What’s your go-to when you feel stressed? Some of us head to the fridge and inhale the contents, others shut down and withdraw. Maybe you reach for the wine glass and keep pouring ‘til the last drop. Guess what, we all behave in ways that sabotage us sometimes. These behaviours can have their roots in childhood. You might have picked up messages that feelings like sadness or anger aren’t acceptable. (Hands up if you were a “good girl” – might be time to reflect on whose benefit that was for). But (happy dance), there’s a better way to self-soothe when you’re feeling stressed.
Think about when you were a little girl. Were you taken seriously when you felt upset? Perhaps you were afraid of the adults in your life and it wasn’t safe to express yourself. Growing up you might have stuffed your feelings down with food. Or you may have learned that it was better to withdraw into your shell. Now you’re all grown up it might be hard to know what to do to help yourself to feel better. Sometimes other people let you down. Sometimes the only person who has got your back is you. Nurture yourself like a mo’fo.
I remember when my dog Lily had an operation. I was heartbroken to see her so unlike herself. She was in doggy ICU for a week and I asked if I could visit her. I brought her the doggy equivalent of Lucozade and grapes (crumbed ham if you’re interested). She was really weak but the smell piqued her interest (I like to think that seeing me helped too!). At the time I had to pop the price of the operation on my credit card, but I would have done ANYTHING just to see her well again. (BTW Lily is perfect again after lots of TLC & medical care). Lily was lucky to have so many people to mind her. The nurses even bought her tuna to tempt her to eat. Sometimes we are much kinder to our friends and family than we are to ourselves. We would move mountains to prevent or ease their pain. We forget to do the same for ourselves.
One simple way to shift your mindset is to create a stress relief kit. This is a collection of tools that can help you to bring yourself back to a state of relaxation by appealing to your five senses. The key is to only include items that delight you or provide comfort or relief.
NEWSFLASH: MASCARA ISN’T ALWAYS WATERPROOF. CUTE TISSUES ARE A BALM TO THE SOUL & THE FACE WHEN KITCHEN ROLL JUST WON’T CUT IT.
It can be really comforting to have positive images to remind us of happier times or people who love and support us. These items can be in your kit, or anchors that you keep on display.
Set a screensaver on your phone/desktop of loved ones/pets/your favourite holiday destination/a positive quote.
Subscribe to funny YouTube videos. My favourite is this one. (Baby goats! In pyjamas!). Also check out this. And this. Enjoy the rabbit hole!
Carry a small gratitude journal and leaf through it to remind you of all your wins. Go you!
I love to light an aromatic rose scented candle at home. It was a present from a lovely friend and when I inhale the scent it reminds me of her. Another favourite is to decant a few drops of lavender essential oil into a diffuser and let it waft around the room. I find it so relaxing. I absolutely adore perfume and a little spray makes me feel all aglow. Pick a scent with a happy association for you and think about how you could spritz it – you might like to wear perfume, scented hand or body lotion or use a rollerball essential oil. Pop into your local health store and they can give you expert advice on essential oils with relaxing and soothing properties. Experiment with different blends and remember to mention any existing health conditions. You might like to try out rollerballs or necklace diffusers for your travel kit. At home, I love using eco-friendly cleaners and I have found one with a gorgeous scent that makes my little heart sing.
When we feel stressed we can be fidgety or antsy and find it difficult to sit still. Keeping your hands busy can help to relieve physical tension. Popping bubble wrap can soothe you by releasing nervous energy. Repetitive and rhythmic actions such as colouring, knitting or crochet can be very soothing. Check out The Happy Hooker (it’s a book about crochet). Sign up to Ravelry and ogle the amazing creations posted there. (P.S. if colouring sounds boring, how does a sweary colouring book appeal? Yes, that’s a genre that thing. Pop it into google and you’ll find lots of links to keep you amused).
Being cosy can be very comforting. I love to wear a pair of fleecy socks or indulge in a bubble bath if I have a frantic week. For a winter kit, you might like to pop in some pocket hand warmers or a mini hot water bottle to keep yourself toasty on the go. Have you got a favourite blanket that you like to snuggle under?
Have you ever read Chocolat (or watched the film)? Nom, nom talk about indulgence! It is an ode to chocolate and: yay, happy dance: if you nibble on some dark chocolate mindfully it’s good for you.
Pick a calming blend of herbal tea (I love honey and chamomile) and let it infuse before sipping it from your favourite mug (try one with a positive slogan as an anchor). If you pop over to the Teapigs website they have a cute little moodometer that can help you to select a tea to suit your mood (you don’t have to buy online, I’ve seen the teas stocked in my local Tesco, but it can be helpful to consult the guide if you are feeling stuck).
It’s so easy to create a playlist, add some slow, calming relaxing music to your devices so all you have to do is hit play. https://palousemindfulness.com is a great resource for FREE access to an 8-week MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course. Give the headspace app a go – you can sign up for free to try out the basics pack of ten sessions to see if it’s for you. If you decide to subscribe you can access you can access mini-meditations or packs based on improving sleep, relationships, health, etc.
Alternatively, crank out an empowering song to energise you. Grab a hairbrush and blast out your favourite choons. Bonus points if you have a pet who can warble along on backing barking vocals.
Try listening to inspiring or funny podcasts to turn your frown upside down.
Weighted blanket (a spendy purchase, but you can also try the DIY version)
Rescue remedy – spray/drops/lozenges
A bottle of water
Tissues (buy a cute packet or ones enhanced with balsam as an act of self-love)
Chewing gum/mints/a clickable pen (zap that nervous energy)
Be kind to yourself when you are finding things tough. There are enough people out there who will knock you down so it’s important to be in your own corner. Remember your stress relief kit will only work if you take action. If it’s too big a step to put a whole kit together, pick just one item on the list that you already have and give it a go. Be good to yourself.
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