Has the Silly Season started for you yet? That November vibe when everyone wants you to do everything?
Obviously I’m glad that we, as a nation (New Zealand, if you've stumbled across this blog from another country), are able to get out and about; to take part in events and spend time with the people we love, doing the things we love. Many people around the world simply can’t right now.
With some days now double or triple-booked, I think ‘wouldn’t it be nice to just relax?’ Yes, I know I don’t have to say ‘yes’ to all the things (and I don’t) but it feels so joyful to have the freedom to do them that I don’t want to turn them down. Does that make sense?
So I’m trying to fit in little bits of relaxation each day to prevent me reaching the end of the week and crashing with physical and mental exhaustion.
Nothing takes more than 10 minutes. Sometimes when I take a relaxation break, I do struggle to get back into a work frame of mind. But more often than not, taking the break, especially if it’s a walk around the block, often gives me the mental boost to get problems solved. It helps that the walk is quick enough to not forget my 'amazing' thoughts before I have the chance to write them down!
I had about a dozen ideas I was going to pop on here, but I don’t want to stress myself out by typing them all then running out of time to pack your orders. So – change of plan, I’ll write 6 and share some more next week. Nothing like taking my own advice for once!
So, in no particular order of preference, part 1 of 2 - ‘Ways to Relax When You Only have a Few Minutes’:
1 - Get your head below your heart – either hang your head and upper body towards your toes or rest your head between your knees. This brings a sense of calm to your head, neck, face and diaphragm. If you practise yoga, you could hang out in downward facing dog for a few minutes.
2 – Lie with your legs up the wall. It’s a restorative yoga pose but you don’t have to be a yogi to do this one. It’s lovely and calming, can lower your heart rate, aids circulation by easing the return of blood back to your heart, gives a lovely stretch to the back of your legs and relieves lower back tension. All in a few minutes. In fact the longest part of this position is manoeuvring yourself into it in the first place! I find it best to sit sideways to the wall, with my right hip as close as possible to the skirting board, then swing both legs round as I lay my upper body down. If you plan to stay here for more than a couple of minutes, consider a pillow for under your head, and a blanket over you to keep cosy.
3 – If you don’t fancy all this movement, or it would look weird if you’re in the middle of an open plan office, try some simple, focused breathing. There are heaps of different techniques to use (who knew breathing was so complicated!) that a quick Google search will reveal. An easy way to start is to give yourself a minute to simply breathe in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth. You can close your eyes. It’s a good idea to place one hand on your belly so you can feel your tummy push your hand away from you as you inhale and fall back towards you as you breathe out all the old, stale air.
When you breathe like this your brain understands that you are safe and that it’s ok to feel calm and relaxed. After all, if you were being chased by a sabre-toothed tiger (the original way humans experienced stress) you certainly wouldn’t be breathing calmly. It’s a good brain hack to use when you can feel your tension rising. ‘Body, you can go ahead and tell the brain to relax – no tigers here today.’
4 – Maybe your brain needs a little more help to relax and switch off. Instead of losing yourself to half an hour of scrolling your social feed (reading blogs like this one is cool of course!), pop a free meditation app onto your phone. They are so user friendly. You can pick the style of track you need, and the length of meditation you want. (When I use these with the kids I know to keep to tracks of 5 minutes or less to maintain their interest - you can get ones that are only a minute long.) I find the guided meditation tracks are a great reset for the mind and body, but you can also choose to listen to calming music or even sounds of nature if that relaxes you.
TOP TIP – I have been known to fall asleep listening to these. Which might be great at bedtime but not when you’re supposed to be picking the kids up from school for a dentist appointment. So set your phone alarm just in case!
Insight Timer is the app I like to use.
5 - Roll a golf ball under each foot for a couple of minutes. This is lovely to massage and stretch the bottom of your feet if they’re feeling a bit tired and sore. This has the effect of almost awakening your plantar fascia and can provide you with an energy shift too, as well as helping you feel more grounded. I am known to keep a golf ball in my bag (I’m a rucksack rather than a handbag kind of girl) and whip it out at any occasion. If you don’t have a golf ball, just give your feet a quick rub, or take your shoes off and walk barefoot for a minute. Bonus points if you can find different surfaces, like grass or something uneven like cobbles, shells or stones. This gives your brain some more interesting proprioceptive information than the usual high heel or training shoe provides. Which is great for taking your mind off things. Especially when you find the pointy stone!
6 – Still on the subject of feet. Did you know they are the best place to apply your magnesium oil spray? That's my 10-second relaxation tip. Though feel free to spend a little longer giving yourself a soothing foot massage too if you have time.
Sometimes mag oil can tingle your skin but we haven’t heard of anyone yet who experiences this on the soles of their feet. Best practice is to get into the habit of doing this every night before bed. We use up so much magnesium when we’re stressed, so it makes sense to keep our levels topped up regularly with as little effort as possible.
But if you feel your tension rising, there’s nothing stopping you using it in the middle of the day too. If you have niggles in certain areas (yes, my creaky knees, I’m referring to you) and you want some relief, massage your mag oil directly on that area. Just make sure not to apply to broken skin. That is NOT relaxing! Also, do note that magnesium oil is photosensitive so if you’re going to apply it to eg a stiff neck, make sure that area won’t be exposed to sunlight within the next few hours.
So those are a few of the things that work for me. They take just a few minutes to relax my mind and body and ensure I don’t get wound up tight like a rubber band and ping at the slightest pull. Like just now when Master 12 spilled berry juice on the new bench cushion.
PS – if you have the answer for getting red stains out of fabric, please let me know!
PPS – I’ll write the next few from my list when I’ve got time to know it won’t stress me out!