April is Stress Awareness Month so I thought it would be a great idea to write a little about taking care of yourself.
Running your own business, working day to day, looking after your family… whatever takes up your time, you need to find a space to make things all about you. It can be hard to do that, and I know I always say to myself “Oh, that’s all very well, but…”. It’s an excuse not to relax because the guilt that often sneaks in can make relaxing itself even more stressful than if you were working a 12 hour plus day.
However, why not take this month as an opportunity to try and really let go? I challenge you to take an hour each day of April to drop everything, relax, refocus, and refresh.
I don’t want to hark on the old traditional methods of relaxation and de-stressing, so I hope these more unusual ideas will work as well for you as they do for me.
1. Find your alternative meditation
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of being told how wonderful meditation is. The traditional idea of tranquil sounds, sitting cross-legged, and searching for my ‘inner goddess’ neither appeals nor helps me. ‘Relax’, you are told, ‘Clear your mind and let go of all your worries!’ These are the exact words that will make me hone in on ALL my concerns of the day.
Instead, find something that you enjoy, which doesn’t take much effort, and that can help you zone out and focus in on that individual task. I personally find that painting works for me – and I’m not talking about great works of art (I have difficulty drawing a passable stick figure) – but painting furniture, painting walls, painting random planks of wood… Watching an item gradually change colour with the easy back-and-forth motion of a brush or roller gives me a sense of ease that I can never find through traditional meditation.
Another alternative meditation I love is weeding. This is a great time of year for it – my garden is rejuvenating after the drab winter months, but I’m overrun by weeds and prolific plants that I don’t want taking over my garden. So I pull, and I dig with my trowel, and I pull, and I dig with my trowel… It’s something that a lot of people hate, but weeding really helps me find a sense of calm.
Perhaps painting or weeding won’t work for you, but my point is that meditation doesn’t have to be the same for everyone. If you can find something that gives you some form of pleasure, doesn’t take too much brain power, and helps all those interfering thoughts drop away, then that is the technique for you.
2. Keep telling yourself that it has to be done
My partner is also self-employed and will quite easily work from waking up to going to bed without stopping (other than for meals, because he loves his food!). He was becoming pretty unhealthy and not feeling good either about his work or his wellbeing. His solution was to find a task that would allow him to relax, look after himself, and get him away from his desk, and he came up with running – cheap, good for you, and easy to do anywhere!
He changed his mindset so that running became something that he HAD to do during the day, the same as any client work. By telling himself that he had to fit that in somewhere, he made the space and ensured it happened. Now it seems easy to fit in because it becomes the same as eating a meal, taking a shower, or brushing his teeth – it is a part of his day-to-day life that doesn’t really need to be thought about.
Running may not be your choice of activity, but find something that you enjoy and that will force you to get away from anything to do with work or your other commitments. Don’t reschedule it in favour of other tasks and let all your colleagues/family/friends know that this is a non-negotiable. Before you know it, you’ll be finding space for yourself every single day.
3. Be silly
Whilst you’re taking time for yourself, you can make the most of it by doing things that you would never do in front of others (unless, maybe, you’ve been at the old vino!).
As adults, we’re often concerned with the impressions we make on other people and how we’re perceived by the world. Being constantly on the alert like this can easily lead to a build up of stress that can be difficult to overcome. Letting go of the expectations and expressing ourselves in the most ridiculous ways can be a HUGE relief!
I’ve suggested doing this in the privacy of your own home (locked bedroom, soundproofed walls, curtains closed), but if you’re really confident, you can do it out in public, too! Run like the wind, spin in circles until you fall down, create impromptu choreography that would be the envy of the Royal Ballet, sing dreadfully at the top of your lungs.
It DOES sound ridiculous, but doing something that you would usually shy away from can both make you laugh and release any tension that you’ve been holding. It can reinvigorate you, make you look on the lighter side of life, and is a great way of not taking yourself too seriously.
I hope these provide you with some ways of looking after yourself that you perhaps won’t find in other places. Just remember that you are the most important thing in your life and, if you’re not working, nothing else in your life will, either!
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