Thursday Thirteen – The Chill Out Zone

Out of the whole 12 months, December must be considered one of the most stressful. The shops are full of harassed shoppers, manically rushing about clutching lists in their hands. Frustration is inscribed upon the faces of those desperately trying to jam their newly-bought Christmas tree into the too-small boot of their car. And the strain is beginning to show in the demeanors of mothers everywhere as excited, irrepressible children bounce off the walls and each other. I, too, have been suffering from no small amount of stress, although not actually because of the mountains of Christmas prep I still have to get round to. A couple of weeks ago, I was coming to the end of an extremely busy time at work, in which I gave papers to no less than 4 conferences, began writing for a new blog at university and submitted a chapter towards my Phd thesis. So, over the last fortnight, I have been in recovery. I’ve been engaged in doing things which I believe are good for my soul and which have helped me feel a whole lot better. I thought I might share some of these things with you in my Thursday Thirteen this week:

  1. Walking – I’ve taken to going on really long walks. The weather here has been extremely cold, but the sky has been a beautiful, cerulean blue and there hasn’t been even a breath of wind. Perfect weather for a wander along some nature trails. I’ve actually just created a set on Flickr called Winter Walks, so if you want to see how calm and peaceful my walks are you can either check them out there, or you can look at some of my recent posts, like Far From The Madding Crowd, Winter Sun or Winter Woods.
  2. Morning Pages – I know that I’ve mentioned these before, but if you haven’t tried them yet, you really should. I find that the simple act of writing whatever comes into my head for a whole three pages is one of the most centering activities I have discovered so far. I missed doing them for a week, and it really affected me. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so restless and blocked. Then I realised that it coincided with my cessation of the pages. Honestly, give it a go! Try it for 30 days and let me know how you get on with it.
  3. Special Tea – I love love love tea. I drink a lot of it. My favourite is a strong cup of Tetley with a little full-fat milk, and I must drink at least 5-6 mugs of it a day. However, when I’m feeling a bit fragile, or even when I just want to be good to myself, I treat myself to some ‘special tea’. I get my tea from an online shop called The Zen, which is a French based store, but has an English language option. They have some truly gorgeous teas! My current faves are Rooibos Almond Cream, Rooibos Vanilla, Nuit D’Ete (which is a hibiscus-based tea, bright pink in colour!), and Tisane du Berger (peppermint, verbena and orange flower, I think…).
  4. Knitting – I go through manic knitting phases, but I hadn’t done any for a while. Then, last week I picked up my needles and started on a scarf for my husband. Every time I start, I end up thinking, ‘why haven’t I done this earlier?’ The actual process of making each stitch, passing yarn over and round the needles, watching the garment grow longer with each row completed, is almost meditative. Very calming and most definitely a practice worth taking up!
  5. Origami – As you may remember, I recently taught myself how to make an origami crane. Well, I’m not at a 1000 yet, but I am still going. In the evenings I just make a couple, and I can’t tell you how, after making just a few simple folds, I can already feel the tension leave my shoulders, and my mind begins to settle. Oh, and I’m using them to work on a special project. All will be revealed on the 24th, so make sure you pop back on Christmas Eve!
  6. Cooking – Actually, maybe this point should be labeled ‘chopping’ as it is that which really de-stresses me. I may be alone on this one, but for me the preparing of the vegetables for the evening meal is a time in which I relax into the repetitive movements of peeling, chopping, dicing and grating. I think, sometimes, pleasure can be found in what can be considered the most monotonous of chores.
  7. Candles – Along with candles, I would like to include a coal or wood fire. Something about focusing on the dancing flames is almost hypnotic. When I was in labour with my 2nd baby, the house we lived in had a coal fire, and I used my focus on the flames as pain relief. If I can find comfort from this focus during labour, I’m sure that it would offer others a little consolation during the stressful Christmas period. Please just remember not to leave a naked flame unattended!
  8. Music – Is there anyone reading this who doesn’t find the simple act of listening to a favourite song instantly absorbing? I’ve been listening to a lot of older music recently: Jackson Browne, Carole King, John Martyn. Beautiful lyrics and moving melodies. Immediately soothing!
  9. Close-Up Photos – Sometimes, when I feel so overwhelmed with ‘the bigger picture’, I get such pleasure from focusing in on the small, and often over-looked, details. The way that I zone in on the details is by training my camera lens on them. I switch to the macro setting on my digital camera and I move in close to see what I can see. This is what I did with my recent frost pictures, but you can also see this in my flower flickr set. I find that it helps me to remember that beauty can often be found when we pay attention to the details.
  10. Hugs – Whether you get your hugs from a partner, your children, your friends or a much-loved pet, I’m sure this is one we can probably all agree on. That physical connection is sometimes the only thing that works when we are stressed beyond endurance, however, making sure you get your regular dose of hugs can prevent you from getting so stressed in the first place. Make sure that you are making time for hugs this Christmas!
  11. Laughter – If anyone was to doubt the power of laughter, I would direct them to some of these YouTube clips (1, 2, and 3). They’re of babies laughing, and I quite often watch them when I’m feeling a bit low and strung out. You can’t help but laugh! Go on – isn’t it worth a shot?
  12. Classic Movies – Now this is a perfect one for Christmas because the television networks often show classics over the holiday period. Some of my favourites are The Black Swan, Sabrina Fair, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Rebecca. I’m convinced that movies in general are a great way to relieve stress, so if mid-20th century movies aren’t your thing, I’m sure a more contemporary production would have the same effect.
  13. Bubble Bath – If all the above has failed, opt for the classic de-stresser: the bubble bath. I don’t really know why the bubbles make a difference, as it should be just as effective without. But, somehow, it’s just not the same, is it?

