The “New Year New You” slogan has been used time and time again but after a year of skyrocketting stress levels for most of us have been through, it may be worth trying to be gentler to ourselves and think of putting self care at the top of the list.
We may have wished for the new year to see an end to many of last years struggles, but stressors from 2020 won´t be going away soon, as we are already seeing. The relentlessness of last year has left many struggling more with stress now than they did then, simply because they have no resiliance/ optimism/ enthusiam left to give. The usual resolutions of going on a diet, exercising more and the likes may seem less appealing when gyms are closed and no social gathering is on the horizon. Adding to that the compounding factor of feeling low, depressed or anxious from the lack of social interaction and the difficulties of the current economic climate, and the priority seems very much our mental/emotional wellbeing.
To break our sense of never-ending stress, it is crucial to take time each day to tune into our bodies and minds, pay attention to our needs, and take action to give our nervous system the chance to rest and rebalance. “I have no time between trying to work and having two children home 24/7” I hear some say. As overwhelming as it all is, there are always opportunities to bring relief into our day. All it takes is a willingness to give it a try, and a little self-awareness. The key is to find an easy, appealing place to start. If you are finding it hard to switch off at night, sleeping poorly, feeling anxious, short tempered with those around you then even 5 minutes of stress busting activities would help.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few ideas to get you started, and a few ways to modify each activity to make it work for you:
Breathing (takes less than a minute although do it for as long as you like)
– Focus on taking 10 deep, full breaths in and out through your nose. With each inhale, feel your ribcage expand in front, back and sides, be aware of whether your abdomen and pelvic area relax and broaden. With each exhale, picture the air leave your body, and with it any tension you may be holding onto. Take a minute to do this every day before bed, or when you wake up, or anytime you feel the need for some calm.
– You may find it easier to listen to guided breathing exercise. There are plenty of short ones to start with that are available free online or through various apps.
– Just notice your breath whenever you remember to through the day, be it walking, waiting in line at the supermarket, whenever you would take out your mobile to “kill time” and see how you feel from it.
– Meditation is becoming more mainstream and there are plenty of style to suit everyone. There is a choice of guided meditation available free online or through various apps. The website https://feastforthesoul.org/ has an array of meditations available from a range of teachers and styles if you want to explore and find what resonates with you the most.
– For those who dread sitting still even for 5 minutes, you can start with moving meditation: walk in nature, tuning into the different senses as you walk, qi gong, yoga (slow rather than dynamic, so that you can be fully aware of your body)
– Movement is a great way to releave tension and frustration. Even 5 minutes of vigorous movement when we’re feeling stressed can change our outlook. For those who like dancing just put music you like and dance your heart away, that may be just what you need.
– With the lack of social interaction there is less fun in many people´s lives but it is really important for us to still find time to have fun and indulge in creative pursuits that get you excited, find time to laugh and be silly.
Regular acupuncture really does help. There is scientific research that shows it has a positive effect on both serotonin and norepinephrine, both hormones that relax us. For information about treatment do not hesitate to get in touch. Treatment is obvisouly provided following the required guidelines for Covid safety procedures.
There’s a beginner level to anything, so start at a level that works for you. Set goals, and track your progress. That’s how we keep ourselves accountable and increase our likelihood of improvement. If you can, find someone else to do it with (albeit remotely) so you are accountable to each other in a way. Bring a drop of self-awareness to each moment that you remember to do so. In this way, we can mediate our stress response before it gets too severe, or goes on for so long that our physical and mental health begin to suffer.