From Monday, we unlock another piece of the roadmap. We can start to mix indoors and go out for something to eat. We can even hug again. Our diaries might start to look busy again as we plan to meet with friends and family we may not have seen for far too long.
And as much as we are all looking forward to getting a bit of normality back in our lives, it’s important to remember to both rest, and to enjoy the little moment too. Packing in too many activities can leave us feeling stressed and exhausted. Some anxiety might creep in, and these feelings start to make us feel uncomfortable rather than happy and joyous.
Living with stress and anxiety can be incredibly challenging. However, it is possible to improve these uncomfortable feelings with a few simple and proven to work lifestyle changes.
Achieving a Zen state of mind doesn’t call for a complete overhaul of your life and career. Instead, it gently encourages you to slow down and find calm amidst the chaos.
A Zen state of mind allows you to fully enjoy that hot cup of coffee, that tear-jerker of a book, that stolen moment of peace during a busy day. According to Alan Watts, in his book The Way of Zen, you shouldn’t stop at feeling happy– try to feel yourself feeling happy.
Let’s take a look at some of my favourite everyday ways to find your Zen:
1 - Breathwork
Poor breathing in itself can lead us to feel anxious, and coupled with poor breathing habits can dramatically increase any feelings of stress and anxiety that already exist. If you can slow down and control your breathing, you can alleviate these symptoms.
Doing breathing exercises for 10-20 minutes works to balance the carbon dioxide in your body which can contribute to feelings of stress if it’s imbalanced.
2 - Phone a friend
If you have a friend who you can phone and chat to about your problems is a major help. Having a kind, empathetic conversation with others helps us to feel safe and supported. Sometimes, we don't like to feel like we are always moaning, but a cuppa and a chat can make a world of difference to your stress levels.
3 - Get active
The fight or flight hormone adrenaline is released when we get stressed, and if we ignore it, it becomes a real problem. In order to burn through the extra adrenaline, getting active is a great solution. Any aerobic activity helps to reduce your stress levels. Fast walking, or even running if this is your thing, are good options, as well as more gentle movement like yoga.
4 - Make a list
I love the idea of a chill list. Take some time to think about all the things that make you feel good, and what activities help you to relax. Write these ideas down, and refer back to them when you feel yourself starting to get stressed or anxious. Keep it somewhere you can access it easily, and use it as often as you need to.
5 - Calming Scents
Carefully chosen essential oils help to release the feel-good chemicals, and therefore, reduce your stress levels. There are various ways to use these oils from a diffuser to simply smelling the oils straight from the bottle. You can even use them topically by adding them to your favourite moisturiser and massaging them into your skin.
Make sure you are using pure essential oils - organic if possible - and that they are not intended for oil burners, as these are often a synthetic blend of chemicals. The best oil for calming and relaxation are Lavender, Cedarwood, Bergamot, Chamomile, Frankincense and Vetiver.
6 - The power of music
Music can have a powerful emotional effect on us and can help with our stress levels. However, for this to work therapeutically, you need to choose music that moves you towards the feelings you are looking to achieve. For example, this could be happiness, calmness, elation, joy or peace.
7 - Living in the moment
Learning to live in the moment can certainly help to reduce stress and anxiety, Worrying about the past or fretting about the future can rob you of enjoying the present. If we learn to accept that we have feelings of anxiety now and again and be really present with them, we’ll find that the uncomfortable feelings disappear more easily. This gives you the opportunity to live a much more fulfilling life and be happy in the here and now.
“Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine” - Shunryu Suzuki