Tag Archive | relaxation

Painting rocks

Who would have thought that painting rocks could be such fun and so addictive?

It all started on a very small scale back in early September. I read about the national craze sweeping the country for painting, hiding and hunting for painted rocks and thought what a lovely idea it is. I never thought to join in with this activity until our village Scarecrow festival. With the influx of thousands of visitors it would be fun to paint some stones featuring scarecrows for people to find as they walked around.

 

As well as hiding painted stones it is fascinating to see who finds them and (hopefully) track the stones on their travels.

To facilitate this, there are many rock hunting groups set up on Facebook and/or Instagram where people can photograph their painted stones, give clues as to where they are hidden and post triumphant pictures of the finders when the stones are spotted. So far to my knowledge, the furthest that one of my painted stones has travelled is from Leicestershire in the UK where I had hidden it in the local park to Majorca where the “Finder” was on holiday.

I belong to four rock painting/hunting groups, the two main ones being #Market Harborough Rocks our local group and #Islastones a group created for a little girl with DIPG cancer who sadly died in July this year.

Of course, when hiding a rock you need to provide details of the group to which you belong so that the finder can post a picture online showing that the rock has been found and where it was found. Not everyone wants to “play the game” and may leave the stone in situ, pick it up and keep it or, in some cases, throw it into the bin or hedgerow. I like to think that most people will join in by following the instructions given on the back of each rock and “photo, post on Facebook then re-hide or keep.” Personally, I always give the finder the option of keeping the stone on the basis that it is because they like it and makes them happy but always secretly hope that a picture of the stone will appear at some stage.

There is a lot more I can tell you about my new hobby and I will do in future posts. Meanwhile here are a few of my stones painted, hidden and in some cases, found over the past couple of months.

 

114 days of Freedom

 

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So, another UK tax return filing deadline has come and gone and after two weeks of “tidying up” I now have 114 days of freedom before I return to work. Last year I took to writing a journal , but I am fast running out of space to keep all my different memory books, scrapbooks and travel journals so this year I plan to keep tab on my adventures using my blog. I will still write up a journal for my travels in Iran but everything else lends itself perfectly to online journaling.

I have no special plans, other than a holiday in Iran, but have lots of things that I would like to do in my time off. If I achieve some or all of them I will be well pleased. If I don’t, they can wait.

What’s on my “list?” Just a few ideas……..

  • Visit Richard IIIs burial place and museum in Leicester Cathedral.
  • Go and spend some time with my big sister and enjoy some “girlie time.”
  • I must go and have a cuddle with my newly-born great-nephew Sebastian. He looks gorgeous and I am so pleased for my niece and her husband that they now have the start of what will be a beautiful family.
  •  Lots of doggie walks with Jasper will get me out of the house and into the fresh air-as long as it’s not raining to hard!
  • I have an order list for patchwork quilts a mile long so I must spend some time sewing and sewing some more.
  • I’d like to decorate our landing and stairwell but it’s a big job. I need to prepare myself for this challenge!

Whatever I end up doing, I am determined to relax and recover from the stresses of the previous 8 months. I did have a spell of acute anxiety last Autumn which caused me some problems so I would like to avoid that if at all possible. Jasper is the chill-out king so I will be adopting some of his tactics. I’m not sure whether I will adopt the same pose, but after a few glasses of wine who knows?

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Here’s to sharing my 114 days of freedom!

Zentangle

Quite by accident this week I discovered Zentangle. I have been keeping my journal up to date and enjoy making it pretty by including pictures, quotes, pre-printed journal cards and recently, doodles which I have been painting with my watercolours. I always enjoyed colouring in pictures as a child and I have clearly not lost that desire to both doodle and colour.

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Inspired by designs I have seen on Pinterest I started to search through the pin boards looking for further ideas. That’s when I came across Zentangle. I can’t believe I haven’t come across this before but am certainly making up for lost time now. The picture below is my second attempt.

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The different patterns are called Tangles, and the Zen prefix gives you a clue that practising this art using the repetitive lines, circles and shapes is very relaxing. Fundamentally it is an easy art to follow as you need no previous experience and initially you work with a black pen only-no need for colour. The repetitive nature of the exercise encourages focus and concentration as you try to make each line and shape smooth. You literally lose yourself in the drawing and it clears the mind in much the same way as meditation.

