Unrelenting dings, whooshes, and beeps emanate from your computer, tablet, and phone, signaling the pressure of work, family, and social demands.
The Internet urges us to Get Stuff Done, to learn a new language in the morning, pen a hit novel in the afternoon, and find the time in between to bake banana bread… in a freshly painted kitchen.
We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and have unrealistic expectations on what we should be achieving, crossing tasks off lists, and feeling like we need to keep busy. Our new social online video calls exhaust us.
Our mental wellbeing is at stake.
Let’s stop toxic productivity, and focus instead on recharging, and refreshing, our minds. By undertaking some much-needed and welcomed rest, we’ll be able to shed some light on the tasks that we want to focus on, rather than the ones we don’t.
Go to Sleep
We all know that a bad night’s sleep can leave us feeling grumpy and groggy, but it’s vital to understand that regular sleep deprivation can also affect our health.
In Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep, he says “…the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life”.
He goes on, “The leading causes of disease and death in developed nations — diseases that are crippling health-care systems, such as heart disease, obesity, dementia, diabetes, and cancer — all have recognized causal links to a lack of sleep.”
Sleep helps us to process and store the huge amount of information our brains take in every day, and deep sleep helps the brain to calm down, and to drop our blood pressure.
During the lockdown, you may have found that your sleep patterns have changed. Perhaps it’s left you feeling anxious.
UC Berkeley researcher Walker discovered that deep sleep “seems to be a natural anxiolytic (anxiety inhibitor), so long as we get it each and every night.” In a nutshell, to reduce anxiety, we need to sleep.
So, how do we get a better night’s sleep? Here are 3 tips to put you on the path to successful slumber.
- Paint your bedroom blue. The colour blue is associated with feelings of calm and can help to lower blood pressure and heart rate. People who have blue bedrooms tend to sleep longer, so get your painting overalls on.
- Crack open a window. The ideal temperature for sleep is 65°F (18.3°C). If you are too hot or too cold while sleeping, it may cause restlessness.
- Banish blue light. The presence of artificial blue light in the evenings tricks your body into thinking it’s the day. Remove laptops and mobile phones from your bedroom to avoid the temptation of a late-night Netflix hit or endless Instagram scrolling. Keeping technology usage under control is an important factor in achieving relaxation and true rest. Which leads us onto the next point.
Stay Away from Technology
On average, people in the US spend 60 hours on screens per week. Watching television while checking your laptop for work emails, and texting on your phone — we consume content at an alarming rate, checking our phones 96 times a day, (once every 10 minutes) upon waking to sleep, and feeling anxiety, even increased heart rate when we are separated from them.
An increase in digital dependency means a decrease in our ability to focus. These days, it’s all too easy to bring your job home, to access work emails through our phones, and blur the lines between work and play.
Here are 3 ways to help you interact with technology less, and rest more.
- Turn off notifications. The dings, whooshes, and beeps force you to pay attention to your phone. It interrupts your focus, your daily flow, so why not consider turning off push notifications? Go through each of your apps and consider which notifications you really need.
- Turn off your phone completely. Choose a time that suits you, even if it’s just for half an hour. Focus on reading, or starting a creative hobby. Enjoy not being interrupted or feeling like you have someone to answer to. When you’re ready, increase the downtime and soon you’ll be feeling free.
- Take a social media break. If you’re worried about the amount of time you spend on social media, why not have a break? Whether it’s just for one day or an entire weekend, establishing social media-free time can help you relax and switch off.
If you’re not quite ready to unplug from the world of tech, start by making sure you’re only looking at one screen at a time. If you’re watching TV, put away your phone and put it on silent. If you’re on your laptop, turn off the TV. It will help to reduce your multi-screen behavior and improve concentration.
Tune into Your Creative Side
Painting, drawing, writing, singing, or dancing — whatever you’re into, there may be health benefits that you didn’t know about. According to BUPA, engaging in creative activities can impact you in many positive ways, from improved mental health to increased brain function. It even helps to positively influence the well-being of dementia patients.
Don’t feel guilty about making time for sketching, or for contemporary dancing your way around the living room. If you’re artistically unconfident or feeling uninspired, pick up a few adult coloring books, a pack of pencils, and complete a picture a day.
There are lots of creative ways to feel calm and to switch off from the daily pressures of work (and global pandemics). Set aside some time to focus on and enjoy your own creativity!
Meditation helps your mind to clear and leave you feeling calm. Originally it was used in a spiritual context, but now it’s used for increasing peace and well-being. It helps to improve sleep and reduce stress and was depicted through Indian wall art from 5,000 to 3,600 BCE.
In other words, it’s been around for a long time, so it’s definitely worth giving a go.
Guided meditation is where you are led and asked to visualize or use your senses. Mantras are repeating words or phrases. Tai chi is a form of martial art, where you move slowly while breathing deeply. Yoga (yes, yoga!) involves movement and breathing exercises.
Mindfulness meditation is about developing an increased awareness. Its aim is to help with calmness and clarity, to help you focus your attention and rest.
There are plenty of resources out there to help.
- Headspace. They offer a free 2-week trial that gives you access to a full library, including a new meditation every day, and bedtime exercises.
- Calm. This app offers meditation, breathing, and sleep stories.
- The Mindful Movement. Enjoy guided hypnosis, mindful movement practices, and mindful tips.
Lockdown life has been challenging, and meditation is a brilliant way to help you find a little peace throughout the chaos of day-to-day life.
Go Forth and Rest!
More sleep, less technology, trying creative activities, and meditation are a great start to learning how to switch off and relax.
Modern life is hard, pandemic life is harder. It’s important to be kind to yourself and alleviate any stress that may build up, not only for your mind but for your body too.
Hopefully, this blog has inspired you to take time for yourself and discover new ways to relax.
If you’ve found some interesting methods to help your mind rest, or have some tips on art, sleep, and meditation, please let us know in the comments below.