how i relax (or at least try to)

As someone who is on edge all the time, I can find it hard to properly relax. In saying that, I think I have developed some strategies (with the help of many people) over the years that do help me relax. Because everyone is different , something I have struggled with is coming to terms with not understanding why a strategy didn’t work for me when it worked wonders for someone else. It’s hard when people are telling you all these life-changing strategies that they do to de-stress: just like that and they feel good to go. It still happens now, people offering unsolicited advice and even though I am wise enough to recognise that it is just an opinion and it might not work for me. There is still the optimist in me that it thinks: maybe this time it will work. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but more often than not, for me, these ‘strategies’ don’t work. 

My anxiety has warped into this huge monster that started off being just jittering butterflies to intense nausea and vomiting. Over my time since discovering that I actually had a condition, I have tried lots of things that have been suggested from therapists to my mum’s work friends. I would have no idea if any of them worked because my mind has a way of tricking me into believing if I don’t see any results straight away or soon than it doesn’t work and that I should abandon all hopes of ever feeling calm. I’ll be honest, that mindset doesn’t happen all the time but I will say that I still haven’t found anything that ‘cures’ my anxiety.

Apart from drugs (prescribed that is) I have tried: meditation, breathing techniques, a great deal of therapy, different therapists, a dog (hint: this tip works a treat), changing my diet, exercising, listening to music, eating and drinking ginger in all forms, self-talk, mantras, art, taking baths – I could go on for years talking in-depth about all these strategies. Instead, I will talk about a few that I like and we will go from there. 

I have always had a love and great appreciation for music. It has been an a constant in my life and especially through my mental health ups and downs. Now I’m not saying I discovered music as a form of therapy, a way of calming down so all I will say is that it works for me. For me, music is a wonderful distraction: focusing on different layers and lyrics. Obviously this doesn’t always work completely and sometimes I puke anyway. Like I said earlier, everyone is different so music might not be such a big part of your life like it is for me. And that’s okay. Recently I have been been making lots of different playlists for different moods or days or times. The playlist could be one song or lots of songs. When I want to listen to certain type of music all I need to do is scroll through some playlists and find one that suits the occasion. It’s brilliant really. 

Art is another thing that I could talk endlessly about but I will reinstate the fact that it helps me calm down. It isn’t something that I find myself doing on the bus so it’s something I do in the comfort of my own home. My favourite kind of art to ‘de-stress’ is grabbing whatever tool (pen/paintbrush/fingers/ scissors etc.) and putting it on some form of paper. I try not to think too much about what I’m doing – which coming from me is a bold statement to make. So instead of trying to make my mind go blank, I focus on other things like the paint strokes I am making or the way I am cutting out a photograph. The beauty of doing it by yourself in your room is that if it turns out shit – you just throw it out and call it a day. 

Doing some classic ‘self-care’ can be helpful. For me it involves making myself a nice smelling bath. Again, this is something that I’m sure is backed up with research and science through the aromatherapy-ness of the event. Alongside this, I like putting on face mask that offers to clear all my acne and along with it: my insecurities (I wish). I sometimes put on a movie or listen to a podcast. I find baths relax my muscles and I’m less stiff and uptight like I normally am during the day, almost like instant relief. Even though the sense of calm can often be short-lived, it is still worth every minute of it.

The nagging glass-half-full in me will continue to hope for a way that truly helps me with my anxiety and lessens its impact in my daily life. Until then, I will continue to try new things and push myself to not get so down when things don’t work out the way that I hoped. 

{picture: my sister in her happy place (plant nursery)}

clara x 2020

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