Does the annual escape leave you feeling more ‘argh!’ than ‘ahhh’? Here’s how to have your calmest summer on record with a little help from the experts
With long, balmy days and beautifulsunny destinations begging to beexplored, summer seems theperfect time to recharge yourbatteries. However, this time of year can actuallyleave us feeling more frazzled than ever, thanksto an endless (and expensive) social calendar,packing woes, travel chaos and a house full ofchildren, to name but a few reasons. In fact, in asurvey by sterilising experts Milton, one in fourparents admit to not even booking a holiday dueto the stress of travelling with the kids.While a certain level of holiday-related stressis inevitable, it can have an impact on yourwellbeing if you can’t keep it under control. So,whether the root of your anxiety is dealing withthe never-ending school holidays, a fear of travelor a lack of much-needed shut-eye, read on forthe latest, expert tips to help take the hassle outof summer, allowing you to have a well-earned,rejuvenating break from your normal routine…
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If you feel generally overwhelmed and stressed, trymindfulness. It has been the go-to wellbeing trendfor the past few years, and with good reason.‘Mindfulness now has a good deal of researchsupport for its efficacy,’ explains Dr Meg Arroll,psychologist and author (drmegarroll.com). ‘Whenpractised regularly, it can help people cope withstress and feel more in control of an ever hecticand demanding environment.’ And contrary tobelief, you don’t need buckets of time in order topractise. In fact, you can be mindful in as little asone minute a day. But what is it and how do you doit? Kaia Roman, author of The Joy Plan: How I took30 Days to Stop Worrying, Quit Complaining, andFind Ridiculous Happiness (Sourcebooks, £25.99)says that mindfulness is simply the act of bringingyour attention to the present moment. ‘Even oneminute of deep breaths a day can make a profounddifference,’ she says. ‘You don’t have to be inyoga clothes, perched on a round cushion in asilent room to practise mindfulness either – youdon’t even have to be sitting down or have youreyes closed!’Beautiful holiday surroundings allow you aperfect opportunity to embrace mindfulness. ‘Asummer holiday in the great outdoors is the perfecttime to unplug, leave your electronic devices in adrawer, and immerse your senses in your naturalsurroundings,’ says Roman. When you’re out innature, focus in on each of your senses (smell,taste, sound, touch and sight) one at a time.This helps you connect with your body, noticesensations that are happening at that moment,and take a mental break. ‘You might notice a whiffof the salty sea in the air, or the delicious sensationof breeze on your cheeks,’ she says.Whether you opt for 30 minutes of meditationor a five-minute podcast by the pool, the wonderfulthing about mindfulness is its flexibility.
Chloe Brotheridge, hypnotherapist andauthor of The Anxiety Solution: A QuieterMind, A Calmer You (Michael Joseph,£12.99). ‘It can be easy to want to buryyour head in the sand when it comes tofinancial worries but, by knowing exactlywhat your ingoings and outgoings are, youcan make a plan and get back in control.’She also recommends avoiding imaginingthe worst-case scenario. Get clear aboutexactly what it is you’re most afraid of,then try to see it from the perspective of arational friend. ‘How would they reassureyou? What kind words of advice wouldthey have? Chances are the worst casescenario is very unlikely, and you’dhandle it better than your anxious mindmakes out.’
As anyone who’s spent a restless nightwill know, stress and lack of sleep areintrinsically linked. Pre-holiday stress,warmer evenings and difficulty sleepingin a new bed (or ‘the first night effect’*) canmake sleeping even harder. ‘Disturbancesin the natural rise and fall of [stresshormone] cortisol can affect your sleep,and in turn, lack of sleep has been linkednot only with poorer performance butalso obesity, diabetes and the healthconsequences of these conditions. Notto mention dips in mood and libido!Brotheridge suggests keeping yourbedroom strictly for sleep and sex andmaking sure it’s cool and dark. Accordingto the Sleep Council, for the perfect holidayslumber, you should set the temperature ofyour hotel room to 16-18°C. It also advises packing your own pillow, some earplugsand an eye mask for some home comfortand to block out any outside distractions.Making the most of the summer weatherand getting outside in the daylight will alsobenefit your sleep, says Dr Guy Meadows,sleep expert at Bensons for Beds(bensonsforbeds.co.uk). ‘A long walk inthe morning sun is not only good for yourhealth, but will boost your serotonin levelspromoting greater relaxation and deepersleep for the night to come.’ On top ofgetting outside, Meadows recommendsmaking sure your bedroom is spotless anddust-free. ‘After a long winter, it can be agood idea to give your bedroom a deepclean,’ he says. ‘Excessive dust such asis commonly found under the bed candisturb sleep quality, especially if youhave allergies.’ A clean bedroom is alsoassociated with a quiet mind, which helpsto promote deep, refreshing sleep, saysMeadows. Lastly, slow down and treatyourself to a delicious, healthy breakfast inbed. ‘Having the odd lazy morning like thiscan help reset the balance between workand recovery, recharging you mentally,emotionally and physically.’ That’ssomething we can get on board with…
