noun, verb, res·pit·ed, res·pit·ing.
There are times in life when things become so stressful, all we want to do is escape on a tropical vacation. Ironically, it is often the most stressful times in life when we're least able to jet away to an island paradise.
It's taken me a while, but I've realized that vacation is a state of mind. You may not be able to physically jet away from stress, but you can provide yourself with respite from the day-to-day stressors by going on vacation…in your mind. If we give ourselves enough self care and mental breaks, we can cope with everything our busy world gives us and still keep our sanity.
When training for our first marathon, my buddies and I hit a real turning point the first time we broke 20 miles. I'm not saying that everything leading up to that point was easy. It definitely wasn't, but there was something about the day we broke 20 miles that nearly broke us in the process.
As we were approaching 20 miles, I was feeling as though I needed to take a short break to sit down, stretch, and fill up my water bottle. One of my training buddies, Sandra, was 100% in agreement with that strategy. We both felt like the only way we were going to finish our miles that day was if we gave ourselves a break. Our other training buddy, Barbara, disagreed with that plan 100%. She was convinced that if we stopped, we wouldn't continue. We'd then have to hitchhike back to our car because we didn't have bus or taxi fare. Barbara is normally the jokester of the group and typically brings humor to even the most dire of situations. That day, she was dead set against stopping and she found no humor in any of our jokes. In order for her to finish, she had to dig down so deep, she found a part in her that I didn't even know existed. She dug down deep, got angry, and she just blasted on down the trail, telling us she'd see us at the car. We just had to watch her dust as she blew past us and we had no choice but to kick it in and follow. We didn't get our respite. We had to keep going.
It was on that long distance day that I realized I had a choice on how I could respond to that situation. I wanted to cry. I wanted to cuss. I still wanted to stretch. I wanted to cry some more. I seriously didn't think I could make it. I know Sandra was feeling the same way, but we kept going. (ok, so, maybe there was some cussing.) How does one keep going when every cell in your body tells you that you must STOP?!? I couldn't stop my body, but I could give my mind some respite. It is in those situations where a little bit of healthy detachment is what helps to push you through the rough patches. We had to keep up with Barbara. We had to keep going. Barbara was right - we couldn't stop. She knew it and she had to make herself angry to push through. The trick to getting through that day and those last few miles, was that I sent my mind on little vacations whenever I would start to think that I would collapse. I couldn't obsess about every pain in my body. Instead, I allowed my brain to take momentary respite when the pain became too great. It still takes effort to concentrate on form and pace, but whenever my mind would want to give into the temptation to stop, I allowed my mind to drift away, even for just a few moments at a time. Had I focused on the pain my body was feeling, I wouldn't have been able to keep going.
Had we taken the actual physical break when we wanted to, like we thought we needed to, we may not have finished that day and it's possible it would have discouraged us from even doing the marathon. That day was as much about conditioning our minds as it was about conditioning our bodies.
Normal life stressors aren't quite as physically painful as that long distance day, but they can be "painful" in different ways. Here are a few tricks I use to go on vacation in my mind and how I give myself respite in little ways each day.
-Exercise! (my preference is for a walk/hike, in nature or a park.)
-Sit down to eat, no matter how busy you are! (The other day, I was feeling quite stressed at work. To give myself a real break, I put my lean cuisine meal on an actual plate and sat down on our beautiful patio and ate my pathetic lunch on a real plate, with a real fork, and pretended that I had all the time in the world. I felt recharged after my lunch break and I was ready to take on the rest of the day,)
-Meditate/Pray - or even take a moment to express gratitude for all that you have and for the beautiful earth around you.
-Enjoy a sunrise or a sunset, and feel gratitude for being alive to appreciate the beauty
-Spend time near water. (I love to walk near the lake, sit and admire the river, or even spending time near a man-made fountain is rejuvenating to me.)
-Did I mention spending time in nature? Nature recharges us. If I'm feeling stressed, down, sad, upset, or nervous, spending time with the birds, trees, mountains, rivers, lakes, bugs, squirrels and the rest of nature is always the perfect remedy.
-Be silent. (turn off the music and the television and just allow yourself some silence. For some people, the opposite might be true. Some people need to actually turn on the music.)
-Make your morning routine a mini-spa treatment, rather than a stressed rush to shower and get out the door.
-Unplug from (personal) social media. (There were a few days that I was feeling so much stress, I forced myself to stay off Facebook for a few days. I think in doing so, I focused on myself instead of others and I was able to give my own life the care and attention that it needed. I love Facebook and love keeping up with my friends and family, but I won't hesitate to take a break if I start to feel too tense. Unplugging for a few hours or days provides immediate relief from stress.)
-Take a look at the people around you. When you're maxed or stressed out, take a break from the people in your life who drain you. (It doesn't mean you have to unfriend them or avoid them. While you're providing yourself with respite care, try to surround yourself with people whose energy helps to charge you up and people who leave you feeling better, rather than those people who injure you in some way. Sometimes, this may even mean a few solitary days. (It's not healthy to completely isolate yourself but rather, just spend quality time alone in spurts.)
-Hug and love your pets! (Again, this is instant stress relief for the both of you. Your animals love the attention, and in return, your mind and spirit will feel instantly better when you allow yourself time to love your pets.)
-Pull yourself together and fake it, if need be. (There are days when I feel pretty darn rotten and could really use that tropical getaway, or at least a calgon bath. It is those days when I actually take the extra time and effort to go all out with my hair, make-up and clothes. The funny thing is, by time I get myself all ready - I usually feel better just by dressing the part. On the off chance I wasn't able to convince myself to feel better, then at least the rest of the world won't know it.)
-Give yourself permission to pause. (I've been so excited about missellanea.com and I have such big dreams but things are rolling out at a much slower rate than I wanted. It's like that day when we first did the 20 miles. I'm not stopping. I'm not sitting down. I've just slowed down a little until I catch my breath and let my mind wander a bit, but we're still moving forward and we're gonna make it just fine and when I get to where I'm going, I'll be stronger than when I started.
Do you have any tricks you use for instant respite, even if it's only in your mind?