We live in interesting times. There is so much divisiveness, anxiety, paranoia, anger, fear and uncertainty sloshing about in out lives that it is hardly surprising that most people are, to a greater or lesser degree, flailing around trying to find some equilibrium. I’ve always thought of myself as reasonably stable (within my definition of that anyway), but this year has been a strain even on my mental wellbeing. This weekend I had a bit of a reset and everything seems much better today, so I thought I’d share a few things in case it helps anyone else.
Towards the end of last week I was feeling enormously stressed for various reasons. The endless onslaught of Covid-related issues has really not helped anyone. The vitriolic divisiveness of Brexit has seamlessly transferred into angry rants about masks, lockdown, stock-piling, high street pedestrianisation, etc., complete with all the mud-slinging and/or conspiracy theories. The unity we felt at the start of the pandemic has evaporated like smoke and we are once again polarising into angry mobs. And if it’s not Covid, there’s always climate change, politics (ours or another country’s) and a whole host of other issues to enrage us. Add to that, personal uncertainty about work/income, being able to see family and friends, not to mention any other personal issues that arise, and it’s all too easy to start unravelling at the edges, or even in the middle.
The media has a lot to answer for – both social and mainstream. Its primary purposes seems to be to yank our chains, make us react, usually in a knee-jerk and negative way, or make us afraid. Even if you manage to resist initially, the feed of the same stories from all quarters is relentless and there are not enough cute puppy/kitten pics to balance it out. The solution? Step away.
When you find yourself constantly muttering darkly, shouting at the screen or the conspiracy theories start to make sense, it’s either time to get a tinfoil hat or to press the reset button. I didn’t go for the hat, though I am fond of a stylish chapeau, so it always remains an option. So, how to reset?
I was alone this weekend (DH was away for a few days) and this initially added to my anxiety. But, I’m an introvert at heart (albeit an extrovert one) and the alone time was therapeutic. I say alone, but there was dog – dogs are always good for the spirit and the soul – tea (and excellent home-baked cookies) with a friend, fish and chips, chats with acquaintances and strangers that I met and walks in the woods. I cannot stress the extent to which a walk in the woods is therapeutic. It is my happy place and invariably repairs that which ails my head space. In the company of dogs, but not people, there is something calming about trees rustling in the breeze, whispering that all will be well.
Normally, I retreat into books as an escape, but this weekend required no viewing compromises, so I binged watched Harlots. Very enjoyable it was too, with fabulous costumes, fruity language, sex, drugs, death, drama and humour. Mary Whitehouse was probably spinning in her grave when they first aired that 😀
Of course, having a few days away from work always helps. I’ve had a fairly full-on few weeks as I have a part-time (increasingly full-time) job, as well as my own business activities. The former has been rather stressful, partly due to the high pressure environment, but also the learning curve, all the associated anxiety of a new job in an unfamiliar role and my own business to maintain. Fortunately, although I did have some business-related activity, I had no actual work to complete, so it was a break on all fronts. Yes, a few days away before the next onslaught was most necessary.
As my reset weekend progressed, I found my usual sense of calm returning, along with my appetite and creativity. I find it very difficult to be creative when I am stressed. Some people use art for therapy, but I find that I need to be in the right frame of mind for the kind of art I do, which is usually detailed and requires concentration. I can’t go in all jittery and out of sorts. It’s usually fine once I begin, but the beginning is too huge a step and I find excuses not to, or pick it up only to put it down again before I’ve really done anything. So, it was a very good indicator of a return to equilibrium that I have begun a new piece. I even managed to find the, well, not exactly enthusiasm, to do the hoovering. The idea of baking something even drifted across my mind before being shooed back to the den of sugary temptation from whence it escaped. Though, I did snarf down the last few caramelised biscuits with my pot of tea and all was well.
Oh, and I also had a nice (and expensive) haircut, admittedly just before the weekend of reset. It is an annual (occasionally more frequent) indulgence when I get tired of cutting it myself and want a proper job done on the back. It is a relaxing pamper and a good haircut does wonders for your self-confidence.
So that was my reset. Nothing complicated. Here is my recipe:
Time, 1 bunch (a weekend or 2-3 days with no demands is ideal)
A sprinkle of Indulgence
Nature, fresh (3-4 hours, ideally in woodland)
Solitude (to taste)
Dog* (at least one)
*other pets may be substituted
For the Topping (optional):
Take the Time and carefully remove the demands on it. Rubbing in a little Solitude at this point will help with this as it will loosen the layer of compromise. Be careful not to over-season with Solitude if you are an Extrovert as this may cause your rise to fail. Add the Dog (or other pet) to aid removal of stress and additional Solitude to taste.
Fill the Time with some fresh Nature and whatever else you feel like doing, including nothing, and allow to rise in a warm place for at least a day. A sunny spot is ideal, if available. Add the sprinkle of Indulgence at any point, though be careful not to overdo it or the result may end up too heavy.
Once risen, bake until the crust is golden and resilient. The centre should remain soft, light and spongy enough to bounce back. For best results, enjoy with a topping of creativity.
I have one more day off before an eight day run of early morning shift work and pressure, but I am not longer filled with dread and anxiety. I feel equipped once more to deal with whatever challenges are thrown at me and take them in my stride. DH is returning earlier than anticipated and we are off for a walk in the woods, followed by my first pub visit since March. DD has asked to come along. (Having your teenager willingly spend time in your company is always an unexpected joy). The sun is shining and, for now at least, all feels right with the world 🙂
28 September 2020