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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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…).
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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?
- 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.
- 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