This time last year, my husband and I went on our dream trip to Australia. Our friends had moved to Perth 18 months beforehand, and we had saved for a visit. We were excited to see Sydney and Melbourne's famous sights and see how they were settling in down under.
Travelling for a month with one suitcase was always going to be a bit stressful – as a natural worrier, my usual thought is something like 'I'm going on a trip, and I need about 4 outfits, so I've packed 35 just to be safe!" However, what I didn't pack was a waterproof coat!
And it rained … a lot!
The Australians kept saying because I was English, I should be used to the wet weather. Erm, yes. But it's your summer, and I travelled for 21 hours to get a bit of sun!
So, anxiety can follow you anywhere, and things outside of your control – like rain – shouldn't stop you enjoying every moment. I learned on this trip that happiness cannot be travelled to, owned, earned, or worn. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.
No matter where you live, work or travel to, stress is part of life. This is especially true in a modern-day world of fast-paced living with technology that allows us to be available 24/7. Being overly anxious is not just a mental state; it's a physical one too. Undue stress and anxiety have damaging effects on the brain and the rest of the body. The more stressed out we are, the more vulnerable we are to colds, flu, COVID and a host of chronic or life-threatening illnesses—and the less open we are to the beauty and pleasure of life.
It is normal to encounter specific situations that may trigger stress and anxiety. A situation that makes us feel vulnerable or scared is likely to create an uncomfortable list of anxious symptoms: heart palpitations, sweaty palms, shortness of breath, digestive issues, and negative thoughts.
However, each of us has a portable, inbuilt and powerful antidote:
Breathing is so natural that most of us don't even pay attention to how we do it, but there are ways to breathe for better health and stress management.
"Breathing from your diaphragm oxygenates your blood, which helps you relax almost instantly," says Robert Cooper, PhD, co-author of The Power of 5, a book of five-second and five-minute health tips. "Shallow chest breathing, by contrast, can cause your heart to beat faster and your muscles to tense up, exacerbating feelings of stress."
"Intentional breathing" is a simple yet powerful tool for creating feelings of inner peace. This easy practice calms the mind, body and soul.
Try it for yourself: find a comfortable sitting position …
Relax your jaw.
Bring your fingers to your lips and breathe in a deep breath (touching your lips is known to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, your body's natural pause-button).
Now place your hands in your lap, palms up, and breathe normally.
On the in-breath, say or think the words: "Breathing in, I am calm".
On the out-breath, say or think the words: "Breathing out, I am relaxed".
Follow the sensations of your breath as it moves in and out of your body.
Repeat this cycle for up to five minutes.
Hint: Use a timer to relax into it, and you don't have to worry about watching the clock.
(from The Little Book of Inner Peace by Ashley Davis Bush)
Are you feeling drained and somewhat lost?
Since returning from our trip, the world has become a very different place to live, and many of us have been battling feelings of anxiety, fear and overwhelm. You may have experienced it too – perhaps you feel drained of your positive resources, feel lost, suffering from lockdown fatigue, or simply drifting in a sea of uncertainty.
Spiritual burnout is a deep feeling of soul weariness and spiritual unease. It's on the rise today because of the immense strain on our minds and spirits. The events of 2020 have pushed many of us to our limits in virtually every sense – financially, emotionally, and spiritually.
Holistic health coach, Louise Murray, sees people with this kind of burnout all the time. She believes it can happen to anyone, and it doesn't mean you are weak or failing in any way. In fact, she thinks this is happening because good people are trying to do and give their very best.
Her advice is to take some time to notice how you are feeling, make time for yourself, set new priorities and seek the right support. Slowing down and accepting ourselves and our limits, and re-aligning our hearts and minds with what matters most will help us develop self-compassion and loving-kindness.
3 Steps to restoring your energy
#1 – Practice gratitude
When our positive resources start to wane, we need reminders about all the good in our life. The attitude of gratitude will bring you back to a place of positivity, connectivity, and clarity.
Try this: keep a journal. End each day by writing down what you are thankful for. As you keep doing this practice, you'll realise there are many reasons to be grateful, and your outlook in life will begin to shift.
#2 – Make your home a haven
As we spend an increasing amount of time within our own four walls, it's important to make sure that's its somewhere that allows us to flourish. Keep your workspace separate from where you relax, and make space for things that nourish you, whether that's candles, crystals, a comfy reading corner or a yoga mat.
Try this: buy some plants. Adding some greenery to your home can boost your mental wellbeing. Caring for a plant and watching it grow can be a miracle. Learning how it thrives helps us cultivate awareness and natural connections to something other than ourselves, bringing us much-needed feelings of connectedness and hope.
#3 – Review your priorities
The lockdowns have offered us the chance to look at what's important in our lives, so now is an excellent time to assess your priorities. Taking an honest look at what our body, mind and soul needs is vital for healing burnout.
Try this: Ask yourself key questions. What do I need less of in my life? What do I want more of? What would I enjoy doing on a daily basis to calm and centre myself? If my heart could talk to me, what would it tell me it needs right now? Do a quick meditation to see of your subconscious feels lighter and more energised. Now pass this peace onto a friend and pay it forward.
"When you own your breath, nobody can steal your peace" – Unknown.