Saturday, 22 September 2018

How To Completely Relax For A Week

Hi Everyone

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Last week, I had a week off from work, and it was everything I needed it to be.  I had started to become a bit frazzled, and by the Thursday of last week I realised I was completely and utterly relaxed and stress free, so much so in fact, that getting back to work this week has been a real struggle, something like waking up (slowly) from a blissful coma.

So, how on earth did I manage it, this Holy Grail of what we all would like a week off to be?   I've only ever once felt this relaxed in my life, after a week in Ireland where life is lived ... differently.   

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Firstly, I made no plans or commitments.  Often, when we have time off, we stuff it with all the things we don't get to do when we're too busy working - seeing friends, trips away, amusing the children, shopping.   I had just 3 things to do - go to the hairdressers (hardly a chore), go for a check up the hospital (nicely booked for mid-week) and go for blood tests at the doctors (a 30 minute round trip).   So really, pretty much nothing, and in my head it felt like just one thing required any effort - that mid-week trip to the hospital.


I think one of the very important things about relaxation is that it has to be focused on YOU. You can't relax if you're running the kids around, tidying the house, ticking things off a list.  YOU HAVE TO UNPLUG COMPLETELY.

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So each morning when I woke up, I had no plans. I had vague things I thought I might want to do, but nothing concrete.  No pressure.  No commitments.  No "if I don't do this I will verbally abuse myself for being a loser".

One of the most frustrating things about my depression is my difficulty reading.  However, I learnt this month that if the book is about something I am OBSESSED about, diving into it, DROWNING in it, does not seem to be a problem!  These last few weeks, lots of things have been happening about Sylvia Plath, and I actually managed to read 3 whole books relating to her or her life.   

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Reading is one of the best remedies in life.  As is writing, I find.  It's total immersion, and the best way to escape your real world anxieties, which is why I am so bitter that reading is often not an option for me.  Sharing someone ELSE'S head space is crucial for rebalancing and countering yourself, and the other thing what worked here was Matt Haig's Notes On A Nervous Planet.

There will be a whole blog post devoted to that book at some point, but early in my week off, one evening, I sat and finished the last 150 pages of it, and at the end I felt calm, cleansed and recentred.  It was almost a holy experience, and I think it's responsible for much of the calm I'm still feeling now.

Cooking.   I am obsessed with food, love it, and given unlimited financial means, I would eat out every single night (and lunch .... and breakfast lol).   I also enjoy cooking, and one of the things I often use time off for is to cook things I don't necessarily get the time to cook or experiement with in a normal week.   Last week I perfected my chicken satay noodles, and as I always batch cook, it kept me happy through 6 lovely meals.

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Netflix et al.   It can sometimes feel like stolen time, but there is very little quite as decadent as waking up, snuggling down in bed, and devouring a whole box set over the course of that day, never leaving said amazing bed except to pee and eat.  I devoted a whole day to The Sinner, watching it in one great big greedy gulp - and loving it.   I caught up on Bodyguard and a load of other great new TV programmes and came out the other side ... chilled, my head less full of me, and in a more leisurely frame of mind.

What was interesting is that in having no fixed agenda, I probably got more done than if I'd had a list of things.  I actually DID tidy the house.  I actually DID do several loads of washing.  I actually DID do a lot of decluttering.  But because there was no pressure to do so, no obligation to myself, it was easier to CHOOSE to do it, and then feel smug about it afterwards lol.

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There was really only one thing I did differently last week - I made sure I kept my normal sleep pattern.  My natural body clock would have me fall asleep somewhere around 1 or 2 am and wake up at about 10 or 11.   It only takes 2 or 3 days out of my normal routine for my body to find its way back to its preferred pattern.

Last week I made the conscious effort to still go to bed at my normal bedtime (10pm), thus ensuring I would be awake most days by about 8am.  Did it make a difference?  I think it did.  I think we're more inclined to "do stuff" when we have the WHOLE day ahead of us.  When you don't roll out of bed til 2pm, it's hard to muster much enthusiasm for anything other than more yawning and more chilling. It's about balance.

So here's your Top Tips if you really want to relax - 

1.  Don't make too many plans or commitments, you need FREE TIME

2.  Know what makes you happy, and make sure you spend plenty of time doing this.

3.  Be selfish.  It's YOUR free time, so why should you spend it on someone else?

4.  Get plenty of sleep.  Sleep is key to a healthy mind.

5.  Be kind to yourself.  Don't have expectations or heap as much pressure on yourself as you would at work.  When you have a week off, there is only ONE objective - to relax.   Piling the pressure on, or running around after other people is not going to help that.

I'm a big advocate of being selfish to maintain my mental health.  That doesn't mean I'm a shitbag to other people, but it does mean I prioritise MY needs and MY mental health above what other people need from me.  Obviously this rule has to be flexible where children are concerned, but if YOU'RE not going to look after you, then who is?

Next time you have some time off - DO NOTHING.  Resist the temptation to win awards for Best Parent / Friend  or Most Productive Individual.  Trust me, your mind, body and soul will thank you for it.

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