For me this is a perfect way for me to relax. I am hopeless as mindfulness/meditation as I am very impatient and I like “doing” things. Sitting still is agony for me and therefore having something like this to do which not only needs concentration but also produces a pleasing end result is rewarding and soothing.

The creators of Zentangle, a meditative art form, are Rick Roberts (Zen) and Maria Thomas (Tangle) and reading about its development and formation is interesting. I am only a beginner at this but already I am hooked. It was my birthday last week and I was able to order a lovey Zentangle book and micron pens from Amazon to help me along my journey.

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I recommend this for anyone taking up Zentangle although you can find lots of ideas and inspiration on the web.

Have a go, and enjoy rekindling your inner child!

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Too tired

There is a very good reason Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is labelled as chronic. That’s because it is unceasing and relentless in its vicious and pervading attack on your physical and mental wellbeing. It is ever-present, long-lasting and, even if you are lucky enough to get a remission, it usually returns. With a vengeance. It is unwelcome and, like a bad penny, it keeps turning up despite your best attempts to fend it off.

If my fatigue and related symptoms were just a flash-in-the-pan, over and done with in a jiffy leaving me to return to normal energy levels within a few weeks or months it would be called Acute Fatigue Syndrome. But it’s not.

This time of year is particularly difficult for many people I’m sure with invitations to Christmas parties, meals out and shopping trips dripping from the calendar but if you are like me, you really don’t have the energy to spare on these “optional extras.”

The extra energy required to cope with overcrowded public transport and supermarkets, busy roads, presents to buy, cards to send and people to see is just too much and I therefore have to bow to my enforced lethargy and say “No, thanks”. It can be seen as Bah! Humbug, but so be it. The most frustrating aspect for me however is the assumption that after months of being “in recovery” I should be “better” now and able to join in the merriment along with everyone else.

Sadly, this is not the case and my “recovery” will continue for many months and years. There is no quick remedy for CFS. It is an illness that must be managed constantly if a relapse or crash is to be avoided. Most people don’t understand this and look at you as if you have turned into a Couch Potato by choice. I can’t imagine anything worse and the frustration that being so inactive brings cannot be described. I could get really angry about it but that would waste yet more precious energy so I try to accept my new limitations with good grace. This has never been a strong point of mine so I am on a steep learning curve.

All I want this Christmas is to step aside from extra activity and stress, to avoid being out of routine and being late to bed and to spend the few days that I have off work with my family and not tucked up in bed exhausted by the build-up of extra effort.

So if I say “No thanks” to the department Christmas outing, the office Christmas meal, drinks on the last day before the holiday and anything else in-between, please don’t think I am unwilling, uncaring, selfish, lazy or unsociable.

I’m just too tired-really.

Just playing

After a tough week, I wanted nothing more than to sit and play. Last week, playing was a swimming session and a “run” on my treadmill. In contrast, this week my idea of playing involves lots of lovely paper, card, flowers, ribbons and bows. Stamps and buttons, studs, brads and lace all come out of the stash boxes to (hopefully) make something half decent. It is important for me to play and enjoy some me time as it gives me an opportunity to switch off and regroup with the added bonus of an end product as a reward for my labours.

As you can see, I am not the tidiest of  crafters, but a little disorganisation creates an environment in which there is always an element of surprise when creating something. If I can’t find what I need quickly, I improvise and use something else. My creations are therefore constantly evolving and what I end up with often looks nothing like I planned in the beginning. This approach appears to work and if nothing else, keeps me on my toes and always thinking how to adapt. (Much more fun than the dreaded Sudoku puzzles for keeping my mind agile)

There is a saying, “The opposite of play is not work. It’s depression”  and I know that if there are days or weeks when I won’t get to play because I am working long days, travelling or staying away from home my mood will deflate very quickly. I now try to pack something in my case so I have something to look forward to after work when stuck in a hotel or faced with a long journey home. I have had very funny looks from my fellow passengers when Decopatching on the train, designing scrapbook pages or knitting scarecrows but I’m used to it and it keeps me sane.

Playing today has resulted in three pictures so far. I found three matching square picture frames in the charity shop during the week and these pictures are just the right size. I’m quite pleased with them.

An Imaginary Balloon Ride

Visualisation is a technique that not only helps sports people succeed but if done creatively can help to alleviate stress and encourage relaxation.

