NEED FOR PAUSING AND BEING CALM
Apart from the general heightened states of angst – very real for many living in countries where the virus is doing its worst – taking time to smell the roses, or the coffee, either proverbially or literally would serve us well. It’s a great combination to be added into your life as so many of us juggle those plates in the air whilst we simultaneously wear a whole range of hats. Waiting for the former to come crashing down around our ears, dislodging whichever headpiece we happen to be wearing at the time.
WHAT OF THAT TITLE?
At a personal level, I am well aware that it is apparently on the cards that in the not too distant future I will be called upon to self-isolate. I won’t even consider the length of time being talked about. I admit to envying those who have family around to ensure their safety and well-being.
I am a list person, so, to reassure myself, I have made a list of things that I will be able to do/have already put in place. It includes craft projects that I can work on to keep me occupied. Projects for which I have the necessary materials and equipment to hand. I can focus on my garden – planting the seeds for flowers and vegetables and duly getting them established in the beds. I have my blogs and podcasts and a mountain of books I can read. I am lucky, apart from the fact that I won’t be having that, usually essential for me, face to face contact with friends, I know that I will be fine. I am well able to keep myself fed and watered, probably with some doorstep deliveries of fresh produce by neighbours who have already volunteered. I can still have contact friends by phone or skype. I have set up a repeat prescription delivery service. I had previously avoided this as it encouraged walks to order and subsequently collect from the surgery in town. However, it is also important to factor in some ways of assuring a positive mental health during this time. Yes, knowing that I can keep busy helps with this. However, adding in a further layer of self-support will, I am sure, serve me well.
Hence, pause and be calm, though ‘be calm and pause’ is equally as relevant to us in our daily lives. That feeling of calmness allows us, no matter what our circumstances, to be able to pause, to step away for a short period of battery re-charging; of setting aside the monotony of our life; of taking control of something on which we are about to embark; of being in the here and now rather than worrying about past or possible future happenings.....
The reason for my title choice is that for many of us, it is a matter of us having to slow down from our busyness, by taking that pause, in order for us to be able to obtain that positive, healthy feeling of being calm. So maybe we need to make a calm sandwich, with a Panini, or two slices of bread forming the pause, and that wonderful filling of calmness between. However, just as with a tasty sandwich, the flavour of the filling remains with us after the sandwich has been finished.
That calmness leaves us feeling so much more tranquil, less agitated, more able to be in control of our minds and whatever situation we are facing. It leads us to step away from what was previously a feeling of heading towards becoming overwhelmed.
Taking the time and effort to pause and be calm is time very well spent.
BEGINNING WITH THAT PAUSE
Simply taking the time in a hectic day for a pause serves us well. No matter whether you are busy on your lap top; you are making frustratingly slow progress in heavy traffic; you are jammed in on packed public transport; you are trying to make sure that the children have all that they need for their day at school – whatever. The list of busyness is endless for so many of us and a short step away can allow for a lowering of angst especially if you add in a dose of realism. A reality check that allows you to put your stress into context and recognise if you have let your mind get unrealistically carried away. A short time out, a time to chill, maybe literally or figuratively counting to ten. A time to prevent moving in to, or to step out from your flight or fight mode which leads to further slipping down the slippery slope of stress.
As you pause, take three or four deep breaths – in through the nose, out through the mouth, with that out breath longer than the in breath. This has the result of slowing down your heart rate as well as ensuring a good supply of oxygen to allow for effective functioning of the whole of your body including organs and muscles which could well be taking a hammering.
TAKING ADVATAGE OF THAT PAUSE
How I envy those who can keep totally calm and focused even at times of great stress – the most intricate part of delicate surgery on a tiny baby; getting a plane that is experiencing flight threatening difficulties safely back on the ground. Whilst most of us don’t have to face such extreme situations, it is still a healthy, beneficial state to be able to access – that state of calmness.
Begin by focusing on areas of tightness within your body, especially those areas where you know you may often carry and hold tension.
Maybe you clench your jaw, your hands. Do your neck and shoulders feel tight? Does your tummy begin to somersault?
