Have your hap­pi­est hol­i­day ever!

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

Health & Fitness - - Contents - WORDS: Becky Fletcher

How to keep calm and en­joy your break this sum­mer.

With long, balmy days and beau­ti­ful, sunny des­ti­na­tions beg­ging to be ex­plored, sum­mer seems the per­fect time to recharge your bat­ter­ies. How­ever, this time of year can ac­tu­ally leave us feel­ing more fraz­zled than ever, thanks to an end­less (and ex­pen­sive) so­cial cal­en­dar, pack­ing woes, travel chaos and a house full of chil­dren, to name but a few rea­sons. In fact, in a sur­vey by ster­il­is­ing ex­perts Mil­ton, one in four par­ents ad­mit to not even book­ing a hol­i­day due to the stress of trav­el­ling with the kids.

While a cer­tain level of hol­i­day-re­lated stress is in­evitable, it can have an im­pact on your well­be­ing if you can’t keep it un­der con­trol. So, whether the root of your anx­i­ety is deal­ing with the never-end­ing school hol­i­days, a fear of travel or a lack of much-needed shut-eye, read on for the lat­est, ex­pert tips to help take the has­sle out of sum­mer, al­low­ing you to have a well-earned, re­ju­ve­nat­ing break from your nor­mal rou­tine…

BE MIND­FUL

If you feel gen­er­ally over­whelmed and stressed, try mind­ful­ness. It has been the go-to well­be­ing trend for the past few years, and with good rea­son. ‘Mind­ful­ness now has a good deal of re­search sup­port for its ef­fi­cacy,’ ex­plains Dr Meg Ar­roll, psy­chol­o­gist and au­thor (drmegar­roll.com). ‘When prac­tised reg­u­larly, it can help peo­ple cope with stress and feel more in con­trol of an ever hec­tic and de­mand­ing en­vi­ron­ment.’ And con­trary to be­lief, you don’t need buck­ets of time in or­der to prac­tise. In fact, you can be mind­ful in as lit­tle as one minute a day. But what is it and how do you do

it? Kaia Ro­man, au­thor of The Joy Plan: How I took 30 Days to Stop Wor­ry­ing, Quit Com­plain­ing, and

Find Ridicu­lous Hap­pi­ness (Source­books, £25.99) says that mind­ful­ness is sim­ply the act of bring­ing your at­ten­tion to the present mo­ment. ‘Even one minute of deep breaths a day can make a pro­found dif­fer­ence,’ she says. ‘You don’t have to be in yoga clothes, perched on a round cush­ion in a silent room to prac­tise mind­ful­ness ei­ther – you don’t even have to be sit­ting down or have your eyes closed!’

Beau­ti­ful hol­i­day sur­round­ings al­low you a per­fect op­por­tu­nity to em­brace mind­ful­ness. ‘A sum­mer hol­i­day in the great out­doors is the per­fect time to un­plug, leave your elec­tronic de­vices in a drawer, and im­merse your senses in your nat­u­ral sur­round­ings,’ says Ro­man. When you’re out in na­ture, fo­cus in on each of your senses (smell, taste, sound, touch and sight) one at a time. This helps you con­nect with your body, no­tice sen­sa­tions that are hap­pen­ing at that mo­ment, and take a men­tal break. ‘You might no­tice a whiff of the salty sea in the air, or the de­li­cious sen­sa­tion of breeze on your cheeks,’ she says.

Whether you opt for 30 min­utes of med­i­ta­tion or a five-minute pod­cast by the pool, the won­der­ful thing about mind­ful­ness is its flex­i­bil­ity.

BUD­GET CARE­FULLY

Do you have a cal­en­dar so full of sum­mer events you’re feel­ing the fi­nan­cial pinch? Ac­cord­ing to re­search**, just un­der half of mums feel mon­eyre­lated pres­sure in the sum­mer months. Not to men­tion sum­mer wed­dings – which, on av­er­age, cost a guest £432 each time, re­veals Amer­i­can Ex­press. But there are easy steps to keep things in con­trol and beat the anx­i­ety. ‘Have a bud­get,’ says

‘You don’t have to be in yoga clothes, on a cush­ion in a silent room to prac­tise mind­ful­ness. You don’t even have to sit down or close your eyes’

Chloe Brotheridge, hyp­nother­a­pist and au­thor of The Anx­i­ety So­lu­tion: A Qui­eter

Mind, A Calmer You (Michael Joseph, £12.99). ‘It can be easy to want to bury your head in the sand when it comes to fi­nan­cial wor­ries but, by know­ing ex­actly what your in­go­ings and out­go­ings are, you can make a plan and get back in con­trol.’ She also rec­om­mends avoid­ing imag­in­ing the worst-case sce­nario. Get clear about ex­actly what it is you’re most afraid of, then try to see it from the per­spec­tive of a ra­tio­nal friend. ‘How would they re­as­sure you? What kind words of ad­vice would they have? Chances are the worst case sce­nario is very un­likely, and you’d han­dle it bet­ter than your anx­ious mind makes out.’

WE LOVE: Cleo app (meet­cleo.com) is like Siri for your money. It uses ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to mon­i­tor your money habits.

SLEEP BET­TER

As any­one who’s spent a rest­less night will know, stress and lack of sleep are in­trin­si­cally linked. Pre-hol­i­day stress, warmer evenings and dif­fi­culty sleep­ing in a new bed (or ‘the first night ef­fect’*) can make sleep­ing even harder. ‘Dis­tur­bances in the nat­u­ral rise and fall of [stress hor­mone] cor­ti­sol can af­fect your sleep, and in turn, lack of sleep has been linked not only with poorer per­for­mance but also obe­sity, di­a­betes and the health con­se­quences of th­ese con­di­tions. Not to men­tion dips in mood and li­bido!

