When all around you is going off like a rocket, it can be hard not to get pulled in and affected by everyone else’s stress and bother. Calm yourself and relieve your stress by using these top tips for a more relaxing life.
• Choose Silence
Too much noise is as stressful as too much clutter, too much demanding your attention, a too long to-do list…in fact a too much of everything list. Calm down by switching off the noise, and if that isn’t possible, then by taking yourself away to somewhere that is quiet, such as the top of a hill, a walk in the park, the end of the garden, the garage…Somewhere. Really. Quiet.
Stress is fear, and fear makes us hold our breath and breathe more rapidly and shallowly, which makes us more anxious. Counteract this by breathing in slowly and evenly to the count of 10. Hold for a count of three, and breathe right out, emptying your lungs slowly and evenly. Once it feels like your lungs are empty, push out just a tiny bit more. Repeat.
• Clear Your Space
Clear all the debris that accumulates as a part of usual everyday life, tackle all the stuff you have waiting around pending, and address head on anything that is making you anxious or irritated. Clutter in your physical, emotional or mental space all has the same result – an inability to focus and a loss of clarity, which in turn leads to feeling overburdened and stressed.
• Scent The Air
The sense of scent is the oldest sense we have and located in the most primitive part of the brain. This is why smell is so instantly evocative and effective, so choose to fill your space with calming scents, such as rose, lavender, sandalwood and mandarin, and whether you prefer to use incense, oil burners or candles, feel yourself start to relax.
• Lie Down
Standing still puts strain on your knees, calves and lower back, especially if you do it all day. Sitting can cramp your bottom and put strain on your lower back and tense your upper back and shoulders…so lying down, even for just 10 minutes a day, with a pillow under your knees, will make the world of difference. Breathe slowly and deeply. Count strawberries. And when you get back up and re enter the real world, feel how much lighter and happier you are.
• Eat For Pleasure
There are reams and reams of books of books and magazines about eating healthily and dieting. It has, in fact, become of the most lucrative markets and one that thrives on making you feel anxious so you will keep on buying information and advice and diets! Stop and relax. Food is really simple. It is fuel and pleasure in one wonderful package. What you take in will either get used (and the more active you are the more fuel you require – like a car and petrol) or stored (against future deprivations – remember we didn’t always have 24-hour supermarkets and more-or-less world peace). And if you starve your body, it will immediately go into survival mode and increase its storage allocation, which is why strict dieting makes you fatter and more stressed. So make sure whatever you eat is what you need for your body and lifestyle and then make sure it is something that you like AND the best you can give your body. And that means being aware of what is known as provenance ie fresh, local, and from known suppliers. Home cooked is also better than pre-prepared, but you know all this unless you’ve been living on the moon for the last 10 years.
Main points then?
• Be aware of the provenance of what you are eating.
• Don’t overfill your fuel tank or try and run your body on too little or inferior food – aim for balance.
• Cook from scratch whenever you can.
• Choose to eat with friends and family rather than alone.
• ALWAYS, ALWAYS eat for pleasure.
• Chew Slowly
One of the key places we hold tension is in the jaw, hence why so many people grind their teeth at night and why the phrase “to grit your teeth” is commonplace! So concentrate on your food and chew slowly, focusing on what you are doing and the flavours in your food, rather than galloping through your meal quickly, while your attention is elsewhere (such as on the television or computer screen!). Relax your jaw once a day by doing the following exercise, taken from the marvellous Eva Fraser’s Facial Workout book:
1. Sit or stand with a straight spine. Tilt your head up and back slightly. Now jut out your chin.
2. In this position, keeping your head still, open your mouth wide by lowering your jaw. Now grin widely.
3. Bring your back teeth together gently. Now – still grinning – lower and raise your jaw 10 times.
4. Relax and breathe.
NB Don’t gnash your teeth, or tense your eyes or forehead.
• Drink And Be Merry
No, not alcohol because much as we all love it, that’s like drinking liquid butter when it comes to gaining weight, as well dehydrating you, making you feel depressed after the initial rush, and putting your liver under strain, which causes you to sleep fitfully, and so lowers your immune system. So the upshot of drinking lots? You look rougher and older, and get more colds, you feel down in the dumps more often, find it difficult to concentrate as well as you should, and you gain weight…sigh. So basically it’s best to keep alcohol as a pleasurable treat, rather than a main food group (binge drinking is the worst, by the way), and so generally choose to drink:
• Water – dehydration makes us feel rubbish and tired and look older.
• Tea – contains anti oxidents thought to guard against cancer. If you add milk, you’ll gain extra bonus of calcium, but sugar makes you more stressed (it gives you a blood sugar rush) so avoid it.
• Soya milk – contains isoflavones that are mildly oestrogenic; use it in smoothies and froth for chocolate and lattes if you can’t face it straight.
• Real hot chocolate – chocolate contains chemicals that improve your mood and energy.
• Smoothies – get your 5-a-day, extra hydration, and all those lovely vitamins in an easy-to-swallow format. Bonus.
• Rest Your Eyes
Working on a computer, a key part of the 21st century work life for many families, can easily lead to eye strain. This is because we can get so engrossed in what we are doing that we forget to look away, or to blink, both of which are detrimental for our eyes. Twenty minutes is the maximum you should focus on one spot, such as a computer screen, without looking away and letting your eyes refocus to give them a break. Also remind yourself to blink, and generally humidify the air by placing a small saucer of water near or on your radiator or having a vase of flowers or damp-loving plants (and spray them daily) on your desk. Also check your light levels and sources. Too much contrast around your screen can mean your eyes are constantly having to readjust. And then have lovely things to look at…a beautiful picture of the seaside, or of your children, a lovely view of the garden, or a pretty vase of flowers. Whatever it is, make sure you relax your eyes and look at it OFTEN.
• Indulge Your Sense of Touch
Often neglected and yet utterly fundamental, our sense of touch is essential to ground ourselves. It also release wellbeing chemicals and hormones and has been shown in studies to facilitate physical and psychological functioning, particularly in terms of reducing stress, relieving pain, increasing the ability to cope, and general health ratings.
So what are you waiting for?
• Get a furry blanket or cushion and stroke it when you have a coffee break, answer the phone, or sit down to do some research.
• Stroke the cat. Or dog. Or guinea pig. Or rat. Snakes and lizards probably don’t count.
• Hug your child, parents, partner, and friends. Often.
• Stroke your face by running your fingertips over your temples, eyes, ears and scalp.
• Get an Indian Head Massage regularly, or buy a copper head massager and do it yourself.
© Claire Burdett. Please only reproduce this article with permission, in its entirety and with a hyperlink to www.claireburdett.com. Thank you.
First published on www.funkyangel.co.uk, the ultimate lifestyle website for WAHM and Home Businesses.