I know that title sounds silly. First of all, it feels nothing like Summer at the moment and secondly, the last thing most people want to think about is putting structure in their lives. In fact, remember when you were a kid and school had finished and you had the whole L-O-O-O-N-N-N-G-G summer stretching out ahead of you and how cool that was? Well, in my case it filled me with anxiety. I liked the structure imposed upon me by the school bell and timetable. I disliked having all this time to do with what I wanted because inevitably I ended up wasting it and that always pissed me off. (Yes, even in primary school!)
I would start the summer off full of good intentions to read more, write more, catch up on school work, learn a new skill or language and then I would find myself going to bed later and later and therefore getting up later and later and not getting any of my grandiose schemes started, never mind completed! Well, I’m not at school any more but I have signed up to a number of online courses which means I DO have reading and writing to do, work to catch up on and new skills to learn. But guess what? Just like 30 years ago I have started going to bed later and later and therefore getting up later and later and NOT getting my work done. And yet again, it’s pissing me off!
So I have a plan in place. And I’d like to share it in case it helps you too:
- I am utilising my 2012 Creating Your Goddess Year Calendar from Goddess Leonie Dawson to ensure that I can see what appointments I have each month all on one page. She also has little cute drawings on the planner and suggestions such as “Happiness Day” (5th June, in case you were wondering).
- I am then using her daily planner tool to break each day down into my 3 Most Important Tasks which I write into my own diary. Before it just had blank pages with the odd yoga or Pilates class scribbled in. Now it still has my classes written in, as well as other appointments and time it will take me to travel to/from each appointment, AND my 3 Most Important Tasks for the day.
- I also got a large 2012 Year Planner for my wall (they should be pretty cheap now, considering we’re halfway through the year) and I am able to see at a glance when I am on holidays, when I am teaching Pilates Instructor Training courses, whereabouts I am in my class schedule and when I am likely to overcommit myself so that I can avoid doing so and causing overwhelm.
- I like writing things down. So I also have programme plans etc. written down on flipchart paper and stuck on the wall beside my Year Planner. If you are not a writer you could always make much better use of your Smartphone’s scheduling facilities or Google Calendars. I just like to see what I’ve written whenever I want, without turning on technology. (I am hoping my use of different coloured pens prevents me from being called a Luddite by more technologically savvy friends).
So that’s my plan. More structure = less stress for me this summer. If I have structure I can rebel against it, like not do all three of my Most Important Tasks. If I have no structure I get caught in indecision and fear and get nothing done.
And considering I have a 2448 mile drive during my holidays I need structure to ensure I get where I need to go when I need to be there! I am combining technology (with GPS) with old fashioned methods (maps and asking people when we get lost) and this should be enough structure to get us moving without feeling like we are a slave to our schedule hence we only booked hotels for the start and the end of the trip, leaving us free to do what we want and go where we want within reason. But more of that next time…
Most people know that wartime saying ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ and some people I know (I’m thinking of you Ruth!) even have it up on their wall at home as a constant reminder to keep calm in the chaos of modern life. We no longer have the threat of invasion by warring factions to worry us but that doesn’t mean we’re not still stressed. In fact, our cortisol levels (hormone produced by our adrenal glands in response to stress) are higher than ever! Now, small increases of cortisol have some positive effects:
- A quick burst of energy for survival reasons
- Heightened memory functions
- A burst of increased immunity
- Lower sensitivity to pain
- Helps maintain homeostasis in the body
While cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it’s important that the body’s relaxation response becomes activated so the body’s functions can return to normal following a stressful event. Unfortunately, in our current high-stress culture, the body’s stress response is activated so often that the body doesn’t always have a chance to return to normal, resulting in a state of chronic stress.
To keep cortisol levels healthy and under control, the body’s relaxation response should be activated after the fight or flight response occurs. You can learn to relax your body with various stress management techniques, and you can make lifestyle changes in order to keep your body from reacting to stress in the first place. The following have been found by many to be very helpful in relaxing the body and mind, aiding the body in maintaining healthy cortisol levels:
- Guided Imagery
- Breathing Exercises
I intend to discuss these 7 techniques in more detail during the following week, because I have used them ALL at some time, and want to share what I found. In the meantime I will leave you with the reason why I am doing this series of relaxation techniques:
After another late night working on my new Pilates Instructor Training manual I put my laptop down after 1am and turned my bedroom light off at 2.05am only to wake up, in a complete cold-sweat panic, at 6.15am! I just had so much cortisol running through my system that I couldn’t settle back down to sleep and instead I lay there churning over old conversations and thinking “I should’ve said this” or “I should’ve done that” and getting myself into a right old pickle! So, still feeling very physically tired, I read a couple of chapters of an inane romantic novel to try and lull me back to sleep. But, to no avail. I got up at 9am and have spent the whole day wondering around like a zombie and knowing that I have to be on ‘top-form’ tonight for my Pilates and yoga classes in Edenmore which is causing the stress levels to rise again and the whole pattern to repeat itself…
So, I’m signing off to do a quick restorative yoga practice just for me which will hopefully get the hormones back under control! Either that or I’ll start crying. And I can’t do that to my wonderful students. So, I’ll just ‘Keep Calm and Carry OM’ instead.