How do you spend the twenty-four hours in every day? Do you work for 8, sleep for 8, and try to use the remaining 8 wisely in a relaxed state?
Obviously it’s never that simple or clear-cut. Most of us sleep less, work more, and in the remaining time run around after children, pets, do shopping, catch up with more work, study etc…
This doesn’t mean our lives aren’t full and enjoyable. But we need to remember to make some time to slow down (a little), relax (a tiny bit) or tiredness might creep in.
This can be done very easily and simply: if we work behind a desk, we are supposed to take hourly breaks, walk around and stretch (our legs, our arms and wrists, our necks and shoulders). When was the last time you did this simple thing? You can set an alarm to remember to stretch – not only does it feel fantastic on the spot to relieve some of our tension, but it is also an important step in maintaining good posture and good circulation.
Another very easy trick to relax and slow down? Deep breaths. Our breathing is usually more shallow and quicker than we consciously realise – it mirrors our pace. Slowing down our breathing can help us slow down our minds and our internal chatter as we buzz about our lives.
Yoga: gentle exercise
If you can make the time for a yoga class once a week, you might notice very quick improvements in your flexibility and inner peace. There are different types of yoga and you may want to start off with Hatha, practiced through gentle poses and meditation.
Have you noticed how your mind drifts off when you are doing a simple repetitive task, like peeling vegetables or brushing your teeth? Switching off and letting the mind wander is one way to relax. Meditation is another, which requires a little more discipline as the point of the exercise is to quieten the mind and stop the chatter.
There is no right or wrong way to meditate: remember that you are simply trying to slow down and step into a quiet place for a few precious and restorative moments – all to yourself!
You can sit or lay down. Closing your eyes and focusing on your breath generally helps. Some people use a word(s) to focus on (you might have heard them referred to as ‘mantra’): a word or combination of words you love, a positive affirmation,… If you need a visual cue to stay focused, a lit candle may help you. Music is another way to help you slow down and relax for a few moments, as is the use of aromatherapy: you can burn oils to suit your mood (uplifting, relaxing etc…).
You can visit the Australian School of Meditation and Yoga’s website to find a class near you, as well as information about meditation, and healthy living.
Enjoyable activity: that works too!
If you prefer to relax and take a few moments to yourself by doing something a little more active, you should! Don’t force yourself to sit in a darkened room with a lit candle if this doesn’t work for you. Gardening, cooking, playing music, knitting, even walking your dog can all be wonderful ways to enjoy a few moments just to yourself, and help you relax.
Stress can be insidious and living with too much can start to feel normal after a while. By starting to have small rituals to stop and smell the roses (literally or figuratively!) everyday, we can significantly improve our wellbeing.
It’s that simple!