Sunday evening usually finds me chilling out in bed, or on the sofa, wearing my pjs after a shower and quietly panicking about the week to come. It’s only recently that I have started to impose on myself some simple rules, in order to try and make my life a little less anxiety-ridden. Everyone suffers from anxiety sometimes, and for me it manifests as a kind of small ball of panic at the back of my mind. It’s almost always there, and sometimes it feels overwhelming. It makes me bite my lip, so when I’m stressed the inside of my lips are covered in sore patches and bumps. It also makes me clench my jaw when I sleep, and grate my teeth sometimes, so I wake up feeling sorry for myself with an aching jaw!
The rules that I have tried to stick to are as follows:
- No checking emails past 6pm at night
- at least one free day each weekend with no work done.
Obviously I can’t always stick to these – if something is particularly worrying me, I know I will stress about it even if I’m not directly working on it, so sometimes it’s easier just to do something and then at least I’ll feel like something is being done. (I just re-read that sentence and it made very little sense, so sorry about that!) But I try to do these things as best I can.
The third thing, which isn’t on my list, is to recognise the things I do that help to calm me down, and make sure that I do them as often as I can when I’m feeling particularly stressed. I’m going to give you a list here, so that maybe if anyone else feels stressed and panicky, they can try one of these things and it might help.
- Colouring or drawing. I own two colouring books now, and they are so relaxing. It’s so therapeutic just colouring in pictures, but I also find that it gives me time to think, to make plans, without feeling anxious. My mind wanders, and I usually end up finding myself making decisions and plans without even realising, which is a common theme for all of my relaxing activities!
- Taking a shower and washing my hair. I have a routine for when I do this which is very similar to most people who take baths. I hate baths, they actually make me really panicky (I know, I’m weird), so I make my shower time into a relaxing experience. I light candles, I listen to podcasts, and I take my time to luxuriate in the warmth and relaxation. Up until a year or so ago, I used to wash my hair every morning, but now I only wash it 3 times a week, at night (plus an extra one if I go swimming on a Saturday morning at the gym, which isn’t so relaxing! There will probably be a blog post about my swimming experiences sooner or later!), and it’s so much nicer. Maybe in summer it’s nice to wash my hair in the morning, but in winter it’s nice to use it as a chance to relax in the evening.
- Writing. Whether that be writing my blog, or writing a diary, or writing a list… Sometimes just organising all of my tasks into a to-do list can calm me down and focus me on getting things done. But I find that the most calming thing to write is a list of the things that you have achieved during the day, or the things that you are grateful for, or the things that have made you happy today.
- The Take a Break app. This is a free meditation app on my phone, which I use sometimes to fall asleep. I have never listened to it and not fallen asleep afterwards. It really relaxes me. I’ve even tried this out on students at school – out of a class of 25 student, only 5 were not affected by it, and 3 or 4 actually did fall asleep right there on their desks!
- The next few are smaller things that I do while I’m working, to help me to focus and feel less stressed. Keeping my desk clear is the first – having a calming space to work in is invaluable.
- Playing soft music or radio. I listen to different things depending on my mood – I find radio (Classic fm or Radio 2 are my recommendations! 👌🏼) helps me to feel less panicked, and soft piano music calms me, while electric instrumental music focuses me. Spotify has been my study buddy for a while now!
- Candles 💛 I have inherited a love for candles from my mum, and just like her, I have a cupboard under the sink dedicated to them. Having a nice candle lit in my work space is just very soothing.
- Hot drinks. This somehow reminds me that I am a grown-up, I am allowed to make a cup of tea while I work, and ultimately it is my choice to do this job and I could leave it at any point if I chose to. I don’t know why drinking a hot drink reminds me of this, but it just does.
Lastly but not least, remember to take breaks! I set my phone to ‘do not disturb’ (thanks Apple, for having this feature in your iPhones!) for half-an-hour chunks of time, and only check my phone or scroll through Instagram or Twitter during my 5 minute breaks. That way, I won’t be distracted but I know my next break is never far away.
Please let me know if you have other things that you do to calm down or feel less stressed, and link any blogs you think I should read!