Getting away and escaping from the everyday stresses and strains of life is an important part of maintaining your sense of health and wellbeing. Stress is known as the silent killer – it affects your physical and mental health, so its important that you fit into your schedule time to relax and rejuvenate. Whether you are limited to an hour a week or have a two-week break planned, having time set aside to re-calibrate is so very important – your brain works like a muscle, yes it needs to be exercised but it needs recovery time too.
You need time out from work, family obligations and commitments and the deluge of information that we constantly are bombarded by – the news, advertising, and social media. Taking time to escape your stresses helps to protect your sanity, improve your mood and ability to make the right decisions – making you more productive and effective.
1. Take a Break
Of course, the number one way to escape the reality of the everyday is to take a holiday and take yourself away from your usual environment. We all need downtime from the rat race, burnout is real, so block out some time from your diary and book a holiday, and the good news? It doesn’t even have to be a huge drain on your time.
I’ve had my eyes opened to the world of mini-breaks and have discovered the great benefit of having a small holiday rather than the traditional two-week break.
A day or a couple nights stay in a spa can do wonders for alleviating stress. Just being out of your normal routine for even a short amount of time can rest you and give you the opportunity to unwind. Sites such as Groupon offer great discounts on spa getaways, so that you can find an affordable option – but also have a look at payasugym.com if you are after a day experience. I went to the Living Well in Manchester which is in the Beetham Tower on Deansgate – it’s only a small pool and sauna and steam room (and can get busy), but it’s a great experience and something a bit different to do in the centre of Manchester. You can then go to the Cloud 23 cocktail and champagne bar on the top floor of the tower to round off your day.
For the ultimate spa experience, you should head to Ragdale Hall in Leicestershire. It cost an arm and a leg in comparison to what I would ever usually spend over a 24-hour period, but as soon as you drive through the gates you leave your troubles behind.
There is no detail that has not been thought of – the food is sensational; the staff are incredible – helpful and friendly without being overbearing, all aspects of the building and grounds are maintained to a very high standard – which is something that has jarred me about other spas I’ve been to – how can you relax with cracked tiles in the showers? With an outdoor infinity pool and an indoor pool with a cascade and jets, numerous thermal spa pools and treatments available, there really is something for everyone. Don’t be put off by the website – it doesn’t do the place justice! I felt more relaxed after 24 hours at Ragdale than a two-week holiday.
A weekend getaway
Airbnb offer accommodation across all budgets for a weekend getaway, but the downside is that often the best accommodation gets booked up months in advance. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of knowing when you’ll need to get away from it all, and so now my go to site for last minute deals is snaptrip.com – it provides a quick and simple solution to finding accommodation without having to devote too much time for research or the need to plan ahead.
2. Get into Nature
Living in large towns and cities can be stressful – commuting to work, sitting at a desk, queuing for what seems like forever, surrounded by people, vehicles – it’s a sensory overload. Time spent in a natural environment resets you. Nature has a way of helping you shift your perspective and remind you that you are part of something far bigger and more longstanding than your latest deadline, project or role. Nature humbles us and can make us feel in awe – tinged with fear with the realisation that you are in front of something far greater than you will ever be.
The great thing about living on this small island is that the countryside is accessible. The UK has 15 National Parks for you to explore which means that no matter where you live, there will be a park within a few hours of where you live. We also benefit from a network of public paths and trails that can take you through countryside that you may ordinarily not pay attention to.
The only thing you need to remember is to dress for the occasion – we can have four seasons in one day, so a waterproof jacket is essential!
3. Catch up with friends
We are social beings. We need to have positive social interactions to help us cope with this insanely busy world that we live in. Our friends can lift our spirits when we are down and celebrate the triumphs when life is going to plan. When you are stressed you get caught up in a cycle of negative thoughts – your friends will be the people who can put a stop to it. They’ll give you a reality check but do so in a kind way – they know your history and so any solutions that they suggest to help you while you are stressed are more likely to be relevant to your situation.
It’s not just here say that catching up with friends can help beat stress – if you are a woman.
When stress rears its ugly head, the hormones cortisol and epinephrine react together and raise your blood pressure, so the blood’s sugar levels are circulated with greater efficiency – fuelling the fight or flight response to stress. However, there is a third hormone that comes into play – oxytocin.
Oxytocin promotes feelings of relaxation and nurturing and both men and women’s brains release it to counter balance the effect of cortisol and epinephrine. Men release much smaller amounts – hence the prevalence of fight or flight reactions; women on the other hand, react to stress by a tend-and-befriend response. During stressful periods, women reach out to other females who they have a close and stable attachment to. Befriending is a unique way that women respond to stress – it’s a physiological reaction.
So, if you are feeling stressed, a catch up with friends is a natural remedy and an opportunity to process what is happening and what can be done.
4. Read a book
We live in a digital age and spend most of our time looking at screens. When was the last time you picked up a printed book and sat down and read it? Devoting time to reading a book feels like a luxury that is only savoured when you are on holiday, which is ridiculous! It is at home when you are juggling the demands of work and family commitments that you would benefit most from reading a book. A 2009 study by the University of Sussex found that reading a book can reduce feelings of stress by up to 68% - reading not only distracts you from the stresses of daily life but lowers your blood pressure and eases muscles tension too.
Don’t stress about the book that you want to read – it’s not a competition about how high-brow you are, rather it is an opportunity to explore a subject matter that you want to read –50 Shades of Grey or a Joe Wicks recipe book – who cares? It’s about escaping into a different world or learning about something new.
A great quote made even better when Brad Pitt said them as Palahniuk’s Tyler Durden – but the sentiment behind the quote is correct. The more things that we own, the more of a burden we feel. Throughout normal living we obtain and keep more possessions than we need – we keep them just in case, but do you really need that broken plant pot? Do you need that jumper with holes in? You’ve kept it to do messy work such as decorating in, but will you remember to wear it when the time comes? Probably not!
As a first step, go through your wardrobe and try on your clothes – if your clothes don’t suit you, get rid – give to friends, eBay or the charity shop. Go through your children’s toys – if they are broken – bin them. If they are no longer played with, donate to charity, sell them on a Facebook page or give to another child. Go through your kitchen cupboards – if you have equipment that you no longer use – you don’t need it in your home. Be mercenary; be strict and take control.
Set aside 15 minutes a day to tackle your home’s clutter – a kitchen drawer, your shoe box, your airing cupboard. You will soon feel the benefit: lighter and less restricted by your possessions. Before you know it, from 15 minutes a day, your home will feel more ordered and less cluttered. You will feel that you now have a more pleasant space to relax in, and your feelings of stress will diminish.