Ok, those are my preferred ways to de-stress and and regain my sense of self. I’d love to hear what works for you? Oh, and if you do want to leave a comment, make sure you scroll up, as the comments button is beside the post title.

My other TT posts: Fairy Tale Lessons and Favourite International Movies, My Passions, Dream Chasing, Origami Wishes, Birthday Nostalgia, Blogging Lessons, What I Found in Madrid, Rules To Live By, My Life in Scent, My Family, New Habits and Memorable Moments


December 20, 2007. Inspiration, meme.


  1. Deanna Dahlsad replied:

    An excellent list! I don’t knit — I’ve been trying to learn how to crochet for (blush) too long, but know what you mean about the combination of busy hands & creativity from other needlework. It’s most relaxing.

    Happy TT!

  2. nicholas replied:

    Oh, I am definitely in your fan club if you love tea and drink several mugs a day! So do I. I get kind friends to send Ty-Phoo or Tetleys from England, or any bog standard supermarket brand. Tea bags here are too small, and the tea is never string enough. I never drink pseudo teas though! All that herbal muck!

    I bet you’re brilliant at origami. A black belt, I shouldn’t wonder.

  3. 12 Days Of Christmas Lyrics replied:

    […] Thursday Thirteen – The Chill Out Zone […]

  4. jennifer replied:

    Great post!!

    I am going to go take a bubble bath now!!

    My 13 is up on Working at Home Mom

  5. Hootin' Anni replied:

    #3 and #7 sound perfect for me too.

    Happy 13ing

  6. Miss Sniz replied:

    I can’t wait to try number two. And number 6? Really?

  7. Robin replied:

    It’s a shame you don’t live near me. I love to cook, but I hate the chopping bit. We’d be a great team.

  8. amypalko replied:

    Deanna, I can pretty much knit without thinking about it, but the art of crochet has always eluded me. I don’t really know why! Maybe give knitting a go instead. I certainly find it easier πŸ˜‰

    When I was researching in Maine for 3 weeks, Nicholas, one of the (many) things that I missed was a good cup of tea. I hate to admit this, but that experience has now made me into one of those folk that travels with a bag of Tetley teabags in her suitcase! As for the origami, I think I would only be considered a black belt if “the crane” was the only test. Oh, that and if the judges were blind! Some of those cranes are decidedly wonky!!

