Are you taking a break?

This is us at Easter. Said no one, ever.

It’s the Easter holidays, but that tends to not mean much of a break for many of us. Even if you have a holiday from work, the kids still need looking after, and they don’t stop – ever! For me, I have to juggle work around having my 5 and 8 year olds at home with me, which sometimes means leaving them at a friend’s house or with family so I can get things done. Or else, like now, I’m typing this at the same time as being told I am playing a game of Monopoly with my daughter and being talked at non-stop by two people having completely separate conversations with me. I have 50 million other things I want to get done this morning and I can feel my stress levels rising.

I always really look forward to a “break”, then when the holidays arrive I start to stress about how on earth I’m going to get the work done, and entertain the kids so that they don’t spend they entire time looking at a screen (which is what they would dearly love to do), and have some time to myself. And do all that tidying and cleaning I’ve been putting off. We’re not going anywhere this Easter, and it can be a bit of a challenge to have a holiday at home, with kids, without spending a fortune on days out and entertainment. How do you make it special? Or restful?

Whatever your circumstances, it’s likely that you have some source of stress in your life, and it’s not always easy to get away from. So how do you have a holiday when you aren’t actually on holiday? It’s all about your attitude. The image below is brilliant for giving some ideas of really simple things to try:

There are loads of genuinely effective stress-busters in this image. I was listening to a podcast the other day from a neuroscientist who has read 1,000 papers on stress and come up with the most effective solutions. I admit, I didn’t listen to it properly as I had kids talking at me over the top of it. What I did hear though was that there are three things that are really effective in reducing stress:

  1. Live by the natural rhythms of the day, not by artificial light. The production of the hormone melatonin is something that humans have evolved to do, and gives us a sense of security and calm. So get as much daylight as you can during the day, and eliminate blue light in the hours before bed time. 
  2. Move throughout the day. We have become far too sedentary as a species, and when we do exercise it’s often in short, intensive bursts in the evening to try and burn off as many calories as possible in as short a time as possible. This sort of exercise raises stress levels within the body, whereas gentle movement throughout the day, such as walking, effectively reduces stress.
  3. Take a hot bath. Apparently, raising your core body temperature slightly by having a hot bath has long-lasting stress-reducing effects!

As I mentioned earlier, it’s all about your attitude. If you have a pet, you probably stroke them during the day without even thinking about it. However, if you really focus on the sensation of stroking the fur – how it feels on your hand – you are being mindful and more importantly, you aren’t stressing about something else. The more time you spend doing things mindfully and focussing purely on what is in front of you, or what you are doing, the less time your mind is spending on worrying.

Earlier this week I was having a horrible day, then I went to an hour’s Pilates with Michaela at the centre and afterwards felt a whole lot better. Just spending that hour focussing on my body and listening to Michaela’s instructions rather than my inner voice, (plus the benefits of the exercise,) really made the difference and meant I woke up the next morning feeling back to my normal self again.

So whatever you are doing today, I hope you can get outside for a walk and have a lovely long hot bath later on!

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