QUASH YOUR TRAVEL TROUBLES
The opportunity to travel and makememories is definitely a summer highlight.Unfortunately, for many, travelling throwsup a range of anxieties including the fearof flying (aerophobia) which affects aroundone in 10 people. The key here is not tolet your travel fears get in the way ofholiday plans and avoid travelling or itcould exacerbate any existing stress, saysBrotheridge. ‘The best thing to do is tolearn some relaxation techniques such as 3, 5 breathing (breathing in for a count of 3and out for 5, expanding your belly on thein breath) and then step-by-step, facingyour fear.’ For example, if trains make youanxious, try going for a short train ridebefore your planned trip; take deep breathsand try to just ‘allow’ the anxious feelingsto be there without fighting them. ‘By doingthe thing that makes
you anxious, youteach your amygdala (the part of your brainresponsible for the fight or flight responsethat trains are not, in fact, dangerous, andslowly your amygdala calms down,’explains Brotheridge. ‘Before you travel,visualise the trip going well – imaginingyourself feeling relaxed and confident andenjoying arriving at your destination.’ If yousuffer badly from aerophobia, Anxiety UKrecommends the Stress Free Flying CD(£10.95; anxietyuk.org.uk), which you canlisten to for the duration of the flight. If yourfear stops you from travelling, why not trycognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)?
HAVE SOME YOU-TIME
Sure, it’s fun to have family and children around in summer, but it can also be stressful! Financial pressures, findingconstant activities to keep young mindsoccupied and sibling bickering can be acommon source of tension. This is why youshould always take some time for yourself,says Brotheridge. ‘Try to build in some timefor you; even if it’s just 10 minutes,’ shesays. ‘We all need time and space torecharge, so ask for support from thosearound you. It’s not selfish to do this –everyone else in the family will benefit fromyou being in a calmer, happier state ofmind.’ How you spend your time is upto you, but Brotheridge recommendsexercise. ‘For many people, exercise is anessential part of their anxiety management,’she explains. ‘If you can combine it with something sociable such as a walking orrunning club, that’s even better.’ Talking topeople about how you’re feeling can behugely helpful, she adds. ‘Taking a breakfor a walk or yoga class is a brilliant idea asshort breaks are essential for managingstress.’ Brotheridge also recommendstraining your brain to be positive byspending a minute or two identifying thegood things that happened that day. ‘Thisis a nice activity to do with your partner,housemate or children over dinner in theevening,’ she says.Why not get your children involved? ‘Asparents, we constantly wonder if we’remaking the right choices for our kids, butremember we teach them more by ouractions than with our words,’ says Roman.She recommends regularly doing breathingpractice with your children – even just fora minute. ‘Taking the time to breathe withour kids shows them that we’re just as dedicated to being calm and peaceful aswe’d like them to be.’
TAKE A BREATHING BREAK
‘Meditating can be hard whenyou’re stressed. I often find it hardto quieten my thoughts, so I trymindful breathing instead,’ saysKaia Roman, author of The Joy Plan:How I took 30 Days to Stop Worrying,Quit Complaining, and Find RidiculousHappiness (Sourcebooks, £25.99).According to the Harvard HealthBlog, deep, slow breathing is theoldest, best-known technique todecrease stress, and may helplower blood pressure.
Square Breath: Breathe in to acount of four, hold the breath fora count of four, breathe out to acount of four, and wait for a countof four before breathing again.
Sphere Breath: Put yourfingertips together to form asphere with your two hands. Asyou inhale, inflate the sphere. Asyou exhale, flatten it. Imagine yourbelly filling with air as your handsform a sphere.
Shoulder Roll Breath: Take adeep breath in through your noseas you roll your shoulders up toyour ears. Roll your shouldersdown as you breathe out throughyour mouth. Repeat slowly in acontinuous movement.
Mountain Breath: Stand and,as you inhale through your nose,raise your arms as high as you canand bring your palms togetherover your head. Imagine you’re astall as a mountain. Exhale throughyour mouth, bringing your palmstogether in front of your chest.
Glo Retreats, Sweden
This bespoke and intimate wellnessretreat combines osteopathy,guided walks, nutritious food andmeditation. From £895 for a sharedroom, not including travel.
Epic Sana Mindfulness Retreat, Algarve
This four-step mindfulnessprogramme is designed to revitalisemind, body and soul. Five nightscost from £1,675pp for full-boardsingle occupancy, including returnflights and transfers.
Rosa Alpina, Yoga and Meditation Package
Try this new package, driven by theexpertise of visiting instructor DrSuraj Jokhushankar, betweenAugust 6 and September 10, 2017.You’ll enjoy meditation, reflexology,spa treatments and yoga sessions.€2,650pp B&B based on two sharing.
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