  9. amypalko replied:

    Hope you enjoy that bubble bath, Jennifer! I’m just in from the cold, and might need a bath just to warm up πŸ™‚

    Mmmm, special tea and candles. Does it get any more relaxing than that, Hootin’ Anni?

    Oh, do let me know how you get on with the morning pages, Miss Sniz! I really do believe they can make a big difference. Oh, and yes, really! I know it’s sad, but I do enjoy the prep for cooking.

    I think we’d make a great team, Robin!

  10. fullbodytransplant replied:

    What a healthy set of activities. You really know how to live!

  11. Susan Helene Gottfried replied:

    I wish I could talk the kids into going on walks with me. We took one a few weeks ago that turned into two hours and four miles; it was a lot of fun, but hard on my hip. All the more reason to take more frequent walks; get that hip into better shape!!

    I like the writing idea. I’ve found that just giving myself permission to write crap (and promising myself I’ll fix it during revisions) is every bit as centering.

    Happy TT!

  12. On a Limb w/ Claudia replied:

    Great list! I’m a bit of a stress-a-holic, so it’s wonderful to hear some new ideas. I do love knitting, but it’s Irish Breakfast for me! πŸ˜‰

    Happy TT!

    My TT is up: Reasons my life sucks! πŸ˜‰

  13. Ellen replied:

    Nice. I feel more relaxed already! It’s been way too long since I’ve had a bubble bath!
    Happy TT to you…

  14. Cocoa replied:

    I de-stress by playing the piano. There’s nothing like pounding out a rousing ragtime to relieve some tension and then play some more relaxing melodies.

    I love your ‘Jack Frost’ closeups and your flowers, especially the rosehip and red hollyhock. Flowers are fun to take on macro settings because you get pictures that look like creatures from another planet. I have a cool one of a zinnia bud just starting to open (and other flowers) here:

    Thanks for visiting my TT!

  15. Greatfullivin replied:

    Lovely list.I was getting relaxed just thinking about it. I am heading over to blogsweLuv to read your answers. Have a Wonderful relaxing Christmas!

  16. Comedy Plus replied:

    Works for me. Love all of them. Have a great TT and a very Merry Christmas. πŸ™‚

  17. pussreboots replied:

    I have no patience for doing origami. Happy TT.

  18. bobleckridge replied:

    Great TT again Amy. Let me tell you a story.
    I was in Japan once and having lunch with some doctors. I don’t speak Japanese (well, only a very little!) and they didn’t speak much English but I’d heard that “Mind Body Medicine” was a medical speciality in Japan and was keen to know more, so I asked “Can you tell me more about the Mind Body Medicine Speciality?” There ensued a lot of discussion and consternation, all in Japanese, then one of them asked me “What is this Mind Body Medicine Special Tea you ask about?”
    Oh how we laughed!
    Enjoy your “special tea”!

  19. maryt replied:

    amy, Your 13 suggestions are wonderful! Origamiis my all-time favorite hobby. I make cranes to give out to friends and my students. πŸ™‚
    Come visit my TT post and visit my other blog for some Christmas hugs:

  20. Penelope Anne replied:

    Beautiful ideas, but dear origami would stress me more than help me relax….I’ll put quilting there and crochet in for knitting.
    Nice post this week, and awesome on being spotlighted.

  21. amypalko replied:

    I just try and live happily, Fullbodytransplant πŸ™‚

    You should give some of the herbal stuff a try, Claudia. I switched to it altogether for about 3 months and I felt a lot better for it. My skin was clearer, I wasn’t so bloated and I had more energy. Unfortunately, I seem to have slipped back to my trusted Tetley!

    Bubble baths are just great aren’t they, Ellen. Go on – treat yourself!

    Ah yes, that’s a wonderful addition to the list, Cocoa. I used to play the piano as a teenager and would regularly sit for ages playing my harmonic scales. Bliss!

    Thanks, Greatfullivin πŸ™‚ Be sure and let me know what you think of my answers at BlogsWeLuv!

