The room is quiet around me. I'm sitting in my favourite chair within sight of a butterfly alighting on my aloe vera plant, then fluttering away. A sweet aroma lifts from the lit candles gathered on the coffee table, evoking some nostalgia within me. I'm wearing my favourite Bali pants, and I have a soft blanket tucked around me. My beloved journal lies within reach. I'm paying attention to my diaphragm as it expands and contracts with each breath, in and out.
I'm thinking of how the world as we know it is slowly being eroded. Our social lives, our working lives, our educational systems all changed, and are still changing. And I'm reminding myself that in difficult times, we must be gentle with ourselves.
If you become used to living with stress, you won't recognise it for what it is. It begins to feel normal, but it isn't. Living with stress means constant activation of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Levels of cortisol become significantly elevated in the body, causing you to feel hyper or anxious, moody or depressed. Cortisol also affects the sleep-wake cycle, so too much means the brain will stop you either falling asleep or staying asleep, and can you feel as if your brain is more alive after 9 or 10pm. Add to that the fact that adrenaline is addictive, and a body running on stress hormones will absolutely become frazzled. How can it not?
If the problem continues, the body's struggle with stress can eventually lead to chronic exhaustion, memory problems, weight gain, gut disturbances, inflammation, and migraines. Stress drastically lowers the immune system - perhaps you've already noticed that when you get a cold you find its order to shake off than you used to. As you poor immune system battles one virus, it's more vulnerable to attack on another front. Sound familiar?
We are all busy. It can sometimes seem as if the entire planet is on a treadmill - and sadly, we often convince ourselves that busyness is inevitable. We tell ourselves that 'busy is good'. But here's the thing... the brain isn't supposed to be kept constantly at work - whether that's checking emails, multi-tasking or rushing around. The prefrontal cortex needs downtime - and not only at night. It needs to be kept in a calm and rested state so that it can do all its chores properly. Keep any motor running and it will wear out. But once you make relaxation and rejuvenation a priority, you will start to find the route to 'unfrazzle' in this chaotic world of ours.
It's so easy to get wrapped up in what we think we need, what we think we want, that we sometimes spend a lot of our time daydreaming about the unattainable, rather than focus on appreciating what we already have. If you take a small moment out of your day to practise gratitude for what you do have, you will find that life feels fuller, richer, and your heart lighter because of it. What are some of your favourite pastimes? Perhaps you play guitar, or write poems, or enjoy going for walks with your dog. Whatever you love to do in your free time, take a moment now and write about how those activities spark your joy and brighten your day! A little bit of gratitude goes a long way.
Create an At-Home Day Retreat
Another way to slow down is to carve out time in your busy schedule for a guilt-free day of self-care. Here are a few suggestions for your home retreat:
A Breathing Practice
Slow, calm, controlled breathing can help you relax, recenter, and feel at your best throughout the day.
Notice the beginning of your in-breath; as you inhale, think of all the things you're thankful for.
IN... TWO... THREE... FOUR
Now, sit calmly with your inhaled breath - without exhaling yet. Let your body relax, as you count to four.
ONE... TWO... THREE... FOUR
Next, bring your attention to the start of your exhale; slowly release your breath while counting to four, and exhale your concerns and anxieties.
OUT... TWO... THREE... FOUR
Repeat as needed, and return to this practice throughout your day to help you flourish and feel grounded.