10 Ways to Relax During Chaos
So this week has been very interesting from a writers standpoint!
"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: Not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let your heart not be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:27
As of March 17 the testing for the COVID-19 Virus in Alberta is as stands: 97 positive cases and 12,258 negative. Which means we are actually doing pretty well, YAY Alberta! However, we've had our freedom to gather in groups restricted to 250, 50 and now 20 people; for some reason toilet paper is nowhere to be found; going to the theatre, rec centre or anything otherwise entertaining is impossible; the stock market has taken quite a spill; a cough is reason for people to panic; and last but not least, Utah had a good sized earthquake this morning!
I certainly understand why some people are having a hard time sleeping at night. It sounds like an apocalypse is impending. Perhaps even the great battle of the toilet paper is about to commence. This is the point in a story book where Gandalf appears to assemble an epic quest to find a cure and save Earth! Which is pretty cool if ya think about it. Its action time!
The important thing to remember is that action has many different interpretations. According to the dictionary action can either be 1) the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim. or 2) a thing done; an act. Personally I like the first definition. The process of doing something to achieve an aim.
We can take action to relax even while panic and chaos are having a dance off on our doorsteps. One key to achieving relaxation and joy in times like these is understanding what is happening inside of our bodies. We have a sympathetic nervous system that controls the body's knee jerk response to dangerous and stressful situation and all those not fun things that happen. It's what causes fight or flight reactions, and a tidbit that I find interesting is it does not know what is real from what is imagined.
The sympathetic nervous system doesn't know the difference between a nightmare where you are being chased through a maze full of deathtraps by something and actually being pushed off of a cliff. I like the way Tonya Leigh, founder of the French Kiss Life Community explained what happens when we live in a sympathetic state. She said, "So, you can sit at home and be thinking about and visualizing the worst things that can happen, and it [the sympathetic nervous system] doesn’t know the difference between that and you being chased by a bear. It just is noticing, “Danger, danger, danger. We need to run and get out of here…” and as a result, we start pumping cortisol throughout our bodies. We start to burn our adrenals out if we’re living in that sympathetic state for extended periods of time.
And a lot of people are living in their sympathetic state most of the time, even before this happened. And now you throw on all of this global uncertainty and the majority of people are in their sympathetic nervous system. And the issue with that is that when you’re in your sympathetic nervous system most of the time, you’re not digesting your foods well. Your immune system is not working at its optimal levels.
You’re literally exhausting yourself. Which, if you think about it in the bigger picture, especially with us dealing with this unknown virus, you make yourself more susceptible to being sick. Literally, stress can kill you. And that is why it is so important that we learn to relax, especially during the most difficult times."
Basically we want to be living in the parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as "rest and digest" mode. When we are living in a parasympathetic state our heart rate we are able to functional at an optimal level. Our foods digest well, blood and oxygen flows freely and we feel relaxed and rested and are able to enjoy life with all of its pleasures. As a bonus our immune system strengthens and we are able to feel health. That is the kind of state I want to be living in!
I think we all know that is easier said than done and so I have compiled a list of ten things that work for me. I hope they can help you as well.
Meditation. Meditation has been found to reduce stress and anxiety, increase attention span, self-awareness and self-love, it even helps reduce pain! I find that it is a great way to reconnect with yourself and feel peace. If ever I want an especially wonderful nights sleep I do a five to ten minute meditation before bed. It does amazing things to your state of mind. The key with meditation is to feel. Clear your thoughts but feel your feelings, let them in, and let them go. Just feel. Just breathe.
Another form of meditation is visualization. Where would you most like to be? Whatever pops into your mind, just roll with it. It may be on a beach, in a rainforest, a mountain meadow, or snuggled up in bed with a cup of hot chocolate. Picture that place. Imagine it out in your mind. Feel the breeze brush your cheek, or a blade of grass bending to cushion your bare foot. Hear the waves lapping against the sand and the monkeys jumping in the trees. See the way the sun touches the shadows and bends to give you the perfect light. Taste that fruit smoothie or the freshest mountain stream. Smell the freshness after rain and the salty tang of ocean air. Let it consume you and relax you. Kids love to do this activity too. Especially when they get to colour a picture to show you what it looked like afterwards.
