Rather than offering generic advice like “paint your toenails” or “watch your favourite film”, I’m going to look at 5 ways in which you can tap in to your primal abilities to shake off some of the stress and unwind a little. Whilst there is no magic cure for things like money worries, grief or divorce related anxieties and stresses, there are ways that you can help to make your feelings more manageable and to get a little headspace for you in an otherwise endlessly hectic seeming schedule. Many of these can even be done with little ones present.
1. Spend as much time as possible in nature. Recently, we moved to the countryside which co-incidentally happens to have come at a time when we have faced 3 of the biggest stresses in life: A house move, marriage and bereavement. On days when our minds feel foggy, there is nothing like the clarity that throwing stones in a clear stream can bring. Watching the little ones paddle in burns and rivers and climbing hills. Everything else just seems to melt away. But, studies have shown that even a little time spent in a local park with trees and grass can relieve stress by up to 20%. The sounds of birds, the smell of the plants… it brings us right back to our needs to reconnect with our primal roots.
2. Barefoot walking. Whilst there are many individuals who are 100% barefoot, full-time and reap many of the benefits of this, there’s nothing to say that you cannot be barefoot some of the time and enjoy some of the benefits. One of the biggest is relief from stress, in much the same way that reconnecting with nature can help. It has even been suggested that bare feet connecting with soil, grass and sand can help to discharge negative ions. So, taking a few minutes to stomp around in your back garden when you’re feeling overwhelmed can help to soothe the stress and “ground” you again. Personally, when the weather is warm I like to wander barefoot through local parks as much as I can and find it has a cumulative effect.
3. Sensory experiences. When we are overwhelmed, it’s not uncommon to have sensory integration issues such as being hypersensitive to noise or touch. In times like these, it is important to seek out enjoyable sensory experiences such as hot baths, massages or looking at things that are visually pleasing (nature, again!) to you. This will help to reduce your stress levels and “reintegrate” you, gradually, with the world around you. Many find a scented candlelit bath in the dark to be the ultimate urban sensory experience or, again, throwing stones into a large body of water if you are lucky enough to live near one.
4. Deep breathing. The truth is, many of us just don’t have the “time” to follow any planned meditation. But, meditation can take many forms. If you struggle to visualise, especially when there is a lot of noise around you that is impossible to get away from, it can be much easier to breathe deeply and focus on the sound of your breathing until you feel relaxed and still again. Sometimes, we just need to stop our endless train of thought and bring ourselves back to the here and now.
5. Cry. Crying, studies have repeatedly shown, is the ultimate stress reliever. Crying works for happiness, sadness, frustration, anxiety, grief and a whole host of other emotions. It relieves tension and promotes the release of endorphins which reduces pain and boosts our mood. It’s also OK to cry in front of your children, sometimes. We are human and seeing human emotion expressed in a normal and healthy way is important for learning children to experience and understand. So, let it out when you feel the need. It’s cathartic and totally natural.