Brotheridge sug­gests keep­ing your be­d­room strictly for sleep and sex and mak­ing sure it’s cool and dark. Ac­cord­ing to the Sleep Coun­cil, for the per­fect hol­i­day slum­ber, you should set the tem­per­a­ture of your ho­tel room to 16-18°C. It also ad­vises pack­ing your own pil­low, some earplugs and an eye mask for some home com­fort and to block out any out­side dis­trac­tions.

Mak­ing the most of the sum­mer weather and get­ting out­side in the day­light will also ben­e­fit your sleep, says Dr Guy Mead­ows, sleep ex­pert at Ben­sons for Beds (ben­sons­forbeds.co.uk). ‘A long walk in the morn­ing sun is not only good for your health, but will boost your sero­tonin lev­els, pro­mot­ing greater re­lax­ation and deeper sleep for the night to come.’ On top of get­ting out­side, Mead­ows rec­om­mends mak­ing sure your be­d­room is spot­less and dust-free. ‘Af­ter a long win­ter, it can be a good idea to give your be­d­room a deep clean,’ he says. ‘Ex­ces­sive dust such as is com­monly found un­der the bed can dis­turb sleep qual­ity, es­pe­cially if you have al­ler­gies.’ A clean be­d­room is also as­so­ci­ated with a quiet mind, which helps to pro­mote deep, re­fresh­ing sleep, says Mead­ows. Lastly, slow down and treat your­self to a de­li­cious, healthy break­fast in bed. ‘Hav­ing the odd lazy morn­ing like this can help re­set the bal­ance between work and re­cov­ery, recharg­ing you men­tally, emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally.’ That’s some­thing we can get on board with...

QUASH YOUR TRAVEL TROUBLES

The op­por­tu­nity to travel and make mem­o­ries is def­i­nitely a sum­mer high­light. Un­for­tu­nately, for many, trav­el­ling throws up a range of anx­i­eties in­clud­ing the fear of fly­ing (aero­pho­bia) which af­fects around one in 10 peo­ple. The key here is not to let your travel fears get in the way of hol­i­day plans and avoid trav­el­ling or it could ex­ac­er­bate any ex­ist­ing stress, says Brotheridge. ‘The best thing to do is to learn some re­lax­ation tech­niques such as

3, 5 breath­ing (breath­ing in for a count of 3 and out for 5, ex­pand­ing your belly on the in breath) and then step-by-step, fac­ing your fear.’ For ex­am­ple, if trains make you anx­ious, try go­ing for a short train ride be­fore your planned trip; take deep breaths and try to just ‘al­low’ the anx­ious feel­ings to be there with­out fight­ing them. ‘By do­ing the thing that makes you anx­ious, you teach your amyg­dala (the part of your brain re­spon­si­ble for the fight or flight re­sponse) that trains are not, in fact, dan­ger­ous, and slowly your amyg­dala calms down,’ ex­plains Brotheridge. ‘Be­fore you travel, vi­su­alise the trip go­ing well – imag­in­ing your­self feel­ing re­laxed and con­fi­dent and en­joy­ing ar­riv­ing at your des­ti­na­tion.’ If you suf­fer badly from aero­pho­bia, Anx­i­ety UK rec­om­mends the Stress Free Fly­ing CD (£10.95; anx­i­etyuk.org.uk), which you can lis­ten to for the du­ra­tion of the flight. If your fear stops you from trav­el­ling, why not try cog­ni­tive 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, find­ing con­stant ac­tiv­i­ties to keep young minds oc­cu­pied and sib­ling bick­er­ing can be a com­mon source of ten­sion. This is why you should al­ways take some time for your­self, says Brotheridge. ‘Try to build in some time for you; even if it’s just 10 min­utes,’ she says. ‘We all need time and space to recharge, so ask for sup­port from those around you. It’s not self­ish to do this – ev­ery­one else in the fam­ily will ben­e­fit from you be­ing in a calmer, hap­pier state of mind.’ How you spend your time is up to you, but Brotheridge rec­om­mends ex­er­cise. ‘For many peo­ple, ex­er­cise is an essen­tial part of their anx­i­ety man­age­ment,’ she ex­plains. ‘If you can com­bine it with some­thing so­cia­ble such as a walk­ing or run­ning club, that’s even bet­ter.’ Talk­ing to peo­ple about how you’re feel­ing can be hugely help­ful, she adds. ‘Tak­ing a break for a walk or yoga class is a bril­liant idea as short breaks are essen­tial for manag­ing stress.’ Brotheridge also rec­om­mends train­ing your brain to be pos­i­tive by spend­ing a minute or two iden­ti­fy­ing the good things that hap­pened that day. ‘This is a nice ac­tiv­ity to do with your part­ner, house­mate or chil­dren over din­ner in the evening,’ she says.

Why not get your chil­dren in­volved? ‘As par­ents, we con­stantly won­der if we’re mak­ing the right choices for our kids, but re­mem­ber we teach them more by our ac­tions than with our words,’ says Ro­man. She rec­om­mends reg­u­larly do­ing breath­ing prac­tice with your chil­dren – even just for a minute. ‘Tak­ing the time to breathe with our kids shows them that we’re just as ded­i­cated to be­ing calm and peace­ful as we’d like them to be.’

MIND­FUL­NESS ZAPPER: Mo­bile phone use can ag­gra­vate anx­i­ety and stress. ‘Try put­ting your mo­bile on aero­plane mode af­ter 7pm,’ says Brotheridge.

‘Try to build in some time for you; even if it’s just 10 min­utes. It’s not self­ish to do this – the whole fam­ily will ben­e­fit from you be­ing calmer’

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