IS IT TIME TO TAKE A CHILL PILL?  

When life gets too much, we all need to re-boot

We've all been there. So hyped up it hurts. Whether it's that busy work schedule or just that annoying co-worker, the kids' constant needs or the traffic on the school run,  an interrupted night's sleep or an alarm that didn't go off, the list could, and often does, go on and on. We all suffer from information overload or from simply trying to pack too much in to the time we have available. And sometimes we all need to stop, take stock and re-boot.

Lately things have been this way Chez Raggedy Ann. We've been clearing out a lot of old stuff and trying to sell it on Ebay, sort it, recycle it, and, when all else fails, give it away. Sadly, more of my personal ephemera has fallen into the latter, rather than the former catergories. But it's proved reasonably profitable, if more from an organisational than financial angle. And, hey, it's good therapy, right? Anyway, while this has all been fun-ish, it's also hard work. Combine that with trying to do actual work, keep the garden going, chase two cats around, help organise a village fête and a great list of other things including, yes, update a website, there have been moments I've felt like sitting in a dark room for a couple of days. But not only do I have no time for that, it really would seem an awful waste. And it was only as I scanned through a pile of books, long ago consigned to the 'no longer wanted' pile, but never actually cleared, that I noticed what has, this week, become my saviour. Right at the bottom of the pile were several books offering routines, treats, cures, remedies and hints promising 'highly-effective exercise techniques and natural therapies' that will 'improve your life and heal minor ailments'.

Now, of course, I realise that at some point I must have bought these books because I thought they would be useful. And that, at some point afterwards, I must have decided that they were not, hence them being put to one side, but something made me look inside. Granted much of the content concerned the benefits of observing feng shui, something by which I'm yet to be entirely convinced, but there was plenty of other stuff too. And I have to admit, whether it was from finding them in these books, in a magazine, or just working it out with common sense, I had employed a fair number of them. And, far from being stuffed with pretty much useless, and obvious advice, these books did, indeed offer some intriguing suggestions. And, since I know I'm not the only one who could do with an occasional push on the re-set button, I thought I'd share one or two.

One suggestion was to have a short meditation before you even start your day. Now, I've tried meditation in the past and, to be fair, had good results. Done properly it's calming, refreshing and energizing. But I have to admit, I've never tried it as a way to start the working day, rather than as an antidote to stress at the end of it. So it's something I might try.

The commute to work can be ultra-stressful and one of the books suggested transforming your car into a 'personal sanctuary'. Clearing out the clutter and choosing positive, yet gentle music, making sure your driving seat is comfy and supportive, and avoiding the 'white-knuckle' steering wheel grip help you arrive at work in a calm state and ready to face whatever the day may throw at you. Of course, if, like me, you are a pedestrian or public transport user most of the time, all this advice for car drivers is a bit moot. However, I was interesting in a section that assured me that the walk to work could be just as therapeutic. By walking just a touch slower than usual, being aware of your feet on the pavement, breathing in and out deliberately and by counting how many steps you take during each inhalation, you can arrive at the office calm and clear-headed. In my teenage years I took to strolling around the local park to get ready for revision sessions and found it quite helpful. And it's a good way to get some 'head space' where nothing and no-one is making demands of you and where the world is as silent and peaceful as you want it to be. And while, as a home worker, my commute is largely limited to a nip down the stairs from the bedroom, via the bathroom, to the office, I did employ this device the other morning and found that, even on such a short walk, I arrived at my computer with a certain sense of clarity.

At the office, or shop, or wherever you happen to work, the author recommends using neither air conditioning or heating unless absolutely necessary. Both, of course, can make the atmosphere in a closed space dry and thick. Instead, she suggests using a fan to create a draught or slipping on a cardigan to warm up. If, like me, you suffer allergies, you might consider asking the cleaners to switch to more environmentally friendly products, and perhaps to get yourself an ionizer too. Plants, too, can be of benefit, but perhaps not if you, like I once did, inhabit an office with no natural light source. There's nothing particularly life-enhancing about sharing a cubicle with a dead spider plant. Of course, many of us work in environments we cannot control in which case it's important to make the best use of our breaks, either to relax or simply to breathe in some fresh air.

After work many of us struggle to wind down from the toils of the day. But you can do much to prepare yourself for relaxation even before you leave work. Making a list of those things you need to do the following day is always useful and saves time the next morning. A nice bit of exercise before you get home, a brisk walk to the bus, or even just a good stretch or two can also work wonders. When you get home make sure to put all work-related things away, or at least out of sight. I try to keep things like that out of the bedroom – that should be one place you never do any work. And this includes clothes and shoes too. I often take off every trace of makeup if I've put my face on purely for work. And I change into something comfortable. 

Several of the books recommend very healthy meals and while we all know this is a good thing, we also all know that more often than not something yummy takes priority. Afterwards they also recommend doing something 'creative'. Now as someone who doesn't have the least bit of an artist in them, this proves a bit of a problem. And writing? Well, when you spend all day working at that, it doesn't really have the relaxing benefits it might have for others. So, until I find something artistic I can actually do, I'll have to limit my creativity to imagination …

I've always believed that the bedroom should be the ultimate sanctuary. Somewhere you feel safe, comfortable and relaxed. It's not a place for work, or working out.  And I've found you really can't put a price on finding the right pillow for the way you sleep. Or on having nice quality bedding. Lighting that you can vary so that you don't have to stare into brightness. And making sure you are relaxed before trying to go to sleep.  An absolutely sure-fire way to lie awake all night long is to eat late in the evening, or to drink something stimulating – either alcohol or caffeine for example – just before bedtime. If I really doubt I'm going to nod off easily then I heat up a mug of milk until it is just steaming, dissolve a small teaspoon on honey into it and then grate some nutmeg over the top. It won't knock you out, and if you decide to do something energetic after drinking it, it won't work at all, but you'll feel relaxed and content and drift of very nicely indeed.

These things may not work for you, but they do for me, and anything's worth a try, right?