Write a list of all the ways you can make this work for you. This is a time when you are reduced in mobility and opportunities for social interaction, use it to your advantage! What can you do to make this period of isolation work for you?
Grab a pen and some paper and write it out. You been wanting to write a book? Learn an instrument? Clean the house? Take a nap, maybe? Now is your time my friend. Focus on you and enjoy this time. It isn't going to last forever, you might as well make the most of it.
My list has things like, blog consistently, clean the bottom shelf of my book-seat out (It was taken over by movies and fishing lures somewhere along the way)
Movement. Exercise is something of a scary word for some people, but I am not talking about high intensity, pound your body into submission kind of movement. That kind of exercise has a tendency to shove you right into the sympathetic nervous system. I am talking about the yoga, stretching, long leisurely walks, belly dancing, ping-pong and pilates sort of movement. The kind that leaves you feeling good. Elevating exercise.
Breathing. It keeps you alive. Did you know it can also help keep you sane? It can! When I get upset or frustrated I've noticed a tendency to either hold my breath or breathe so shallowly that I barely have any airflow. That kind of a reaction only makes it worse. I now make a concious effort to breathe deeply when I am upset and let all the air out. The difference is amazing. It's like the issue isn't even an issue anymore because I am responding instead of reacting.
Some of my favourite breathing exercises go like this:
Calming Breath- Breathe in for as long as you can, hold for four counts and breathe out for as long as you can, hold for four counts and repeat.
Fire Breath- Breathe in shortly, breathe out forcibly. This is a quick breath and is good for releasing emotions or clearing your head. Careful not to do too many too soon! It's pretty forceful and may make you lightheaded the first couple times.
Timed breath- Breathe in for four, breathe out for four, repeat.
Humour. Laughter is healing! Take a load off, turn off your news alerts and social media. Take a seat and pull out something lighthearted! Relax and let yourself laugh! Personally I love watching really old sitcoms like "The Dick Van Dyke Show" "I Love Lucy" and "That Girl" "Bewitched" and "Full House" will always be favourites too. If you are looking for a funny book, "Makeover" by Shannon Guymon is a great choice. Or hey, ask your four year old to tell you a joke. It's always funny how funny kids think they are!
Shower. Believe it or not showering has power. I come from a family of shower lovers, ask any of my uncles. Showers are the greatest. All showers. Morning showers give you an invigorating burst of energy. They wash away the toxins our bodies secrete while we sleep and improve blood circulation. Evening showers (my personal favourite- as a point of interest what is your favourite kind of shower?) relax your muscles and send you off to a peaceful nights sleep. Being clean before bed not only keeps your sheets clean, it also improves your skin. Some even say showering before bed cuts down on wrinkles. Cold showers supposedly boost your mood. Probably because you feel so good when you get out! Warm showers lower stress, get rid of germs, soothe aches and pains, lowers blood pressure and some say they even promote weight loss. All of that aside, I believe everything is energy, and movement ie. running water moves energy and keeps things fresh. In more ways than one!
Music. Find a soothing song that resonates with you and listen to it. Joyful music makes people happy. Happiness is key in living an amazing life.
Scriptures. I am a spiritual and a religious woman. Reading God's word brings me comfort. It is also a really great way to look at history and see how God has pulled humanity out of far worse situations than the one we are now facing. I enjoy knowing that these times have been prophesied thousands of years ago. God knows the end from the beginning and He has it under control. We need not fear.
Creation. Make something with your own two hands. It's fun! It can be easy and simple too. Depends on what you want to do. Print off a colouring page, pull out a new canvas and start painting. Bracelet making is fun and takes short amounts of time! Or have you ever tried freezing a soap bubble? Or a water balloon? It's pretty cool. Make some slime. Kids love it. Adults love it. It's therapeutic.
Go forth! Take action. Live your life, enter the parasympathetic nervous system. Bring joy into your life. Choose faith over fear.
Be prepared. Be safe. Be happy.
"Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop." -Orvid