Coming down from stress

Plan to Thrive conveners are going on a holiday! Here are some parting tips from Holly Hammond.

WA-BeachHave you slogged your guts out all year? Just about ready to collapse?

Here are some tips for getting the  most out of your break. If taking leave isn’t an option for you, many of these are relevant for weekends or any captured moment for potential relaxation.

  • Give yourself permission to stop. Decide that for right now you have done enough. If you need to rationalise stopping tell yourself that taking a break will result in you being rested, refreshed, and more productive in the future. Need more persuading? It could be harmful to your organisation or campaign if you don’t take a break now and end up sick and burnt out later.
  • Take a holiday from feeling bad about yourself. Appreciate yourself. You might want to journal about your highlights from the past year, what you’ve done well, and what others have appreciated about you.
  • Prioritise your own needs. Think about what you want for yourself and what will make things go well. Don’t just get swept away by family pressures or a social calendar you don’t determine. If you need lots of time for rest make sure you get it. If the best thing to help you relax involves getting out of the city work out how to make that happen.
  • Create the conditions for relaxation. Be clear with colleagues about what they can’t expect from you during this time. Put the auto-reply on your email, divert your phone or turn it off, finish off last minute tasks or decide they can wait
  • Remove stressors from your environment. There’s a reason why holidays often involve being in a different place – many people find it much easier to relax when their environment is changed, removing them from stressful reminders and work-related habits. These days smart phones mean our work or activism is wherever we are. You can do things to manage the stress that can cause like turning your phone off, putting it out of view and changing notification settings so every email doesn’t result in a chime. Addicted to your smart phone? Find other ways to fill in the time and keep your hands busy like reading a book or eating carrot sticks (I may have got my addiction tips mixed up there).
  • Recognise that it can take time to wind down. Don’t expect to be fully relaxed straight away. It takes time to go from high alert to all clear. One holiday I spent the first day reorganising the cupboards of the holiday house I was staying at. I needed somewhere to focus my fidgety energy and urge for control before I could settle.
  • Do things that shift your attention. Activism, work or other responsibilities can be incredibly compelling. If you find your mind keeps being drawn to worry give it somewhere else to focus for a while. These things work for me:
    • Movies, especially comedies
    • Time in nature with lots of beautiful things to notice
    • Hanging out with friends
    • Cooking and really taking my time with it
    • Reading
    • Getting absorbed in word puzzles, card games or creative activities
  • Change the subject. When you’re catching up with friends and family it’s natural that they’ll ask ‘How’s X going?’ It’s totally fine to say you’d rather talk about something else, if talking about it is going to be contrary to your relaxation goals.
  • Pick your battles. Do you really need to invest energy in arguing or converting conservative members of your family? It’s a worthy project but you don’t necessarily need to embark on it when you’re on holiday. When I worked as an advocate for workers in the sex industry it felt like I always had to be ‘on’ as some people had strong reactions to just hearing what I did for work, or saw it as an invitation to tell me all their opinions on the topic. Not relaxing! You can decide when you want to be ‘out’ about your activism.
  • Be prepared for feelings. When we stop a bunch of hard feelings can pop up, pleased we’ve finally made space and reduced the distractions. You might feel crappy for some of your holiday. Maybe that’s one of the factors in all the over-eating and alcohol consumption at this time of year! Be kind to yourself and get support.
  • Enlist supporters, overtly or not. Who is fun to be around, helps you relax, or makes you feel good about yourself? Who listens to you well about stuff you might need to unload? Pull them close!

Wishing you a relaxing break, and all the fun, inspiration and rest you need in 2014. 

This post was originally published on Plan to Win.

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