“Calgon, take me away!”. You may remember this famous battle cry of weary women everywhere who were encouraged to slide into a warm, bubble bath to escape their daily stressors in this popular television commercial from the 1970s. Perhaps this is how bubble baths first became synonymous with self-care and is still going strong fifty years later!
In times of stress, it is normal to want to “escape” but it can feel almost impossible to do when we are juggling a number of demands or responsibilities. We often look forward to a holiday or vacation to bring much anticipated relief from our usual routines. Unfortunately, they never seem to arrive soon enough! But there are a number of ways we can incorporate “mini”- mental health holidays into daily routines for some much needed stress relief.
- Get Lost in a Good Book Give yourself a mini-mental health holiday by losing yourself in another time or place. Hang out with your favourite characters or visit a location that you’ve never been and enjoy the benefits of going on a trip without having to leave your home. Although TV or movies can offer a similar escape, getting lost in a good book allows you to use your imagination and fire up the creative part of your brain that may have gone quiet while you were busy managing your stress.
- Mix Up Your Routine If you always go to the same coffee shop or gas station, try visiting the shops a little further down the street or in another part of town. Every making a small change can mix up the monotony of going through the same motions every day. Take a different route and notice the change in your surroundings. You may even discover some new favourite spots along the way!
- Focus on One Thing at a Time One of the worst things that happens when we are stressed is that our brain is constantly reminding us of what we need to do next. There can never be relief when we are continuously focused on what is left to do (which is usually a never ending loop). So instead of wishing you were somewhere else, allow yourself to be present. Give yourself permission to stop and take a visual snapshot, soaking in all of the experience of whatever it is you are doing at that moment.
- Listen to Someone Who Inspires You This person might be a celebrity, a favourite author or a beloved friend or family member. Who inspires calmness in you? What wisdom do you need to manage your current stress? Spending time with a treasured friend or just listening to your favourite podcast can interrupt the stress response in our brain and offer a new perspective. If you can’t plan a visit with your favourite person, imagine what they might say to you to support you during this time.
- Put the Stress Down For A Minute Just like carrying a heavy suitcase, sometimes putting your stress down for a short break can help you to regain strength to carry it a little further. It’s not always possible to get rid of the full load (but do take a few things out if you can!). Visualize yourself putting your stress into a suitcase and setting it on the ground. Then take a little walk, stretch, eat, get some sleep. Leave the stress temporarily behind and take the time to rest and rejuvenate in order to prepare for the rest of the journey.
In addition to these strategies, you should always follow the good sage advice of caring for your physical health – like sleep, nutrition, hydration and activity. Tending to your relationships, social activities and spiritual health will also support positive mental health functioning. The strategies provided are meant to call your attention to the many ways that we can give ourselves a mini-mental health holiday – without having to spend a lot of money or leave town!