No matter how organised you are, there will inevitably be times in your life that make you question your sanity. You know, those moments where you find yourself sat in the car screaming into your handbag in Sainsbury’s carpark? Or you eat a whole bag of fun-sized mars bars on the drive home while wondering why everyone else makes it all look so easy?
Well the next time you're scrolling through Instagram comparing yourself to those super-organised, prepared-for-anything smiley people, just try to remember that they probably don't exist. My bet is that the Botox, glitter and great lighting are just there to try and hide the fact that they too feel like they are on a rollercoaster of doom sometimes.
Whatever your situation, you will experience moments of chaos. So, 'while Rome burns', here are 10 simple ways you can create a moment of calm amidst the chaos. No handbags or fun-sized mars bars required! (Oh, alright then. Just one…)
1. Mini-mani Bubble Bath
Lock yourself in the bathroom away from the chaos. Fill the basin with warm water and a sprinkling of scented bath salts. Sink your hands into the blissful warmth and breathe. It will only take a few minutes for you to experience the calming effect of the essential oils on your nervous system.
When you feel relaxed, empty the sink and visualise all your stress being washed down the drain. Gently pat your hands dry, smile at yourself in the mirror and drop those shoulders. You can do this!
2. The Never-ending Line
Find a blank page in a notebook or journal and pick up a pen. Starting in one corner, draw a wiggly line and continue drawing the wiggly line until the page is full. How close can you get the lines without touching? While you focus on your line, remember to breathe.
(P.S. It doesn’t actually matter if the lines do touch. Feel free to make up your own rules and change them if you go wrong! This should relax you, not add to the stress.)
3. Time for Tea!
Herbal tea has been used as medicine for a couple of thousand years, if not longer! Most of the modern medicines we use today have their roots (pun intended) in plant-based medicines. Aspirin, derived from willow bark, reduces pain and inflammation; Digitalis, from foxgloves, is used in tiny quantities to treat heart problems; and Morphine, from opium poppies, is used for pain relief. There are thousands of other examples.
If it’s good enough for the medical world, it’s not such a stretch to imagine that the right herbal tea can help bring sense of calm and soothe anxiety. In fact, just the ritual involved in making a cup of herbal tea can greatly contribute to stress reduction.
Chamomile, peppermint, lemon balm, lavender and passionflower are all great choices. They are naturally caffeine free, relax muscles, relieve tension headaches, calm the digestive system and increase serotonin and melatonin, counteracting the negative effects stress can have on your body.
I recommend Pukka Organic Relax, Teapigs Calm, Pukka Love, Clipper Rise & Shine, or Newby Moroccan Mint Green Tea to help you relax. For later in the day, Clipper Organic Snore & Peace is a great tea to add to your bedtime ritual.
4. Leg Elevator
One of the simplest acts you can do for instant stress relief, is to lie on the floor and put your legs up against the wall, making an L shape with your body. This is actually a restorative yoga pose called ‘Viparita Karani’ which allows the mind and body to relax. It can relieve tension headaches, boost energy and alleviate lower back pain. Check out this helpful article by DoYouYoga.com. (NB. Don’t try this if you have glaucoma, hypertension or hernia.)
5. Orange You Loving This Tip?
This mindfulness trick requires you to use all your senses. Pick up an orange and notice the weight of it in your hand. How does the skin feel? What colour is it? Yes, obviously it’s orange, but is it all the same shade? Are there any rough or smooth patches? What shape is the stalk nub?
Either peel it using your fingers (the oils are great for your skin!), or slice it using a knife. Pay attention to the juice or feel of the skin and contrast with the pith. Focus on the smell. Is it sweet, sour? What does it make you think of? Visualise the countless days of sunshine that have contributed to creating this delicious fruit.
When you finally eat a slice, let it sit on your tongue and notice the textures and flavours. Eat the rest of the orange, but really savour each slice and focus on how it looks, feels, tastes and smells. Not only is the aroma of orange uplifting, you’ll be getting a vitamin c boost too! This vitamin has been linked with reducing anxiety and depression.
6. Give Yourself A Hug
So, although this one may sound a little strange, havening (hay-ven-ing) is a science-backed technique that can help reduce anxiety and fight depression. At its most basic level, havening uses self-soothing strategies, such as hugging or caressing your upper arms, hands and face to deactivate your fight, flight, freeze response and generate positive emotions.
Anyone can do this on themselves and there are lots of videos demonstrating the technique on the official Havening Techniques website. To try it out, cross your arms and place your palms on your shoulders. Stroke your palms downward to your elbows and repeat.
You might like to recite a simple mantra or affirmation whilst you do this, such as, “I am safe, I am loved, I am relaxed.” This process boosts oxytocin, a hormone normally generated through human touch and bonding, and the more you do this the easier it becomes to relax in the future.
7. A Warm Glow
This might sound a bit obvious, but the trick with this top tip is to slow down and focus on the processes involved. Make sure it’s safe, then slowly strike the match and listen to the sounds; the scrape of the box, the sizzle of the matchstick catching fire. Light the candle and safely dispose of the match.
Bring all your attention to the candle flame. Notice the heat. Appreciate the multitude of colours in the flame – count them. Watch the wax slowly melting into a glistening pool around the wick. Just spend a few minutes focusing all your attention on the flame and breathing slowly. I guarantee you will feel more at peace afterwards.
8. A Blanket Approach
Shut yourself in your room, climb onto your bed and…lie under a blanket. It might sound ridiculously simple, but gentle pressure on your body produces serotonin (our happy hormone) and reduces cortisol (our stress hormone). Although, this tip works best with a weighted blanket, any cosy blanket will produce similar feelings of warmth and relaxation.
9. No Pressure!
If you don’t have any weighted blankets lying around, you can also apply some self-pressure to alleviate stress and anxiety. Acupressure (not to be confused with acupuncture!) involves applying gentle pressure to various points on your body using your fingertips or palms.
These pressure points relieve stress when pressed down firmly or moved in a circular motion. Try pressing the spot directly between your eyebrows with your index finger or thumb and gently massage in a circular motion for 5 minutes. Check out this article by Healthline for 6 Pressure Points for Anxiety Relief.
10. Rage Against the Page
Finally, if all else fails and the frustration gets too much; rage against the page. Get out your fattest, angriest pen and write down or draw everything you are feeling. Press as hard as you want and don’t stop until you fill the page or start to feel a bit better.
Anger and frustration are perfectly normal and valid emotions and we should stop seeing them as undesirable. Controlled expressions of anger (i.e. knowing when to express your anger, and how to do so appropriately) may help you recover more rapidly from a stressful situation, leading to better psychological health and wellbeing.
By writing down all your feelings and possibly the frustrating events that caused them, you can gain a sense of perspective. Come back to your rage-page a few hours or days later and consider your writing through fresh eyes.
Are your feelings still valid? Do they still feel appropriate for the situation? How could you bring them up positively and constructively? Is there a response you could have given at the time that would have prevented you from experiencing anger and frustration?
No one has put it better that the great Greek philosopher Aristotle, who said the great challenge was,
“To be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way.”
I think the truth is, a life well-lived comes with moments of chaos and stress mixed in with the happiness. You need one to appreciate the other and living a positive life means developing strategies to boost your resilience and help you overcome the challenging times.
Hopefully, you have found one or two simple exercises here that will help you experience a little moment of calm, even if you are in chaos. Please let me know if there are any other top tips that would work. We need all the help we can get right now!
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