It’s been a crazy year since they announced the lockdown and most of our life became uprooted from what we’ve always known and thought it to be. I feel it. You feel it. We all do. We’ve gone from the normalcy of our lives being shaken to the core to finding and having to make sense out of a new way of doing things.
In the face of uncertainty, people respond differently. Some find it difficult to be productive and some dive into any and every project they can get their hands on. There’s no right or wrong. That’s just the way our minds and bodies adjust to the crisis brought about by what’s been happening around the world.
As a person who tends to cope by taking on a lot (sometimes too much) projects to keep busy, my mornings and afternoons are spent writing, studying, making plans. Before I go to bed, instead of counting sheep, I count items from checklists of things that I have to accomplish the next day. Ever since I started going the freelance route and working from home, I’ve discarded holidays and Saturdays, only taking my rest on Sundays.
All these led me to realise one thing: if I keep this up, I’ll get tired faster and burn out quicker. We need moments of silence when our minds aren’t busy thinking of what to do next or running down checklists, making plans, learning lessons, processing things. We need to rest.
Here are some ways we can take a rest to silence and soothe our souls even amid busy schedules:
1. Listen to calming music
Music is a given when it comes to calming yourself down, but have you tried searching the internet for songs that are just soft, soothing, and speak to your soul?
Most people I know listen to upbeat music to get them in the mood for work or exercise and to get their blood pumped up and running. I know people who can’t work on anything at all unless there’s dance music blasting from the speakers. There’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes, slow music helps us to focus on the things we need to get done, while at the same time, helps us calm our minds.
I love a good, pick-me-up beat every now and then, but I’ve learned that listening to slow, instrumental music works best while I’m working because it gets me in the mood (especially when I’m writing). Listening to calming music grounds me when my thoughts are spinning off tangent and I’m caught in a web of checklists and tasks. It silences my soul, steadies me, and helps me not to panic especially when I have a deadline that’s relentlessly drawing near.
(Tip: If you don’t know where to start, try Yiruma, a Korean pianist with some of the most beautiful instrumental pieces.)
2. Journal your thoughts
I’ve always been a fan of keeping a diary or a journal. Recently, however, I’ve been discovering just how powerful and beautiful journaling is. I’m learning to appreciate all the more the art of journaling for what it is and what it does.
Not only does journaling let you record your days by “writ[ing] of ordinary life as if one were writing history”, as French novelist Gustave Flaubert says, but journaling lets you express what often feels so hard to say out loud. When I’m going through something, I write. When I feel things I don’t know how to express, I write. Whether life is unbearable or beautiful, I write.
Sometimes I do it by hand, sometimes I type all my thoughts into an app on my phone. The way you do it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you don’t keep the thoughts trapped in your head. Let them flow from your mind and heart, through your fingertips, until they spill out into the open. Sometimes, the way to soothe and silence your soul is to let it say what it has to say…and only then can it rest.
If you’re not sure what to write or when, try to give yourself time each day to write. Here are some prompts you can use:
- How did your day go?
- How do you feel right now?
- What are some things you can’t stop thinking about?
- What would make you feel better?
Another great thing about journals is that it becomes a record of your past. Revisiting your journals from a few years ago can remind you of darker days where you used to be, dark days where you are no longer in. Rereading old journal entries reminds you of where you’ve been and the long way you’ve come. I like looking back and realising my journey — where I was then and where I am now and all the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
3. Read books
This is not to get you to doze off, but to help your mind relax at the end of the day. Snuggling in bed with a book just before you turn out the lights reduces stress and helps your mind to rest. Some people find that reading a good inspirational, motivational book is just the thing that gets them to rest. Others like how fiction novels take them to a world that can be vastly different from their own.
It’s up to you to choose any book that you feel will help you, but make sure it’s something that you will enjoy and something that will relax you. Sometimes, I like reading motivational writings about productivity or setting good habits. Sometimes, I like reading about people who become inspiring catalysts in their communities. Sometimes, I re-read a good, old novel just for the sake of revisiting friends in old characters and stories. It varies every time, but one thing is common: they help me relax and take a much-needed rest at the end of the day.
(Note: If you need book recommendations, I’d be very happy to help!)
4. Take a walk…or wash dishes
When life gets a little too hard to bear and all you ever do is add to your to-do list and barely cross anything out, stand up and leave your desk for a while. Go outside, admire the breeze brushing your face and the colours of the leaves. Sometimes, all you need to be able to rest is to take a quick breather away from what you’re currently doing. Nature is very effective in helping us calm our overcrowded minds and silence our overstuffed thoughts.
Washing dishes help too, which may be quite surprising (and no, I’m not saying that just to get you to do your chores). It’s because touching (and hearing) water brings you back to a certain degree of calmness. “The natural chillness of the water will give your body a naturally soothing treatment that calms you both mentally and physically by calming your nerves. Even warmer waters during summer can help relax your muscles and ease any tensions being held up in your body.” (Gr8ness: Water’s Calming Effects)
This fascinating concept is called the “blue mind” which is further explained by marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols in his book, Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do.
If you live near a beach or a lake, whenever you feel stressed and tired, jump right in and let the water soothe your soul. If you live in the city (like I do), you can take a shower or wash the dishes. Just letting your fingers touch the water and hearing the sound of it pouring can calm you down (the same goes for when we hear rain).
5. Schedule time for rest
Have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique? A friend from a freelance community introduced me to it a few weeks ago and I’ve found it so helpful ever since. I now apply it whenever I’m doing work.
The Pomodoro Technique follows six steps:
- Choose a task you’d like to get done.
- Set the Pomodoro (or any timer) for 25 minutes.
- Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings.
- When the Pomodoro rings, put a checkmark on the paper.
- Take a short break.
- After four Pomodoros, take a longer break.
Working this way helps me not only meet the objectives I set, but it forces me to take a break every 25 minutes and an even longer break after a couple of hours or so. And this “forced” break helps me become motivated and more productive. I don’t just stumble accidentally into taking a rest, but I include it in my schedule (*stage whisper* plus it lets me read books in between working, and who doesn’t like that?!).
Not only do you take a break in between working, but also on the weekends, which is something I’m learning a lot these days. No more working on weekends for me! You need to take both a pause and a long rest. It’s something that will help you in the long run. You can’t keep going on an empty tank. You’ve got to recharge and refill, and the best way to do that is to rest.
6. Pick up a hobby
When I was younger, I didn’t really like cooking. These days, however, and ever since the lockdown began, I’ve found myself excited to try out new recipes for my family. For some reason, cutting onions, garlic, and other vegetables calms me and sautéing all the ingredients in the pan brings about a certain zen.
For some of you, it might be picking up an instrument that you’ve left sitting in the corner for too long. For others, it might be brushing the cobwebs off your paints and canvas. Whatever it is, find a creative outlet that lets you relax your mind, your body, your heart, and your soul.
You don’t have to make it your next career or even your next big project. It just has to be something that you enjoy doing, something that makes you happy, and something that lets you rest.
Originally published on The Inkindreads
It’s your turn! What do you do to rest in the middle of a busy schedule? How do you silence and soothe your soul?