Hopefully, you've found something to remember from lockdown and this time of solitude. Perhaps a moment of peace when it's just you - no phone ringing, no laptop glaring into your eyes, a brief instant where you've found five minutes to just relax, breathe and take in the world. It's a rarely felt happiness, and yet it's exhilarating.
With the UK opening its doors up slightly more each week, it'll be easy to fall back into our old habits - losing ourselves in work, stressing over traffic, trains, queues and, of course, the damnable British weather. So how do we keep a slice of that cool that this period has given us?
If you're anything like us, the slew of online self-care articles that suggest reducing anxiety by "stroking the cat" or "looking at a tree" frankly makes you want to vomit. There's something about the wellbeing movement being co-opted into something to be sold that just feels off. We're not here for that, just a few simple ideas on how to find your calm.
Get those Zzzzs
Read after me: sleep is the most important thing we can do. There's a reason we'll likely spend over 230 thousand hours over our lifetimes doing it. Not to freak you out, but a lack of sleep is also known to impact both physical and mental health, raising the risk of problems such as depression, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. So, how best to get that golden ticket to dreamland? Here are our best tips:
1. Watch that alarm clock:
Recent studies suggest it's not about when you go to bed but when you wake up. Find a time every morning that works for you and try to stick to it.
2. Work Out
It's almost cliche to say - but regular physical activity helps with weight control and illness prevention - not to mention exhausting the body for a good night's sleep. So, exercise regularly (but not too close to bedtime) - afternoon workouts are ideal.
3. Stomach Troubles
When it gets a few hours before bed - avoid alcohol, large meals, rich foods that might induce heartburn. These heavy-hitters keep the body working overtime and may prevent you from reaching that sweet REM stage where the body is regenerating itself.
4. Room of Your Own
Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet, without distractions like TV or a computer - anything that emits light and tricks your body into thinking it's still daytime.
5. Neat tricks
Reading, listening to music, relaxing before bed with a hot bath or practicing a few deep breathing exercises before hitting the pillow are neat ways of slowing the mind down and teasing it into sleep.
6. Ctrl Alt Delete
This is often easier said than done, but if you don't fall asleep within 20 minutes of turning in (or if you wake up and can't fall back to sleep), get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. This resets the mind and prepares it for relaxing again.
Whether you live in the city or you're a country kid, stress is an unavoidable part of life. Knowing what triggers your anxiety and finding coping methods is key to maintaining good mental health and keeping a degree of calm. In the UK, we work the longest hours in Europe (stiff upper lips ladies and gents!) This means we often don't get that quality time to ourselves away from work. Here are a few tips for getting down to relax:
1. Good in, great out
Bit of a tie-in with sleep, but taking care of ourselves is essential in avoiding stress. Eat healthy, watching alcohol intake, and exercise. These are all great ways of investing in our health and wellbeing. Be kind to yourself!
2. Natural remedies
For mild to moderate anxiety, natural remedies can make all the difference. The ancient Greeks had their chamomile tea; the Chinese had their ginseng - from the beginning of human history, herbs have been praised for their healing and stress-busting properties.
3. Tune in, Drop Out
Mindfulness is becoming more popular in the western world, and for valid reason. Mindfulness relaxes the body by bringing your attention to external and internal experiences happening in the "right now." What's great is you don't need to be a “Level 5 Buddha” to do this, just simply find a quiet spot, and sit and breathe.
4. Challenge yourself
Sounds a little counter-intuitive, right? Looking for more stress? But setting yourself goals and challenges helps build confidence, emotional resilience, and an active lifestyle (rather than a life lost down the rabbit hole of YouTube cat videos).
5. Accept the things you can't change
...And change the things you can. It sounds like a wall-hanging you might find at your grandmother's house, but there's some real sense here. By letting go of the frustrating things you can't control, you can begin focusing on items that you actively can change - that make all the difference.
6. Hello friends
It's such an obvious idea that we often overlook it, but friends are there for support. By each of us sharing our problems, friends can offer help and advice, and by sharing theirs, our problems lose some of the impacts. It's a win-win.