As the world has turned upside down, many of us are desperately yearning for a respite from the uncertainty, upheaval, and anxiety. We’re yearning to quiet our stressed-soaked inner chatter and calm our frayed nerves.
We’re yearning to release our physical, emotional, and mental tension. We’re yearning for a genuine breather, a break from the litany of responsibilities and the reality that many things have changed. Many of the things we love and have relied on for comfort, soothing, and healing are no longer an option.
In short, every one of us can benefit from a week (or month!) long vacation. But since this isn’t possible for most of us, we can focus on what is: engaging in small activities and practices that help us to unwind throughout the day. You’ll find these ideas below. Set a timer for 10 minutes, and brainstorm other ways you can unwind in small windows of time.
- Walk barefoot. Walking in the grass, sand, dirt, or soil can help you to “connect to the calming and nourishing energy of the earth,” said Sherianna Boyle, MED, CAGS, author of the book Emotional Detox for Anxiety. “Since our bodies are made of similar elements of the earth—such as water, air—[being in] nature and walking barefoot are ways you can restore yourself mindfully.”
- Savor everyday beauty. Allow yourself to be curious about the beautiful things you see on a regular basis. For example, observe a flower’s petals or touch them to see how they feel, said Boyle. Watch the clouds pass, imagining yourself jumping from one to the next. Listen to the outdoor and indoor sounds of the morning. Feel the warmth of your little one’s hands.
- Take 10 deep breaths. Count each breath on the inhale. Also, keep your exhales several seconds longer than your inhales.
- Practice co-regulation. This is simply holding hands with friend or partner who is calm and relaxed to help you tune into their energy, according to Carley Centen, a yoga teacher and author of the forthcoming book My Pocket Meditations for Anxiety. “Think of someone you feel comfortable with, who has a soothing voice and gentle, calming manner.”
- Massage your hands. Boyle suggested washing your hands, applying hand cream, and massaging the palm of each hand and fingers for about 20 seconds each. “This helps break up any stale, congested energy while increasing your breathing. Notice when you massage your hands, your breath tends to get deeper in the lower abdomen area (and lungs) where your calming nerves are,” she said. Massaging your feet is also a great way to ease tension.
- Massage your temples. If you have it, apply lavender essential oil to your index and middle fingers. Then, moving clockwise, massage your temples. To enhance your relaxation, put on some spa-like or nature sounds, classical music, or your favorite relaxing tunes.
- Practice savasana. During this corpse pose, close your eyes and picture any thoughts that arise as autumn leaves traveling down the river. You also might move from your feet to your head, tensing and relaxing different muscle groups as you make your way from bottom to top.
- Play with paint. Use any paint you have on hand, and grab a canvas or thick piece of paper. Instead of focusing on creating a specific image, simply glide your paintbrush from left to right, right to left. Or get out any art supplies you have and simply start doodling or sketching, cutting or gluing.
Unwinding will look different for everyone. And the strategies that help you relax will differ depending on the day and the extent of your anxiety or stress levels. So explore and experiment. Play around with an assortment of techniques, noting what helps and what doesn’t.
Ultimately, don’t judge yourself for needing rest or comfort. Don’t criticize yourself for needing to slow down and take a break. Incorporate small, soothing activities into your everyday, so they become small, soothing rituals that help you to relax and refresh.