6 WAYS TO CALM A RACING MIND

Six ways to calm the mind

There’s nothing quite like the excitement in the lead up to a holiday. For me, the anticipation is as much fun as the break itself.

Except, there were no butterfly-in-the-tummy moments last weekend because The Fredster (aka house-bunny) decided to stop eating for no reason at all. (Why do animals decide to get ill when you’re due to go away? It’s like they have a sixth sense!)

As a rule, this lively little chap follows me all over the house, up and down the stairs – even into the bathroom! But on this particular night he was hunched in a corner, refusing to move, eat or drink.

In rabbits, this can be serious and push them into a state called GI Stasis, which can kill them unless swift action is taken to get their digestive tract moving again.

Of course, it was a Saturday night. Of course, my usual veterinary clinic had closed. So, this required a hell for leather dash to the emergency out -of-hours vet, 25 minutes away. The conclusion? His gut wasn’t making the sounds it should and he’d need to be admitted overnight. GREAT.

“In between the bunny burrito wrapping, I had three features to finish & 500 emails to clear”

The next morning he was discharged. Unfortunately his listlessness returned the following day. Cue another trip to the vet. Some £300 later *weep* I was told that I’d need to syringe feed him every two hours (not the easiest thing to do) until his appetite returned (this could take up to 48 hours) and he started to pass droppings.

Blimey O’Riley. In between the bunny burrito wrapping, I had three features to finish, 500 emails to clear, and a half-filled suitcase to tackle. Oh, I also needed to buy some snacks to ensure I wouldn’t go hungry on the 8.5 hour flight as my allergies meant I couldn’t tuck into the airline food.

The point of my ramblings is that I’m not alone when it comes to cramming things in.

“Only 5% of us take time to relax during the day”

According to a recent BUPA UK survey of 1,500 adults, our ‘always on’ culture means we try to squeeze an extra 90 minutes into our day just to cope.

And only 5% of us take time to relax during the day, compared to 60% in 1997, the research found.

Yet, constant multi-tasking leaves 90% of us feeling burnt out and more than half (54%) experiencing stress, fatigue, illness and injury.

Practising mindfulness – the act of being present in the moment and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings – can help.

I wrote about this for The Sun’s Fabulous Daily pages this week and spoke to Michael Chaskalson, author of Mindfulness in Eight Weeks, who suggested the following tips for calming the mind:

TUNE IN TO PHYSICAL SENSATIONS
Overthinking can cause stress, especially if we’re focused on the future or situations beyond our control. Learn to switch attention to your body, which takes you away from compulsive thinking and brings you back into the present. As you’re reading this, pay attention to how your feet feel on the floor, as well as the body contact in the chair. This naturally stills the mind.

USE MINDFULNESS CARDS
Mindfulness activity cards aimed at kids are a fun way of encouraging resilience, concentration and kindness and can help calm minds before bed or diffuse tantrums. Disability charity Scope has just launched a monthly series called Mindful Monsters, £7.50, www.mindfulmonsters.co.uk ‘Huff and Puff’, one of the relaxation activities, suggests breathing like a snake, whale or dog and noticing how the sounds change. The cards are a great way of focusing the attention of easily distracted children.

RECLAIM CHOICE
Research shows that blue light emitted from devices interferes with sleep patterns, while constant notifications interrupt our concentration. But ultimately you’re in charge of your device. Decide in advance when you’re going to look at your phone, don’t let it drive you. Very often we check our phone mindlessly. Learn to recognise the impulse to check and practise choosing not  to. At work, try keeping your phone in a drawer and turn it off an hour before bed.

BREAK IT DOWN
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, make a list. Put the most important points at the top and aim to master two or three things by the end of the day. Pay attention to the way you feel when you achieve these goals and make progress. This well help you regain a sense of control.

BREATHE DEEPLY
If you’re feeling agitated breathe in for a count of seven and out for a count of 11. This is known as 7-11 breathing. Breathing this way instantly calms the body and mind and helps equip you with the skills to handle stress. Also, try and notice how your breathing changes when you experience negative emotions. This brings greater awareness and you can adjust your breathing accordingly. The great thing about breathing techniques is that they can be done anywhere. Ideally, sit with your eyes closed to enhance the experience.

HEAD OUTSIDE
Studies show that being outside is good for you. A walk in the morning sunlight can also help reset your circadian rhythm and promote a better night’s sleep. Use lunch and coffee breaks to get some fresh air or get off a tube or bus one stop earlier. Don’t use that time to make calls or check any devices. Appreciate your environment and enjoy the moment.

So what became of Mr Floppy Ears?  Thankfully, he picked up the night before I flew out and was merrily eating hay when I left. I’m checking on his progress every day and there’ll be a Facetime session tonight 🙂

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