What do you think of when you picture yourself relaxing? A deserted beach on a tropical island? Sitting at the top of a mountain in the middle of the countryside? Being at a spa? …. I’m not sure many of us will make it to a tropical island this year due to the pandemic and those of us children, particularly single parents can only dream of it right now! In reality we dream of having an iced tea of coffee through choice, not because we made it hours ago and it’s been left to get cold, or having 5 minutes peace, being able to read a book without reading the same sentence over and over again due to the sound of ‘Mummy!’ or the peaceful sound of siblings squabbling!

However, I was lucky enough to take myself away to a caravan in the countryside…it was less than ½ hour away from where I live but you wouldn’t have known it aside from having the iconic view of the Humber Bridge. It was so idyllic and peaceful…there was nobody around except the people who lived there and all you could see was the nature reserve, the bridge, and their menagerie of animals as well as all the wildlife. When I arrived all, I could think was ‘wow’, it was stunning and incredibly calming, I could feel my entire body sigh a breath of relief as it relaxed whilst being surrounded by nature.

I was a little apprehensive about going on my own and not knowing what I would do with myself being in the middle of nowhere, so I had packed my laptop just in case, but I had an assertive duck in my head telling me to make the most of being where I was and to not open my laptop. So instead, for the first time in months, I opened a book and sat outside with a cup of tea and read surrounded by the sound of ducks, birds, sheep etc. It was a lovely feeling. No clock watching, nothing to do, no expectations, my time was my own.

I felt incredibly relaxed and was surprised that I felt so comfortable and content…I do struggle sometimes being on my own especially when I am not in my own home, but I had the best nights sleep that I have had in a long time (possibly helped by the lack of little ones kicking in their sleep!). Yes, I did get woken up in the early hours by something tap dancing on the roof but as soon as I realised it was just a bird, I soon drifted back off to sleep.

I wasn’t lucky enough to see the deer, badgers or otters that apparently visit (probably because I was snuggled up in bed), but I did sit and watch a heron with my morning cuppa and the sheep came to say hello. I also had the ducks come to greet me!

At home I still find at times that I am jumpy…like now, because I have heard the letter box rattle so I immediately rush up dreading what may be waiting for me (I know, crazy!)…before I left to go away I saw that the post had just been delivered as I was driving off so despite telling myself that there’d be nothing there I knew it would be on my mind and stop me relaxing so I ended up driving back to check the post. This is something I need to work on, it doesn’t affect me all the time but at the minute it seems to be affecting me more than usual for some reason. Obviously being away there were no cars, no post, no people, therefore nothing to make me jumpy.

I’m really pleased that I did allow myself to go away for the night and I even went out my comfort zone and went to a café for breakfast on my own – I’m not one for going out on my own as I tend to feel conspicuous and just feel I should quickly have my drink or eat and then leave and envy those people who are happy to sit on their own. However, I did it and I even decided to try a vegan breakfast which was very tasty. One step at a time I’m trying to challenge myself to do things that are new to me or outside of my comfort zone, after all, life is for living!

Next time I get the opportunity to do something like that I want to try and feel able to turn my phone off and know that the people who may need to contact me know where I am and so I don’t need it on. In a way it is a shame that we now live in a culture that expects us to be online all the time and that our phones are constantly pinging for one reason or another.

Right now, I feel as though my battery has been re-charged and when I close my eyes, I can picture the view I had from the caravan, and I feel a complete sense of calm. I may try and use that image for visualisation.

It did me the world of good and feel I should try and do something like that more often.

My view…. Idyllic!

Ideas to soothe anxiety

With everything that has gone on in the last year and our lives mainly revolving around screens and social media, it is more important than ever to take care of our mental health.

I have found in the past that sometimes anxiety or low moods can creep up on us unexpectedly and it can be easier said than done to get out of these moods. A bit like everything, prevention is better than the cure (not that there is a magic cure for mental health), therefore there are things that we would benefit from doing on a daily basis to build up our resilience and fill our ‘toolbox’ so that if or when we have a wobble we are better equipped and hopefully these wobbles won’t be as intense or last as long.

Little things we can do to take care of our mental health include different breathing techniques and relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation. I have to admit that I don’t keep up with these techniques as when I feel ok, I forget the need or don’t necessarily feel it’s necessary, but it is.

Scientists have proven that breathing techniques reduce stress levels, lower your heart rate, lower blood pressure, reduce depression to name a few.

Breathing techniques can easily be done anytime, anywhere, and even just spending a few minutes a day will be beneficial.

Mindful breathing simply involves us becoming aware of our breathing and focusing on it which usually slows breathing down and makes you feel more relaxed.

One technique that I like to use when I am feeling anxious or at bedtime is the 4, 7, 8 method. It is very simple, all you have to do is breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and then breathe out for 8 seconds and repeat as many times as you feel necessary. I find that concentrating on my breathing and counting stops my brain from wandering and I do find it relaxing.

Another thing we can incorporate into our daily lives is journaling which has also been proven to lower blood pressure and heart rate. It could be as simple as writing down anxious thoughts and feelings which means you are no longer carrying them solely in your head or writing down things that you are grateful for each day.

Positive affirmations have several benefits including the ability to program your mind into believing these repeated statements – just like when we tell ourselves negative things repeatedly which then become engrained into our belief system, we can change this by repeatedly telling ourselves positive things. One example of this could be if someone believes that they are too sensitive about what others say about them (therefore creating low self-esteem and social anxiety), this could be rephrased into the following positive affirmation…

‘I feel empowered and confident as I let go of external criticism.’

The more you can say positive affirmations to yourself out loud or in your head the quicker it will become part of our belief system. You could write down your positive affirmation and place it somewhere that you will regularly see such as on your phone, laptop, by the kettle, on a mirror etc.

Other things that can help ease anxiety include snuggling up with a blanket, stroking a pet or a cuddly toy (you’re never too old to have a cuddly toy!), having a massage or giving yourself a massage (this could be a simple hand massage or foot massage) and using a relaxing massage oil such as one with essential oils. Having something soothing to fidget with such as playing with a piece of blutack or some playdough. I’m a fan of Mohdoh aromatherapy playdough which comes in a variety of different scents, but you could quite easily make your own playdough and add a couple of drops of essential oil.

Although it may not sound very relaxing, if you are feeling particularly anxious and are feeling hot and bothered, splashing your face with cold water or ‘relaxing’ with a cold flannel over your eyes is said to be effective.

One thing that I do pretty much all the time, but I’ve never really thought about it until I read about it is wearing sunglasses. Apparently wearing sunglasses can help to keep us going when feeling anxious as anxiety is often heightened by the environment we are in such as a crowded area. By wearing a pair of sunglasses, it can create a barrier without actually affecting your ability to function in these situations.

Homemade Natural Play Dough - Don't Mess with Mama | Homemade playdough,  Diy for kids, Playdough recipe

Six Different Types of Grounding Exercises for Anxiety & Intense Emotions —  The Growlery