My anxiety took a hike recently, and not in a good way. It didn’t F off for a few days on vacation, it increased to the point that it started having those uncomfortable physiological affects. Nerve pain in the upper back and a tight chest that doesn’t let up, and that’s without the fervour of the anxiety itself wreaking havoc in our brains. If you’ve had anxiety for any length of time, you might know what I’m talking about.
I can point the finger squarely at the release week of Valkyrie Cursed for this, because it was inevitably going to be a hectic week with bumps in the road. All in all, the release ended up being the best launch I’ve ever had by a huge margin, but this was my first time taking a launch seriously and it had its stresses. Still wouldn’t change a thing, as anything this important to me was always going to affect my anxiety.
Even after the stress of release week faded, my body didn’t get the memo. I’ll admit, staying in business mode (plus the current state of the UK re: pandemic), had self-care getting shoved down the list of priorities. But it really should have taken the top spot.
Last week, I had enough and decided to make what felt like a big effort to take care of my body. Thankfully, it didn’t involve eating vegetables (although I will sometimes do that because, you know, occasionally I have to be a responsible adult).
Let it be known that these “tricks” aren’t actually tricks at all. They are very obviously, very known ways of making our bodies relax that we forget to do because we think we don’t have time for them. This isn’t a list of tricks, this is a to-do list that we should complete every so often to make ourselves feel relaxed in body, if not in mind.
Take A Bath
There is an art to taking a bath. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, you don’t have to have bubbles (although in my opinion without bubbles, what’s the freaking point?), but you do have to have a tub full of hot water and you do need to be in it.
My husband never used to see the point in baths when he could just have a shower, but I recently discovered he was doing baths all wrong. His baths were twenty minutes long and he often checked work e-mails, which meant when he got out, he didn’t feel rested at all.
We need a good hour for our muscles to really unwind, and we need to make sure we aren’t exposed to stressful stimuli during this time. No work e-mails, no reading the comments on divisive social media posts, and no internal debate about our self-worth. Pick your distractions: positive daydreaming, watching a funny YouTube video, whatever you like, but no stress.
The result is a great feeling of relaxation that lasts even after we wake up the next morning – at least, that’s my experience. When my husband finally took a bath the way I did, he felt it too. It eased up my muscles to the point that I had no trouble breathing again and all the nerve pain disappeared. Take this time for yourself and really treat your body to relaxation.
Tea works, but honestly, something creamy is ideal for relaxation. I’m hesitant to recommend coffee because it’s a bit anti-relaxation (even if I’m a ridiculously big fan), but things like hot chocolate that isn’t too sweet or hot milk can be just the ticket.
These beverages often take a bit longer to prepare and so we either forget they’re even an option or just groan at the thought of having to make it. But (and especially when coupled with a bath) a nice creamy beverage really helps us unwind. Want to go that extra mile? Put on your comfiest pyjamas!
Something – Anything – That Isn’t TV Or Video Games
I understand that when we’re trying to relax, the first thing we think of is TV or video games. But in my experience, some of the stress contributing to the chronic anxiety in both mind and body is down to defaulting to watching TV or playing video games. They’re fun and a good way to unwind in small doses (or even just binging it for a week if we really need it), but I’ve found that doing something low-energy by not screen related can be good replacements.
Lately, I’ve been upping my walking game and enjoying the summer by getting out into the countryside and listening to music while losing myself in thought. (I’m finding new reasons every day to feel grateful for leaving London). If not walking, I’ve picked out an empty notebook and done some scribbling. The next step is to get back into calligraphy again.
I found that shaking things up and not watching hours of TV contributed to a slightly better mindset, which in turn helped my body unwind and relax.
Bear in mind that these things all worked for me, and probably all in conjunction with each other, but won’t necessarily work for others, depending on circumstances etc. But if this list even just reminds you to take some low-energy steps to feeling a little better than you do, it’s a win. Take care of yourself!