    Glad you like them, Comedy Plus! I hope they help you to have a very happy and stress-free Christmas.

    It’s not as hard as you might think, Pussreboots. I started it because I really wanted to learn how to make a crane. I love how they look and their cultural significance. So it is now intensely satisfying to know that I can make them at will.

    Hahaha! Misunderstandings can be such a great source for humour, can’t they Dad! Now, whenever I have some special tea, I’ll remember your mind body medicine special tea πŸ˜‰

    Giving away cranes is such a nice thing to do, isn’t it, Maryt? My kids have taken to carrying a few with them in their pockets and giving them to shop assistants, market stall holders and various family members. It’s amazing what a positive response they get from everyone.

    If you believe origami would stress you out, Penelope Anne, then absolutely don’t do it. That is not the aim of the exercise!!! It’s funny how folk seem to divide down the line of knitting or crochet, isn’t it? Does anyone still do both, I wonder… Oh, and thank you for the congrats!

  22. damozel replied:

    I love the morning pages idea. I need to follow some of these suggestions—so balancing. I think I’ve let blogging (particularly the political stuff) eat up too much of my attention.

    thanks for an inspirational T13 and thanks for visiting mine!

  23. Patti replied:

    Great suggestions to destress. Music is definitely a help! And I like to just sit down and read a good book for a while. Happy TT!

  24. No nonsense girl replied:

    Happy TT!!! Great ideas!!!! πŸ™‚

  25. Linda R. Moore replied:

    Most of these work for me. I like colouring mandalas, too, and reading. And motorcycling. I find that after the first few turns of my wheel the stress goes somewhere else and feels better afterwards.

    My TT is about the solstice this week.

  26. Celticangel replied:

    I can never stay in a bubble bath long enough to suit my Husband. I suppose I’m supposed to stay in for more than 15 minutes at at time, but I get too antsy.

    Morning Pages? I *like* that Idea. As it is, I carry a notebook around with me to note down things as they arrive in my brain throughout the day.

    Oh, and I drink tea. A lot of tea.

    Happy TT.

  27. amypalko replied:

    It’s so easy to let blogging take over, isn’t it, Damozel? Definitely give the morning pages a go – I think you’ll find it worth the effort πŸ™‚

    Reading is a fabulous way to destress, Patti. Thank you so much for mentioning it!

    Thanks, No-Nonsense Girl πŸ™‚

    I’ve often heard that driving can be a great way to escape stress, Linda. As a non-driver, however, I’m just going to have to take your word for it!

    If you want to find out more about morning pages, Celtic Angel, check out Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way.

  28. Linda R. Moore replied:

    Riding motorcycles is very, very different from driving (I don’t even have a car licence at this time). You’re out there in the environment…you are not cut off from it like in a car.

    It’s incredible…if it works for you. πŸ™‚

  29. Catherine S replied:

    What time of day do you do your morning pages? I tried a month of doing them first thing after I woke up, as I read in a writing handbook that it was the best way to tap into your dream life/subconscious, but I was just too hungry and sleepy to focus and just ended up grumpy and frustrated! I’m so not a morning person!

    I’m posting a pic of Gabriel laughing on my Facebook page later today – my sister-in-law has it as her work screensaver and she says it cheers her up every time she looks at it!

  30. amypalko replied:

    Sounds blissful, Linda. I might need to stick to walking though πŸ˜‰

    I do the morning pages after my first mug of tea in the morning, Catherine. I, too, am really not a morning person, but I find after my tea I’m a bit perkier. I think, though, that it is the process of writing which unblocks, rather than the specific time. Maybe you could try again at a different time each day. I’ll be checking for that photo! Is there anything more joyful than a baby’s laugh?

  31. Thursday Thirteen - Christmas Wanderings « Lives Less Ordinary replied:

    […] other TT posts: The Chill Out Zone and Fairy Tale Lessons, Favourite International Movies, My Passions, Dream Chasing, Origami Wishes, […]

  32. Thursday Thirteen - Final Curtain « Lives Less Ordinary replied:

    […] The Chill Out Zone […]

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