Gently and slowly rotate your neck one way then the other; shrug then release your shoulders; really stretch and release fingers, rotate wrists. Move your jaw around, open your mouth as if yawning – and don’t be surprised if a yawn follows! As for your stomach, lift your abdomen on each of those in breaths, then relax the muscles back down on the out breath.
BUILDING ON FROM THAT PAUSE ...
If you haven’t tried PMR – progressive muscle relaxation, this takes you beyond focusing on those specific problem areas to relax the whole body if you don’t fancy dipping into meditation or hypnosis. I have included a link to a script by Berkeley Law to get you started with this.
Allow all of your senses to support you in moving away from stress to calmness, as you continue with a slower rate of breathing. You can achieve this by distracting yourself away from what is bothering you by using the 5-1 technique that I have mentioned before, and have found very useful for clients – and myself. You can repeat it a couple of times, seeking different ‘things’ for your numbers.
5 things that you can see
4 things that you can touch
3 things that you can hear
2 things that you can smell
1 thing that you can taste
You may have to use a bit of initiative with number 2 and 1, but that all adds to the diversion. If you can get outside to do this, even better – maybe literally smelling those roses!
Introduce exercise, yoga, meditation, guided meditation, guided hypnosis, mindfulness into your life. If in enforced isolation, there is a plentiful supply of exercise programs, meditations online – you could even try out my guided relaxations using hypnosis!
Make use of positive affirmations and mantras to accentuate the calmness. These may feel strange to you at first, but they are effective tools to use. Maybe a reminder that what is currently happening is temporary and will pass by; that you are ok – and it is fine to be ok; that nobody, including yourself can expect you to do other than your best – and not least – a reminder to yourself that ‘I can do this’. A mantra stating ‘I am calm, confident and in control of my feelings’.
Employ physical diversion, such as putting on music – I love to belt out the old 60’s songs as the words remain lodged in my memory and fling myself around the room at the same time. Apologies for that mental picture.
Extract yourself from any stressful situation if at all possible, even if this is only temporary; this allows for a pause and a calming down to take place. If you can’t remove your body, at least allow your mind to wander to lovely places – a beach, a garden, a wonderfully chilling room, somewhere right for you to feel safe and calm.
A GENTLE REMINDER TO FINISH
A quote from author, social justice activist and feminist L.R. Knost -‘Taking care of yourself doesn't mean me first, it means me too.”
Maybe you put your self-care at the bottom of your list, if on your list at all, but it really is important and I make no apology for reminding you of this fact. Just think what would happen if there are others – maybe children, parents, friends – who rely on you. If you suffer the consequences of not looking after yourself, what would then happen to them? Then again, if you are simply on your own, self-care – both physical, mental and emotional - is important simply because you flipping well deserve it.
Do try pausing and being calm. Include some of the ideas I have suggested that you feel are good ones for you. Or establish a self-care routine that suits you. Maybe a soak in the bath, letting go by shedding a few tears or standing where no-one can hear and having a damn good yell! My use of ‘damn’ there reminded me that swearing can release stress, depending on time and audience of course. I have my own pseudo-swear phrase which I make use of to lower my stress levels. When my son was a toddler, he had very similar. If he was stuck with something or frustrated he used to fling out ‘Gordon Wooden Bennett’ with great feeling. I am sure that this has long been replaced by much more colourful language – I wonder if it serves him as well as his previously used saying?
Pausing and being calm doesn’t have to cost a lot or take a huge amount of time. In fact, little and often can serve you just as well as a relaxing trip out to the coast, a garden, a woodland.
Remind yourself to use the pause and calm approach in day to day living so that it is readily available for you if and when life becomes more exacting. Pause so that you can hear what your mind and body are in need of. Pause to take consideration of choices available to you that you may not otherwise have acknowledged. Pause to allow yourself to simply be the person that you are. Pause to allow room for that feeling of calmness to be present for you.
Should you be unable to get to a face to face appointment with me, I do offer support by phone or Skype. If you are in need of something above and beyond that pause and calmness, maybe if you too are self-isolating, do get in touch. Take care.
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