Over the past few months I have listened to some guided meditations which have been excellent; soothing, relaxing and calming. Others however can really grate on you and are not soothing, relaxing or calming at all. We all have the power to think creatively and to control our thoughts so that they focus on positive outcomes rather than negative ones. You can record your own favourite images to listen to later, first writing them down then reading them out loud, slowly, clearly and softly. If you don’t like the sound of your own voice, ask a friend to record it for you.

Here is a visualisation  which I came across recently when reading Mike George’s book ” Learn to relax” and which you can enhance with your own images. Once recorded, get comfortable, close your eyes and listen.

An imaginary balloon ride

1. You are walking along a country lane. The sun beats down on your head and shoulders. To your left is a beautiful forest; to your right, a field into which you turn. Ahead of you is a hot-air balloon ready for flight.

2. You approach the balloon and step into the basket. the balloon begins to rise very slowly. as you look down, you can see a village, a lake, some mountains. When you look at the sky, you see a bird glide past you. there is absolutely no noise. Silently you rise higher and higher.

3. Beneath you everything becomes a swirl of blue and green. You can see no borders or boundaries, just one world as you have never fully realised before. As you understand this, the balloon begins its descent.

4. The details gradually return into view and the balloon comes to rest in the middle of the field. You step out of the basket, walk down the path through the village to the lake that you could see from the air. the water on the lake is still and calm. Just how you feel yourself.

Doing things differently (6) Travel smart

My job involves a lot of travelling. I am usually in a different office every day of the week and consequently I have to be very well organised and plan my schedules carefully. Travelling makes me tired and as it usually, but not always, comes before and after a day at work planning is crucial if I am to survive.

Having had depression for a long long time, I know what my triggers are and travelling could involve any number of them if things don’t go smoothly or if I get over tired. So how do I cope?

Firstly, as I’ve already mentioned I plan my work schedule, then plan some more. I fix dates 3-6 months in advance and make sure that both my diary and on-line calendar are constantly updated and they match. I understand that I have to be flexible, as do my clients, and communicating this to them is vital to avoid worrying about last-minute changes of plan. Just today for instance, when I have scheduled to be in Birmingham and Leicester, I may now have to travel to Glasgow instead. This will mean organising flights there and back, arranging transport to the airport and making sure that my son can be picked up on Friday evening if possible. The trip will also require me to stay away from home and so hotel accommodation is needed too. All this is in addition to cancelling my previous plans and meetings and before I actually do any work. It is a nightmare for anyone but for someone with depression it could tip me over the edge.

Fortunately I have help with the arrangements and so the administration for me is kept to a minimum but the worry as to whether I will have a bed to sleep in is still there.

Flexibility is also essential and I always have a Plan B and even Plan C ready to hand to cope with unforseen problems. I do all my travelling by public transport so that I can work on the train and make sure that everything gets done. This takes the pressure off and saves me the hassle of driving which to me would be dead time. The problem with public transport is that it can be unreliable. I am very fortunate and have few setbacks, but when things go wrong, they go wrong in a big way. So ways of keeping calm in a crisis are good to learn and I use a combination of deep breathing, reading and listening to soothing music on my ipod if I am held up.

Sometimes however travelling can push you to the very limit of your patience and it can be difficult to manage the stress. In one week in January a couple of years ago I had 1 trained cancelled, my lap top stolen, no carriage D when I had a seat reserved for carriage D, and a suicide delayed my train for 2 hours before I was diverted to another station altogether. These things happen and you need to be able to deal with such eventualities if you are to remain sane. That was a particularly difficult week but I got where I was supposed to be in the end as I invariably do.

Another way to remain comfortable when travelling is to dress appropriately. I can always spot the regular commuters in winter . Flat shoes or trainers, warm coats, wooly hats, scarves and gloves. Not a high heel or stiletto in sight. They may be fashionable and look gorgeous but are totally impractical when fighting your way to the underground or bus along slippery tiled floors or uneven pavements. I have seen plenty of stilettos get stuck in the escalators and it’s so inelegant! (but hilariously funny :))

Having everyone’s phone numbers plugged into my mobile is also essential. At least of something does go wrong and I am delayed I can contact the relevant person and explain the hold-up. I also keep a small travelling case packed with essentials like soap bag, underwear and medications etc so I only need to pack the specifics required for my next trip. There’s nothing more annoying than searching through the bathroom cupboard for spare toothpaste when there isn’t any. Grrrrrrr.

I’m sure that there are a million-and-one other useful tips to help when travelling regularly but they can be for another time.

Safe journey all.