The work week seemed like it was never going to end. Walking in the door at home, your heart sinks because the dishwasher, which you had turned on before you left in the morning, decided to flood all over the kitchen floor. Not one person (other than your mom) liked your last post on Facebook. The cat sounds like it might be coming down with some kind of intestinal issue. What’s more, you have a major assignment due by the end of the week that you are clear as mud on. What in the world is a stressed university student trembling on the edge to do?
Due to decades of anxiety and low self-esteem, I have been moved to develop a long list of coping skills that don’t involve screaming at my spouse or running to the nearest pharmacy. Close friends have praised me for teaching them the art of Zen (okay, the importance of napping and massage). Prone to panic attacks and blindingly overwhelmed whenever my work load went into overload, I had no choice but to create effective relaxation techniques. It was either that or surrender to misery and gloom, and that’s no fun for anyone. I am also a firm believer in sharing the knowledge I have gleaned with others who have forgotten the importance of soul salvation whilst glued to their electronic devices. The truth is difficult times test our mettle; pushing through them with healthy survival strategies develops confidence and a sense of humour. But first, phone a plumber before the flood spreads out from the kitchen and read on.
Detaching from electronics and reacquainting ourselves with all five senses is the ideal way to prepare for rest. Achieving a state of bliss requires preparation, but need not cost an arm and a leg (remember the goal is inner peace, not maxed out credit cards—unless you find bills you can’t afford to pay relaxing). Essentials begin with soothing music playing softly in the background, preferably with the sweet sounds of nature that bring back happy memories of last summer’s carefree camping trips. Tuck away your electronic device that is playing the music so as not to be tempted to tap on all those other icons. Exotic scented candles, essential oils or incense wafting in your atmosphere have also been known to transform a state of deep despair into a state of calm (Eau de Flooded Kitchen Floor does not). Remember to stock up on sea salt and bath bombs to warm and relax angry, tense muscles in the tub. Feel like crying? Let the tears flow. Pent up emotions only result in yelling at some poor sucker who will look on at you in horror at the evil creature you have become. Bad karma! Moreover, crying has been scientifically proven to release chemicals from the body that can otherwise cause disease—Google it later.
Presence in the moment is integral to a blue state of mind, something Buddhists refer to when in the meditative state. Listening to what your body is telling you (please let me sleep), and believing you need relaxation is the first step to taking action toward achieving your goal. Drop into a local yoga class or download a meditation video on YouTube. Tune in to the comedy channel or watch funny movies. The characters should remind you we’re all imperfect and to lighten up. Choose movies that make you laugh out loud and do not induce nightmares or deep thoughts that will keep you thinking long into the night. Additionally, you can bring meditation into any activity you enjoy and forget about the time, whether cooking, floating in the tub, or tinkering on your car. Focusing on the here and now works wonders on a frazzled brain.
Do whatever works for you to keep the blood pressure down. Lifting gargantuan weights, jogging near traffic, or joining a kick boxing class are not relaxation techniques, and, in my mind, akin to torture. Think gentle, soothing, low key, peaceful. The aim is to rejuvenate and restore your state of mind to a place where you can focus and think clearly again to deal with the stresses that inevitably pop up in day to day life. Soft sounds, fresh water to drink, low lighting, pleasant scents, and no distractions for your mind (squirrel!) are the ingredients of a tranquil atmosphere.
Now that you are on your way to emanating serenity and positive thoughts, think of one good deed and take action. Call your Mom and Dad. Take kitty to the vet before it develops into something serious. Brew your roommate a nice strong latte because they deserve a break too. Now dive into that assignment with the cool confidence of the superstar student you know you are. Keep that chill Christmas spirit all through the year ahead.