical music or some chilled out vibes. Research suggests that listening to music can relax the body, decreasing your heart rate and blood pressure. So next time your writing that stressful paper or stuck in a traffic jam pop on some Mozart or some Bach and get cracking!
Switch off: This one is so important as we live in a world where technology is at the forefront of everything we do - when last thing at night and first thing in the morning we check FB/IG/Twitter or our emails. Looking at your screen up to 2 hours before bedtime can make it harder for you to fall asleep and can seriously damage the quality of sleep you are getting; not to mention seeing the stress inducing email we forgot to respond to at work that day, or the model on Instagram that makes you start hating your body at 11 o'clock at night. I even suggest a no phone day once a month, this takes away the convenience of being able to check your social media at any given minute meaning you have to create set times to go onto the computer.
Here's to a relaxing and stress free week...