Beating holiday stress

Summer: longer days, a chance to get outdoors, live in the moment and make the most of the opportunities to spend time outdoors with friends and family.

But sometimes the reality is very different. And instead the children are driving you mad, you’re spending too much money and balancing work and homelife feels like a battle you’ve well and truly lost.

Summer isn’t always a fun and relaxing time. Instead it can bring additional stresses and strains to think about and manage. We asked five well-being experts for their advice and tips to help you keep your cool and take the stress out of summer.

Have a mind and body experience

Physical intelligence experts Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton offer these tips to help use the summer months to unwind and control your stress levels.

Truly Relax: Commit to using the summer in a restorative fashion, using energy wisely by balancing high energy activities with opportunities to recharge. Use REST:  (Retreat, Eat, Sleep, Treat) as a guide:

  • Retreat:  Spend time with family/friends (boosting oxytocin), ideally in nature.  Sunshine produces vitamin D, strengthening our immune system and building resilience.  Practice yoga or meditation to disconnect from the busy-ness of life. Ground yourself with good posture (for emotional and mental stability feel your feet on the ground/bottom in the chair and weight of your body distributed through your skeleton down into the ground) and paced breathing (regular breath pattern with longer out breath to reduce cortisol by expelling excess CO2).
  • Eat (healthy):  Enjoy the fresh produce generally more abundant in summer.  Experiment with recipes using healthy foods.  Stay hydrated as temperatures rise.
  • Sleep:  Sleep has a bigger impact on mental, emotional and physical performance than any waking activity. Plan a holiday where you can wake without an alarm, take more naps, and aim for seven hours of sleep minimum daily.
  • Treat:  Minimize addictive treats (sugar, alcohol).  Indulge in beneficial treats:  massage, physical activity, art, films, musical performances, whatever soothes your soul. 

Get Physical:  Warmer weather means more options for outdoor physical activity. Get your heart rate up and down at least 3 times a day -- consider yoga in the garden, a run on the beach, sailing or an outdoor tennis match to get the added benefit of sunshine.

Using these Physical Intelligence techniques will help you spend a restorative summer so that you can live a happier, calmer life.

Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton are the authors of new wellbeing book Physical Intelligence (Simon & Schuster), available now in ebook and hardback, priced at £14.99.

Pump up the volume on your happiness moments…

Happiness researcher, Dr Andy Cope is keen that you have more happiness moments, and that you share them:

Here’s my challenge. I’d like to up the ante and announce when you’re having a happy moment. You can celebrate it however you want, from a Harry Met Sally orgazmatron to punching of the air or a heel clicking dance around the grocery isle.

Notice your moments and announce them to the world. ‘I’m having a happiness moment…’

Dare to be a little bit odd. Become known as the family member who announces their happiness moments! Because calling them out rubs-off on everyone. Or save them up for the dinner table. It’s the perfect place to gather and re-live them. You smile more. Your children smile more. Your adults smile more. You rediscover an appetite for life.

Happiness, like depression, is a self-reinforcing cycle. It’s un upward spiral. Indeed, the greatest gift of happiness may not be in the feeling itself but rather in the accompanying thrill of possibility. Suddenly the world is in full surround sound HD 3D Techni-colour! The eye sees more clearly, the mind thinks more keenly, the heart beats faster and everything seems possible.

So I’m advocating that this holiday season you announce your happiness moments. Share them. And encourage others to do the same.

Dr Andy Cope is a happiness expert and bestselling author of The Little Book of Being Brilliant available now on Amazon. Find out more about Andy at www.artofbrilliance.co.uk

Be mindful in the midst of mayhem

Practical mindfulness techniques can offer a quick way to “press the pause button” in order to better complete your holiday to-do list – and more importantly, enjoy your break!  According to psychologist Dr Andrey Tang.

To restore a positive holiday feeling she says:

Take deep breaths: in through the nose for a count of three, hold for two, breathe out through the mouth for account of six.  Repeat the process three or four times.

Sometimes though when you are feeling stressed, simply being told to “calm down” or “breathe” is unhelpful, so instead, you can induce the same sensation by focusing on counting the number of paving stones you see, or bricks, or the “seconds” hand on a clock.

Stretch: The best thing about stretching is that it can be done anywhere, and not only will it help regulate your breathing, but you’ll be doing your posture a world of good.  Simply stretch your arms, your legs, and shake out your torso.  As you do, also think about one thing you are looking forward to this holiday!

Plan: Have a packing routine – list what you need, change the required amount of currency, ensure you have all medications, make arrangements with neighbours or have a system in place so you feel your house is secure.  Whatever your needs, be aware of them prior to the time you need to pack, and remember, aside from the essentials (passports, tickets and medicines), most things can be bought at your destination.

Dr Audrey Tang is a Chartered Psychologist and the author of The Leader's Guide to Mindfulness, published by FT Publishing, priced £14.99.

Find a sense of purpose

Personal development coach Bernardo Moya advises listening to your life in order to destress and find a true sense of purpose and direction. While you listen to your life, and consider all the amazing things that have happened to you, the bad things as well as the good, the times when you have felt out of kilter, the times you have felt absolutely right, you will notice certain patterns make themselves. There is a thread that is consistent throughout your past, that’s consistent with your passion and skills. That is where your power and purpose lies.    

This doesn’t mean that everything you’ve done in the past should dictate what you do in the future. If that were the case, then there would never be any change. Instead, be aware that your past holds valuable information about what you really enjoy doing, and that is an indication of who you are. Finding ways to do more of that this summer—of what brings you passion and purpose—that is what listening to your life will give you.                                            

Bernardo Moya is a leading personal development coach, founder of The Best You and author of The Question: Find Your True Purpose, which is published by Wiley, priced at £10.99, and is available now from Amazon.co.uk

In the moment

Family well-being expert Dani Binnington says yoga and mindfulness can always be relied on to help you relax.

What’s best about mindfulness is that you don’t have to change who you are and that you do not need to make extra time for it throughout your days. I love being mindful during my daily routine. It’s grounding, centres me and I feel much more able to focus on my jobs more clearly.

  • Practice a mindful walk where you absorb everything that is going on around you and notice your thoughts and feelings. Become acutely aware of your surroundings.
  • Take five minutes during your day to stretch your physical body, to open your shoulders, fold forwards and enjoy the flexibility in your limbs but also in your mind. Creating space physically can help feel more flexible in our thinking too.
  • Repeat a mantra. Choose a mantra, a word or phrase, which suggests calm and relaxation to you. Such as ‘I am enough, I am enough, I am enough’. Make it a habit of repeating your mantra several times whilst you boil the kettle for example or whilst you wait for the bus.

Dani Binnington is a yoga practitioner, family wellbeing expert and creator of www.healthywholeme.com, which is full of delicious recipes, wellbeing tips and inspiration for a healthy family lifestyle

 

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