I am stressed. The news, the pandemic, violence, worrying about family, friends, and my fellow Americans is a lot to process. Unfortunately, the current environment is not letting up any time soon!
As a consultant, marketer, and a creative being at heart, a cluttered brain makes writing, reading, idea development, painting, etc., just plain challenging. Additionally, a jammed-packed to-do list, a myriad of projects, and isolation are also not helping. So, what’s a busy, creative, and stressed woman supposed to do?
I am not a therapist or psychologist; however, over the years, I have developed and acquired ways to help me decompress and clean my metal slate. Uncontrolled stress for women over 50, is never a good thing. Exploring ways to quiet your mind (even a little) will benefit you in the long run. The goal is to find pathways to the serenity that will improve the flow of new ideas, and regeneration while remaining productive and creative in these turbulent times.
There are many ways to achieve clarity and calm; here are a few methods that have worked for me over the years.
1. Deep breathing: Nothing magical here, but it works! Stress creates tension in the body resulting in shallow and ineffective breathing. Taking full, deep breaths while focusing only on the mechanics of the process, helps develop a feeling of lightness. With each deep breath, you release stress and make space for new ideas. The method I follow is to inhale slowly and deeply. Allow my ribs to expand and fill my lungs with air. Mentally I count to four as I inhale. I hold the breath for the count of five, then slowly exhale to the count of four or five (whatever is right for you). The great thing is that you can do this simple exercise at any time and anywhere.
2. A leisurely walk: For me, the primary purpose of walking in nature is the experience, not the destination. The wonders and grandeur of the landscape seem to make the problems of the world a little smaller. My suggestion is to make every step intentional. Look up at the sky and the tall trees. Soak in the simple wonders and feel the ground below. Keep a soft smile on your face while remembering to take deep, cleansing breaths. The goal is to stay present and not focus on old arguments, politics, or work. This walk is a journey designed to reduce inner chatter and allow the calming effects of nature to help you find creativity.
3. Simple yoga stretches: The goal is to keep it simple. Each movement should create a sense of accomplishment. Each stretch helps you release tension and stress. After hunching over a laptop or participating in your one-millionth virtual meeting, loosening your limbs, and stretching your muscles are much-needed activities. I prefer to stay focused on simple poses like a forward bend, downward-facing dog, and tree pose. If I feel daring, I might toss in more advanced positions. The objective is to find a few poses that you enjoy doing, and that contributes to your well being. Here are a few tips; as you move into your pose, lengthen your spine with each inhalation. Fold deeper into the pose with each exhalation. I recommend holding each pose for a count of 30; however, this is your practice, so maintain the posture for as long or as little as you like. Let yourself feel both a sense of joy and satisfaction at the end of each count and remember even the smallest of victories are worth celebrating.
4. Meditate while listening to classical music: Mastering meditation is not easy, but it’s really good for you. I cheat by using classical music as an anchor to help me stay focused. There is nothing better than sitting with my legs crossed, back straight, shoulders down, and my hands resting on my knees with the palms facing up. As I breathe, I focus on my posture and the pleasant complexity of Chamber music (that’s my favorite), and I push negative thoughts out and allow only good thoughts to remain.
If my suggestions don’t seem enticing, do some research and find whatever sparks your interest. The point is that stress and information overload are real challenges that shouldn’t be ignored. Find what works for you – it can be one thing or several. Aspire to make the search a fun exploration, but whatever you ultimately decide will be a positive step that will help your creativity emerge. At the same time, you will improve your mental and physical health. Take one small action every day to decompress and cut through the outside noise. You will experience lasting benefits which are essential in these unique times.
Catherine (Cat) Valyi
Co-founder, Women With Dynamic Purpose