Do your life choices make your heart sing? What our holidays can teach us…

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Aren’t holidays just the best?  A change of scene, a chance to get away from the usual  busyness of life.  I’m currently feeling blissed out lounging on a swingy chair by the pool in a beautiful spot in South West France on a family holiday.  Hubby and kids are off on a bike ride through the pine forests – which I’d desperately like to join them on but CFS of course has other ideas.  But I can’t complain, I’m having a wonderful week of rest and rejuvenation in the sunshine. Yoga, meditation, floating in the sea and the pool, lying in the sun, relaxing. I’m using my sunbathing time to really rest and recuperate – using things like breathing techniques, meditation, positive affirmations and visualisation to help switch off my brain’s sympathetic response, that fight or flight response that floods the body with stress hormones creating that feeling of stress and anxiety, and instead training my brain to switch on its parasympathetic response – the rest and relax response.  Chronic stress and anxiety keep the brain stuck in a circle of stress response because those stress hormones create a stressed state, which tells the brain that there’s a reason to be anxious, which further causes it to release more stress hormones. So using techniques to help interrupt this cycle is really important.

I’m also finding ways to do something each day that I really want to do, whilst resisting the temptation to do all the other things I also want to do but I know would be to much. So a few strokes in the pool rather than the gliding up and down the pool that I really want to do (and am visualising being able to do in the future!). It’s all about balance.

It’s got me thinking about why it is we love holidays so much. Ok it’s probably fairly obvious for Brits like me – sunshine and warmth on our bodies! The chance to swim in the sea, feel the sand between our toes, slow down and not have our days dictated by the clock. No alarm to wake us up, no work to go to. A change of scene, maybe different activities and sports to try. And time. Life slows down. We can do what we want, when we want.  We wander around with bare feet. No suits and ties constricting us. We spend more time outside. We do things we just wouldn’t normally do at home – like suddenly decide to drive to the beach to watch the sun go down and a storm come in, like we did a couple of nights ago. Not something we do when there’s school and work the next day.

But then the holiday ends. And we go back to ‘real life’. But what if we had a life we didn’t need a holiday from?  What can we learn from our holidays about ourselves and the life we’d really like to be living?  And could we be better at incorporating more of that holiday feeling into our everyday?  I’m not suggesting we then wouldn’t bother with holidays – I think they’re an important part of life as they give us the time and space that can be difficult to find every day. But we can definitely learn from what it is we love about them and do more of it. Which brings me back to the balance I mentioned earlier.

What I’ve realised is that I crave change. I don’t like being in the same place for too long. It can make me feel stagnant. I love being at home but I also know I want to experience as much of this world, and what it has to offer, as I can.  I also am happiest when I’m outside a lot. I love feeling the air on my skin, the sun (even the rain) on my face and the ground under my bare feet. I love being near water. And whilst some routine is good, I also need a break from routine, a chance to be spontaneous and feel free from routine’s shackles.  These are all things I can take home and find ways to include more in my life.  Could I get up early one morning and watch the sun rise? Of course I can!

I also read a beautiful, heartbreaking but inspiring poem this week, which I’ve already shared on my Facebook page (if you haven’t seen it you can find it at –  https://m.facebook.com/myfriendanxiety.blog). It’s about how we take that wonderful wild, free spirit we have as children and mould it into what we believe is ‘acceptable’ and ‘civilised’ behaviour.  We teach children how to pass exams so they can get a ‘good’ job. We make them wear the right clothes (school uniform, polished shoes, later maybe a suit and tie, or high heels to make their legs look longer). We even employ tutors so when they’re not in school we can make sure they don’t get behind or they get into the right school.  We taxi them to this activity and that club – so they have no time to just play and we have no time to play with them.  Is it any wonder that stress, anxiety and chronic illness are so on the increase?

And yes, I’m as guilty of the above as anyone. Which I’m pretty sure has contributed to my CFS. But I’ve been questioning it all for quite some time and am doing so more and more. While I test my seven year old daughter on her times tables in the car on the drive to France (so she ‘doesn’t get behind’) I’m wondering what the hell I’m doing.  Part of me craves upping and moving to somewhere completely different, where my children can learn about their planet through being immersed in it. Where they can run free, make mistakes, learn about life by living it, not by Googling it.

Until then, I’m going to work on bringing more of these things into our lives at home. I’m going to learn how to bring the holiday pace into our daym

So our ‘holidays’ won’t be breaks from ‘real life’ but a part of our lives that we choose to do just to get to experience different places.

Hazel x

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