Relaxing? What’s that?

According to the dictionary, to relax is to become less active and more calm and happy. Now I can’t say that I am unhappy, but I can’t say that I am very happy either. Most of the days I am far from calm, and it seems, in the past couple of months, I have developed panic attacks, which is something I have never suffered from before. They are horrible, and I know where they come from, but that’s a subject for another post.

This post is about relaxing.

Recognizing the stress

There is a lot of stress in my life at this moment, and has been for quite some time. Three and a half years ago, Master T’s health started going backwards and he has been leaning hard on me ever since. Even though we are now starting to see an improvement, he’s still leaning on me. To say that I am mentally tired after having to be the rock for all of this time, will be an understatement. It’s taking its toll. Add to that the — let’s call it — blog-related stress of the past couple of months, as well as the lock-down and the change from going to the office to working at home every day, and you have the complete recipe for intense stress.

It took me a while to recognize the stress, and realize it’s similar to what it was back in 2012, when I had a burnout, even though back then I didn’t suffer from these horrible panic attacks. I don’t ever want a burnout again; to sit on the couch like a zombie. I knew I needed to take action.

Steps I’ve taken to help me relax

Halfway through March, when the lock-down started, I found myself checking the COVID numbers multiple times a day, and reading every news article I could find. After some weeks, I realized I had to stop with that, or I would drive myself crazy. I still have one tab open on my browser where I can check the numbers, but nowadays sometimes days go by without me clicking the tab.

I have mostly shut down social media. I say mostly, because I still put out Wicked Wednesday and Smut Marathon tweets, but I do so from my profile page so I don’t see my timeline, mentions or messages. I have switched off all notifications, except for those from some people. I needed to do this, for my own mental health, as some words or names send me in panic.

I have set a curfew for myself. When work is done at 4.30pm I switch over to my personal laptop, and sit here until no later than 8pm, and most nights I log off earlier. I take a break for dinner, and always make sure I am away from the computer for at least an hour, sitting on the couch and binge-watch Netflix with Master T. On weekends and Wednesdays (my off day from work) I allow myself longer hours at the computer, when the majority of my writing is done.

I have made a writing schedule, and try to keep to it as closely as possible, as that helps me to focus, and removes a bit of the stress. I have thought of just taking a break from my blog for a couple of weeks, but when writing is in your blood, that is very difficult to do.

Listening to books

Because of the state of my mental health, and the number of panic attacks I have per week (with the above steps I now have them down to about two per week), I couldn’t sleep. I would lay awake for hours, tossing and turning and every morning would have to drag myself from my bed, and downstairs to get to work.

I decided to start listening to books, and have found a couple of full versions on YouTube. I bought myself some Bluetooth earphones, and soon became a convert. Every night, just before I turn over to go to sleep, I switch on my book and fall asleep listening to it. Granted, every next night I have to ‘rewind’ to find the last bit I remember listening to, but it works to take my mind of things and helps me to sleep. I mostly wake again after two or three hours, and sometimes I reach for the book again to help me get back to sleep. I am still (mentally) tired, but I at least rest better at night than before I started listening to those books.

Crocheting

My latest step in trying to find myself some calm and relaxation is crocheting. Our youngest daughter wanted to learn how to do it, and this sparked me to buy wool and crocheting needles, and I have started crocheting a blanket. This means, that while watching Netflix, not only my hands are busy, but so is my mind — with the images on the television, as well as the movement of my hands.

Long way to go

I feel I still have a long way to go to really find the relaxation I need, but the first steps have been taken. I am taking a long and hard look at the things I do, the things I always deemed as priority, and I don’t rule out that more changes might follow.

I need to get back to a place where my shoulders are not constantly lifted and tense, my chest doesn’t hurt for days because of the panic, and where I can once more say ‘I am happy’ and ‘life is good’ without instantly thinking of the things that causes me so much stress.

I am conscious that I need to take these steps, but to be honest, I have also thought of consulting a therapist to help me, and will do so if things get worse, and the steps above don’t help anymore.

I just want to be able to feel fully relaxed again!

© Rebel’s Notes
Image from Pixabay

6 thoughts on “Relaxing? What’s that?

  1. The first step to getting to relax is acknowledging that you need to and it seems like you have. I’m curious to see the result of your crocheting project, though the journey is what counts of course! I’m always here to talk, you’re not alone <3

    1. It seems to help to keep my hands busy, as it at least means I am not stress eating one chocolate bar after the other. You know, I don’t want to get the crochet project all messy! Thank you, ML, for your friendship ❤

  2. I get so much of what you have explained here. Recent times have caused many stresses for a lot of us (fear and worry about health, working from home or financial stress, changing family dynamics). That alone is enough to send any of us in search of therapy (or more wine).

    I find myself far from calm most of the time, too, and though writing is often the place I go to blow off that steam, it can also be part of the stress. I, like you, have created a schedule and curfews, focusing on the things that matter most, which means I had to be honest about what i was capable of.

    I feel you on the blog stress, too. That is a mess. And I have no words. It has kept me up at night and made me wring my hands with worry, and I’m not even at the center of it, where the real pain is. I can totally see where the panic attacks would begin.

    I’m glad yiu are finding at least a few ways to turn the world off and find some peace. One step at a time, or so they say.

    1. Wine is a sort of therapy too, right? I really hope the stress eases on your side, my friend. This is such a strange, upsetting year, and we need to find our calm again.
      I am trying really hard to turn things around, but the stress and fear and panic is all too real at this moment. I try to balance my time at the computer with time away from the computer, and mainly I succeed, except that the moment I am not busy, the thoughts start again, as does the fear and the panic. Not even to speak of my nights, the nasty dreams, waking up in a panicked sweat. Like you say, one step at a time. I need to find a way forward.

  3. Sometimes I think we need the pain from all the stress to push us enough for some changes. Since I had my breakdown last year I tried to reduce online and computer related stuff but it is difficult. Reading often helps but I need a certain calmness to be able to read. Maybe I try an audiobook…never been a fan because I read like twice as fast…but maybe it soothes me a bit. I have a nice work-free year coming up and I will try to live this year as offline as possible…see it how goes.

    Btw. I deleted my twitter if you want to stay in touch just use my email if you like.

    1. I like the idea of a work-free year and living it as offline as possible. That sounds like absolute bliss to me at this moment. As for audio books, they really help me fall asleep, and I love listening to them when I drive to or back from work. That’s not happening at this moment, so listening is really going slow.
      I will be in touch 🙂

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