Saturday, 1 July 2017

Stressing Out and Calming Down

It's a stressful time in the world at the moment isn't it? I've also had, recently, a personally sad time, and one of the ways in which I cope with stress is ranting on this blog. So, since this is my blog, I'm going to rant about some of the ways in which I cope with stress.

A day in a nutshell

Yoga
Since November last year I've been on a health and fitness kick. I've made "lifestyle changes" and I'm pretty impressed with myself! I am proud to say that I'm now one of those totally irritating people who extols the virtues of sweet potato and kale, and does yoga every day. It's only a matter of time before I'm posting silhouettes of myself in tree-pose (vrksasana - I had to google it) on top of a mountain at sunset.

Attempting to do yoga with my yoga-buddy

I found a great channel on YouTube called Yoga With Adrienne; she's not too perky, or too hippy, but she is quirky and constructive, and I became addicted. Yoga has worked for me on a level beyond physical fitness; through connecting with my breath and movement I can take ten minutes to tune out the noise and chaos. It gives me a little bit of breathing space (literally) when I'm doing something just for me and not feeling guilty about it because it's good for me too!

Crafts
I often refer to myself as a Frustrated Creative. I long to be the type of artsy person who can learn an instrument really quickly, turn a doodle into a work of art, or write a novel or poem that resonates beyond my own brain. But I'm not. My musical ability is limited to singing (although nowadays it's mostly in the shower or while I'm doing the washing up) and about four songs - badly - on the ukulele. My artwork is only one step above the kind of pictures parents of toddlers stick to the fridge door, and my notebooks are filled with one line of poetry that I can't link together, or ideas for stories that I lack the ability to develop further.

Amigurumi ballerina

But I am good at crochet. I am the crazy lady on the bus with a ball of yarn and a crochet needle, knitting away while I listen to podcasts on politics, history or etymology. I find it relaxing to follow a pattern and know that, at the end of it, I have created something and educated myself at the same time. I'm now trying to learn origami, so my poor boyfriend will have to put up with scraps of paper littering the living room along with snippets of wool and fragments of crochet toy body-parts.

Music
I know I said I wasn't very good at the ukulele, and I'm not. Not at all. But I enjoy learning it. I can strum the chords, it's changing between them that I struggle with, so each piece I endeavour to play there are awkward gaps in the melody. But it's only for me, and maybe the occupant of the upstairs apartment who has to put up with me attempting to play Somewhere Over The Rainbow for the fiftieth time.

Learning to play Disney songs on the ukulele. Because I'm a grown-up.

I'd love to be able to play to a standard that someone could sing along with me, without leaving space for the gaps between chord changes. But that's practice. It's relaxing for me to sit with my little red ukulele and sing along myself as I stagger through a song, and it gives me a sense of achievement when I either get to the end, or grasp the beginning of a new song (the next challenge is Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, which is one of my favourites).

Reading and Writing
Anyone who has read this blog before, follows me on social media, or knows me offline, knows that I read a lot. I always have my Kindle and one or two books in my bag, and I'm not particularly fussy over what I read, although historical fiction and fantasy novels are my guilty pleasures. 

Books, books, books

However, when I'm reading for research I find I learn and absorb information better if I then write down what I've read; whether that's notes (I'm a margin scribbler) or blogs. Indeed, this blog was started, way back in 2014 (!) as part of a learning process while I was studying for my degree.
I love learning, and I cope with stress if I don't feel as though I'm 'stuck'. When I'm learning something new, I'm moving forward. And, to paraphrase Homer Simpson, whenever I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my head, so eventually learning new things will push whatever old thing I'm stressing about out and away.

Other Methods
Time alone, to reset. Taking a bath while reading a book. Stroking one of the cats and listening to them purr. Cleaning the house so my external world isn't as cluttered as my internal thought processes. Ticking just one thing off the mental to-do list. Ignoring social media, or at least trying to. Talking to my long-suffering boyfriend. And sleep: sleep is awesome.

How do you cope with stress?