With Coronavirus virus keeping us all indoors massages, drinks with friends or whatever methods you usually use to relieve stress may not be on the menu. On the other hand being at home more doesn’t necessarily mean you have more time if you’re trying to work, look after someone else or homeschool.
Luckily there are ways to relax at home which you can incorporate into your day without taking up more time.
I know it can be tempting to let it all hang out if you’re not doing video calls but I’m really hoping you’re still showering. As well as keeping you clean that five or ten minutes can be a peaceful start/end to your day by applying a bit of mindfulness.
Pay attention to how the water feels, the strength of the flow, temperature, sound.
Notice the colours, shapes and feel of the shampoo/shower gel. When you squirt it into your hand does it make a sound? How does it feel on your fingers? What does it smell like? How does it feel in your hair?
When you notice your mind wandering bring it back to what you’re doing and continue noticing more details. Whenever you’re in the moment you’re giving your mind a rest from rumination and worry.
It’s called 7-11 because you breathe in for 7 and out for 11. The numbers aren’t strict, you could breathe in for 4 and out for 7, whichever numbers are comfortable for you.
The idea is to breathe out for longer than your breathe in and to breathe from your belly rather than your chest. This sends a calming message to your body because it’s the opposite of the way you would breathe if you were anxious or preparing for exercise.
When we’re anxious or stressed we have a tendency to narrow our focus. In nature this would be us giving our full attention to the threat, like a hungry lion coming towards us. So when we use our peripheral vision we’re sending the opposite message to our body that everything is fine. This is one of my favourite ways to relax. When the TV is rubbish it’s a good one to do while you’re sitting on the sofa.
Focus on a spot somewhere in front of you and let your gaze soften.
Keeping your eyes on that spot begin to widen your gaze noticing what you can see to your left and right on the very edges of your vision.
You’ll be surprised how much you can see to your side while you’re still looking forward. You can even notice what you can see above and below the spot.
It may take a bit of practice but it’s something you can do while you’re sitting on the sofa or even in a Zoom call if you feel a bit anxious.
Remember don’t move your eyes or head, keep a soft focus on that spot while noticing what else you can see. Only do it if it feels comfortable for you.
If you’re working from home this is a good way to help you settle in the space. If you’re not working from a desk you could do the same technique on the sofa, in the kitchen, garden or wherever you are. You could do this while you’re waiting for a Zoom call to start or for your computer to start up.
Fix your gaze on a point in front of you.
Notice 3 things you can see without moving your eyes. It could be a computer monitor, Keyboard, mouse.
Then notice 3 things you can hear. Maybe the hum of the computer, birds singing outside, other people in your home.
Then notice 3 things you can feel. Perhaps the feel of the mouse in your hand, the chair beneath you, the temperature of the air.
Then cycle round again noticing 3 more things you can see e.g. the corner of a picture, papers on the desk, a mark on the wall. Then 3 more things you can hear e.g. the sound of notifications on your computer, traffic passing by, the wind. Then 3 more things you can feel, a breeze against your skin, glasses on the bridge of your nose, shirt sleeves against your arms.
Keep cycling through until you’ve run out of new things. Then you can either leave it there or if you’d like to carry on close your eyes and imagine 3 things you could see, hear and feel. Keep cycling through imagining new things until you’re ready to open your eyes and carry on with your day.
This is a good one to do while you’re lying in bed. First thing in the morning as you’re waking or last thing at night are good times.
Starting with your toes notice how they feel, warm, cool, tingly, still. Do the toes on one foot feel different to the toes on your other foot?
Then give your attention to the pads of your feet, comparing and contrasting them. You don’t need to try to change anything, just notice how they feel.
Then moving up through the feet to your ankles and calves perhaps noticing how the bedding feels against them.
Continue to move your attention up until you’ve been through every body part from your toes to your buttocks, belly, arms, chest, head and face. Then spread your attention throughout the whole body, having a gentle awareness of the whole.
All of these techniques are helpful if you’re feeling stressed or anxious. They’re also good to practice when you’re feeling okay so you have them there when you need them. When you practice them regularly they top up your relaxation bank and you may find you get less stressed and anxious generally.