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Thursday, 25 December 2014
Summer holidays are often an ironically stressful time of year. On top of the usual chaos of Christmas and New Year, it’s easy to forget how to unwind when you lead a busy life year-round. Taking a few days off over the break to relax is essential for starting the new year refreshed.
Actively taking the time to unwind is so often sidelined by people without understanding just how important it is to their well being. Relaxing helps lower muscle tension. It positively impacts digestive health. It can lower blood pressure, lower your heart rate and increase blood flow to your brain. And it does wonders for your emotional state and general mental health.
Everybody relaxes in different ways. Some practice yoga, meditation or mindfulness while others put their feet up and loose themselves in the turbulent relationships of fictional characters on television. Some read. Some write. Some cook. Some eat. Some run. Some walk. Basically, any activity that is calming to you and removes you from the daily stressors of life is a tool you can use to relax.
Specific relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation and yoga are highly effective. It can take time to learn and feel the benefits of these techniques (which is well worth the effort!) butif you’re looking for some alternative techniques to have up your sleeve when you’ve fallen off the wind-down wagon – these top six tips might also be helpful:
1. Leave your work at work:Stop working! Work belongs at work and your personal life belongs at home. Technological advances have made our lives better in so many ways, but mobile devices have become constant connections to our jobs. When you leave the office, leave your work at the door. If you can’t disconnect your emails, at least turn off the notifications!
2. Write down your worries: Get a notebook and write down anything that’s making you feel worried or anxious, then set it aside. Research shows that acknowledging your problems by writing them down may actually help you to separate yourself from them, making it easier to calm your mind while you rest.
3. Use visualisation:Visualisation can be a particularly powerful tool when you begin to feel frazzled or anxious. On a neurological level, our brains don’t really know the difference between real, watched and imagined scenes. The brain develops pathways and builds connections that support habitual trains of thought. Regularly visualising yourself relaxed in your favourite place, doing a relaxing activity, thinking about the sounds, the smells and the sights actually develops mental and emotional pathways that help you to relax.
4. Get back to nature: There’s something to that old saying about stopping to smell the roses. Being outdoors and sitting amongst nature quietens a busy mind and is a great way to engage all your senses. Take time to focus on your breathing and listen to your surroundings and observe the sounds, sights and smells.
5. Be present:Mindfulness is a theraputic technique that focuses on the here and now. It is a mental state achieved by being aware and focused on the present moment. Focus on your thoughts and feelings, be aware of what your body is doing and calmly accept it all. It’s choosing not to relive yesterday’s crisis or worry about that big meeting tomorrow, but rather to live in the moment.
6. Work out what works for you:Nobody ever found peace by pursuing things that didn’t make them happy. Work out what is good for you and what is not (and be honest). Lifestyle and diet have a huge impact on your general well being. Any emotional and mental disorder can manifest physical ailments and symptoms if they are not dealt with. Look after yourself, and make yourself aware of what is working in your life and what is not. It’s hard to relax when you’re unhappy.
Using these techniques to relax over the summer break is a good start. It will certainly help you to feel refreshed when you rejoin reality in the new year, but to continue your relaxation and well being throughout the year, try finding an activity every day that will help you to unwind and manage stress levels. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
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