ZEN TIP TUESDAY #26
A big welcome to Jo Castro for today’s ZTT. I’ve known Jo via the blogosphere for a few years now but we haven’t met in person, yet! Jo lives on the opposite side of Australia to me over in Western Australia, but originally comes from the UK. Jo blogs at Lifestyle Fifty about all facets of life including travel and fashion and also at ZigaZag – all about Western Australia. You can learn more about Jo and where to connect with her in her Bio at the end of this post.
As many of us in midlife would know, this is a stage of life where our parents become elderly and often need care and assistance. Imagine how hard it would be living on the opposite side of the world to them when they are unwell. Today Jo very generously shares with us how she manages to find some little pockets of zen in her days during times of stress and worry.
If you would like to contribute your very own ‘Gem of Zen’ as part of the Zen Tip Tuesday series please go here to find out how (you might also like to visit all the Gems of Zen we have so far). I would love to hear from you!
Finding a sense of calm or zen during stressful and worrying times doesn’t come easily for me. I’ve recently returned from an extended visit to England helping to care for my 90 year old mother and her 97 year old partner.
I learnt a lot about selflessness, some not-so-nice things about myself too, but mostly I learnt how to cope on an emotional level when things were escalating beyond my control.
Now I’m back in Australia, I’m fortunate to be finding a sense of calm in my days, although in reality my head and heart are not fully present, and I wish fervently I didn’t live so far away from my Mum in the UK.
During the time there, my world was turned upside down. I felt as if I was losing Mum. I wasn’t mistress of my own household or decision making, and I didn’t have my own family support network close by to support me.
Here’s how I found a little Zen in my days …
FOCUS ON TINY MOMENTS
I found I had to focus on the small things. Helping Mum feel comfortable, and making her genuinely smile about something was paramount to my day and offered fulfilment. Marvelling at the silly antics of the chicken when I fed them made me laugh. Picking fresh mint to put with boiled potatoes and rolling a leaf in my hand to deeply inhale its gorgeous aroma was something like a guilty, stolen moment of delight.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
I was so wound up in everyone else’s problems that I forgot about myself entirely. After a while I realised I had to create mini moments for myself – silly I know, but this took the form of everyday things like remembering to moisturise my face at night, and rubbing body cream on my legs after a shower. They were tiny pleasures, small minutes of pampering, but I was being kind to myself, and reaping the benefits of more positive energy which in turn helped everyone else around me too.
Meditating forces you to slow down physically and mentally.
But, wait! I don’t meditate!
I do walk though, and when I was seeking release from stress, I would walk along the beach. I would do the same walk repetitively every day, and not think about the route. During that time, I’d essentially meditate, and at least go into a zone where I didn’t think about any problems.
They say meditating makes you slow down, and do nothing but think and learn from simply thinking and realising. It requires that you are alone with your thoughts, and helps you connect with yourself.
Yup, walking, one foot after the other, on my own, does that for me.
CUT BACK ON DECISION MAKING
There were a couple of big decisions back home that I needed to focus on, but my mind would swirl and I’d get in a tizzy. So I told myself that it was okay to just sit on the sofa with a cup of tea when I had a few minutes spare, and that I didn’t have to fill every minute of my personal down time with decision making or pro-active work engagement. So I excused myself from those tasks for that time being. I think decision making at times of stress is a very bad idea, as you’ll most likely act from an emotive angle rather than from your head and a more logical standpoint.
My daily beach walk was not only therapy for me but it also helped keep me fit. I walked fast, striding out, arms bent, walking heel to toe through my foot and leg, but I was mindful not to exhaust myself either. When you are trying to lessen stressful times it’s important that you find enjoyable and also incidental ways to increase physical activities that strengthen and support your body. There’s no point in stressing yourself further with an exercise routine that takes forethought and discipline and in the process wears you out. Especially if it makes you feel guilty because you haven’t got around to doing it!
Do something that brings you joy, rather than joining a gym (if it doesn’t do it for you, don’t do it – a gym certainly doesn’t do it for me!)I also found myself making excuses to often walk down to the village store for milk, or fruit, or whatever, and relishing in the chance to get out of the house, be active and see the world at large as well as get some fresh air for a few stolen minutes – minutes which wouldn’t impact on anyone else.In the house I was happy to charge up and down the stairs, taking washing up or down, fetching things from bedrooms, running upstairs to the bathroom for a pee rather than using the downstairs loo. Even vacuuming! I’m sure that these moments of movement woven into my day made a difference to my fitness levels too.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Gosh sleep. I don’t know about you but as I get older I seem to be a much lighter sleeper and the slightest sound wakes me up. I definitely suffer from the fear of the unknown dread at the dead of night!In England I was on constant alert that I might be needed in the middle of the night and slept very lightly. But good sleep is imperative for good physical and mental health. Now I’m home I make sure to do everything necessary to try and get a good night’s sleep. I don’t have my phone or computer in the bedroom, I don’t check my phone or computer before bed, I try to read for half an hour, and not drink tea (definitely not coffee) for a few hours before bedtime. And these days I wear earplugs at night, which help me enormously. (Please let me know in the comments if you’d like to know the absolute best earplugs I’ve found!)
BE IN THE NOW
As Eckhart Tolle so rightly says in ‘The Power of Now’ … A pain-free existence is possible by living fully in the present.
Accessing the deepest self, the true self, can be learned by freeing ourselves from the conflicting, unreasonable demands of the mind and living present, fully and intensely, in the Now.
Yup – most of all, when I’m having to cope with or recover, from stress, that’s what I’m learning to do.
A gypsy heart and a geologist husband brought travel writer Johanna Castro from Cape Town to Bunbury (South West Australia) in 2008. Exploring the South West region soon became a passion which led on to writing for The West Australian, Fodor’s Travel Guide and various tourism agencies prior to creating her blogs, ZigaZag and Lifestyle Fifty. Jo’s originally from England, has lived in 11 different countries, contributed to around 50 print and online publications, and written a children’s novel in support of an orphanage in The Philippines. Constantly seeking a sense of calm in a busy world, Jo values family, friends, and tranquil places above all else.