Over the past few months, I've been pretty stressed. As a meditation teacher, I know this must sound quite ironic, however, I'm willing to admit that I'm only human too.
Often when I’m stressed and anxious I gravitate towards self-destructive ways of taking care of myself, such as drinking too many glasses of Pinot Noir (busted!), indulging in one of my favourite comfort foods and binge watching mindless TV. I’ve come to realise that rather than leaving me feeling nourished and energised, these activities can actually be rather depleting.
With this new-found sense of awareness, I decided it was time to come up with a self-care list that wasn’t as destructive as my old habits and would actually leave me feeling soothed. While I’m still guilty of numbing my feelings with wine and chocolate from time to time, these days I tend to have a healthier approach to unwinding and it’s made the world of difference to my stress levels… and my waistline.
Here are my new favourite ways to calm the farm when I’m feeling stressed:
Take a bath
There's something about being in the tub that always manages to soothe my tired bones when I'm in the midst of stress and anxiety. When taking a bath I like to turn my bathroom into a sacred space by lighting candles, playing my favourite peaceful playlist and filling the bath with calming lavender oil and soothing Epsom salts. After 15-minutes in the bath, you will notice that your breath becomes deeper and your muscles begin to release. This is a sign that you have re-engaged with your parasympathetic nervous system, your body’s “rest and restore” function. Allow yourself to bask in this blissful feeling for as long as you like… or until the water goes cold, whichever comes first.
Spend time in nature
Research has shown that spending time in nature can be extremely grounding. While I’m lucky enough to be able to take our gorgeous dog Barney to the park each day, we don’t all have flexible schedules. If you work in an office job, I recommend making an effort to step outside during your lunch break even if it’s for five minutes. Regardless of how you spend your days, commit to making time to get outside and experience nature at least a few times a week. Bonus points for leaving your phone inside and using the time to mindfully experience the colours of the sky, the temperature of the air against your skin and any aromas that might be present.
I can honestly say that I’d be an absolute basket case if it weren’t for meditation. This year I’ve committed to practising meditation every single day and it has made an immeasurable difference to my ability to deal with stress and pressure. The simple act of closing down your eyes and turning your awareness inwards will help you to realise that peacefulness, calmness and stillness reside at the core of your being. By practising meditation, you will learn that at every given moment you have a choice; do you want to react to your external circumstances? Do you want to allow yourself to feel stressed and anxious? Or can you let it go? While this is a hell of a lot easier said than done, with continual practice you will start to be less reactive and your stress levels will organically diminish. Not sure where to start? You can find some simple tips and tricks here.
Creativity often doesn't make its way onto our self-care lists, but it’s one of my favourite ways to take care of myself, particularly if I’m feeling down. There’s a common misconception that ‘creative’ people can paint, sculpt or draw, but I was lucky enough to grow up in a family where we were taught that everyone is inherently creative. For me, creative expression comes in the form of writing and creating graphics on Canva. For you, it could be practising mindful colouring, taking photos, making music, sewing or something entirely different altogether. All you have to do is find an outlet to express yourself.
Move your body
We were made to move. Unfortunately, our sedentary lifestyles mean that we’re not moving our bodies anywhere as much as we need to. For the past twelve months, I’ve been dealing with a chronic knee injury which I know I could use as an excuse to completely give up exercise. But I know just how much my mood and my body benefits from regular movement. If you’re like me and you’re struggling with an injury or low fitness, then opt for a gentler approach such as Clinical Pilates, Yin Yoga or walking. For everyone else, find your favourite form of exercise; such as swimming, dancing, running, going to the gym, practising yoga, surfing, or whatever else it may be, and then give yourself permission to make time in your week to actually get out there and get moving.