Category Archives: How to…

How to … de-stress during the hectic countdown to Christmas

It’s that time of the year again when it’s dark in the mornings on the way to work and dark when we get home from the office at night. While I just want to hide under a blanket during these bleak months, Christmas is also fast approaching – in fact at lightening speed! On top of that, there are all those pesky little things that need to be ticked off towards the end of the year, such as my tax return, renewing my health insurance and my TV licence, making a dentist appointment, handing in uni assignments, all that ‘fun’ stuff. Sigh.

When I’m having one of those low energy days, just thinking about all the above makes my heart sink a little. That’s why I’ve collected my favourite de-stress and relaxation tips, quizzed my friends about theirs (thanks everyone!) and listed them below. You are probably using similar strategies yourself. If your favourites are not on my list and you’d like to share them, do leave a comment!
‘Me’ time
– put up things around the house that make you smile (holiday mementos, pictures of friends and family or snapshots of yourself as a child) or prominently displayed signs (on the desk, bathroom mirror etc.) that say “inner calm” or whatevery your favourite mantra is that helps you relax
– keep a journal or create a scrapbook
– dance in your living room because putting your favourite music on just for yourself and dancing or singing along to a really cheerful tune will put you instantly in a better mood
– try not to mull over emotional issues if you are tired
– indulge in your favourite chocolate (or hot chocolate with Baileys) without feeling guilty – my tip is to buy really fancy chocolate, because if it’s quality chocolate you will automatically eat less of it and the more cocoa content it contains the healthier it is anyway
Bedtime Rituals
– light a few candles in the evening as they give any living room or bathroom a lovely soft glow and help you to relax (make sure you put any candles out before you got to bed and NEVER light a candle in your bedroom as they are a real fire hazard)
– buy the fluffiest bed socks, bathrobe or hot water bottle with the softest cover you can find, the year has 365 nights and in Ireland many of those are pretty cold, so it’s an investment that you definitely won’t regret

– buy a room spray which is made of only natural ingredients, I use lavender in my bedroom and a mix of orange, lemon and frangipani for when I’m studying

– go to bed half an hour earlier than usual and if you read before going to sleep make sure it is something lighthearted or inspirational

During The Work Week
– go to a pilates or yoga class before or after work to warm up your muscles and relax your body

– if you feel you have too much on your plate, spend five minutes making a list of the things you need to do and sort them according to priority, ideally at the end of your work day, so the next one already starts with a bit less stress

– if you enjoy being in the water, swimming is really good for the soul (especially if the pool is part of a spa or has a steam room attached), if you can’t track one down close to your workplace or home, turn your bathtub into your personal spa, just add candles, relaxing music, bubble bath

– don’t take on other people’s stress or bad energy, be supportive, but always keep your own boundaries in mind as well

– one of the things that really keep me from panicking when I am snowed under with work is to only ever tackle the issues of that particular day and pushing aside any thoughts of the ones that can be dealt with the following day

With Friends And Family
– think of what you really value in life by e.g. drinking a second cup of tea with a friend (camomile or lavender work best for calming the nerves) instead of rushing away to buy Christmas presents half an hour before the shops close
– spend a Sunday afternoon with others making your own Christmas cards or Christmas decorations while playing your favourite music
– don’t get stressed out by the commercial side of Christmas, it’s much more important that it’s a time to remember what we cherish about our loved ones
– cooking a healthy meal or baking cookies together with a good friend is something that really helps me relax
– watch a really great comedy with a few friends (nothing beats a good laugh when it comes to beating stress) and stock up on some especially nice wine or beer for the occasion

At The Weekend

– book a city trip, e.g. to Budapest where they have some amazing thermal baths, I love making happy plans for the future, as they already make me happy at the time of planning them
– get a change of scenery, take a walk in the woods or the nearest park, sit still in the fresh air for a few minutes and listen to the sounds of nature around you, it calms you almost instantly
– get a massage from your partner, give someone a massage yourself or make an appointment at the massage place down the road (trust me, even just booking the appointment will make you feel better)
– if you happen to be this organised, aim to buy all your pressies before December
– meditate, in its simplest form this only requires a few minutes of complete silence without any distractions, concentrating on your breathing and trying to think about nothing (which can be the hardest thing sometimes)
– walk your dog if you have one, ‘borrow’ one if you don’t or pet the neighbour’s cat like I do
– spend some time with children, they take every day as it comes and are brilliant at reminding us that there is fun or an adventure to be had even on the rainiest of days

How to … make your own inspiration cards

I’ve always really enjoyed making collages. As a child I would cut out images of people and animals from catalogues and magazines and rearrange them on paper to create some sort of a new story. I would also have my own little shop with lots of  2D ‘paper’ products that to me were as valuable as the real deal. That way there was no end to what I could ‘stock’. I just had to find it somewhere and cut it out.
Now that the R word has us all struggling to keep smiling every day I’ve rediscovered my old hobby. I was at a zine fair  in Filmbase the other day and it reminded me how much fun it used to be to get some scissors, glue and paper out and MAKE SOMETHING. So I did! I bought some paper postcards and a book with quotes on the way home, got out some old magazines and sat down to shred them into creative pieces. I put on some Leonard Cohen, lit a scented candle and in no time I had produced my first few inspiration cards. I loved the swishing sound of the scissors when they separated a picture of a cup of tea from its natural background. The sticky feeling on my fingers when the same picture got slathered in superglue and stuck to one of the plain white postcards. Then I picked a suitable quote: ‘Wisdom is only found in Truth. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’ and pasted it diagonally across the page. Now on to the next one…


Inspiration Cards

The cost for 25 unique inspiration cards? Less than a pint!
I paid 99 cents for a pack of 25 basic paper postcards from Reads. Spent 2.99 on a second hand book with quotes on wisdom in Hodges Figgis’ bargain basement and had a pile of old magazines that were about to go into the paper bin (if you’re really stuck, go into any charity shop and purchase a few mags, they’re usually around 50 cents each). Total project cost: 3.98. Once I’ve made a good few I’m going to sell most of them for charity and keep some special ones to send to my family abroad and friends who can do with a bit of cheering up.
Check out Etsy for a wealth of additional inspiration and a great way of selling your homemade stuff online. There is also a small but perfect little craft, vintage and second hand market every last Saturday of the month upstairs in the Curved Street Cafe  in Filmbase.