By Karen Holford, Family Ministries Director for the Trans-European Division

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The other evening I was stressed and tired. I had deadlines. Things weren’t going to plan. I was annoyed and irritated and I felt like an inside-out hedgehog. Someone offered to make me a hot drink, which should have been nice. But I was grumbly and cross, and we started to bicker about stupid little things, even though neither of us wanted to. I realised that, if I wasn’t careful, things would spiral into a massive row for no reason at all…And then I would have prickles on the inside and on the outside, and someone else would get hurt. I didn’t want to do that to someone I loved.

I mumbled something about being sorry and how much I appreciated the lemon and ginger tea. Then I sat down and made a list of everything I could do to help myself relax, chill out and be a calmer and less prickly person.

And this is my list:

◐  Go out in the garden and blow the biggest bubbles – this is my favourite chill out activity. The slow breathing calms my whole body, bubbles are fun, and sometimes I pretend I’m blowing all my stress into the bubbles, which just pop and disappear. No bubbles? Nowhere to go? Raining? I just pretend I’m blowing bubbles and watching them all float away. It looks a bit crazy, but it works.

◐ Go for a fast walk. Anywhere. It’s great if there’s a park and even better if there is a forest. But, even if I can only walk around the streets, I pay attention to all the tiny details around me. I count all the different birds I can hear. Or I keep looking for interesting or beautiful things – a daisy growing through a crack in the pavement, a neatly mown lawn, someone smiling. Or I look at the sky and watch the clouds.

◐ Make a list of everything I’m thankful for. I try to list at least 20 things and I always end up feeling better. If I get stuck I wander around my house and imagine what it would be like to live without running water and electricity.

◐ Watch something funny like a favourite sitcom, movie or YouTube clip. Having a good laugh releases positive hormones that help me to relax, and then I feel more like a kitten than a hedgehog.

◐ Do something distracting. I choose something enjoyable to do that absorbs my whole attention. It could be working on a creative project, or reading an inspiring novel, or even playing a game. I like to write, so I might try writing a micro story in 50 words.

◐ Write lists. Lists of things I’m looking forward to. Lists of fun things I can do in 10 or 30 minutes. Lists of presents to buy for next Christmas.

◐ Bubble baths and hand massages are also relaxing. Lavender and citrus fragrances are good for helping me to calm down and clear my mind.

◐ Drink water slowly. Sipping water is another natural trick for calming the body down.

◐ Always good. I put one small piece in my mouth, let it melt, and see how long I can make it last. Bliss…

◐ Tidy up. I use my emotional energy to do something practical around the house. Sorting a messy cupboard. Mowing the lawn. Washing the car. Cleaning the windows. Something that will give me a sense of satisfaction when I’ve finished.

◐ Someone once told that if everyone got 7-8 hours sleep a night there would be much less conflict in the world. I don’t know if it is true. But I’m certainly calmer and less like an inside-out hedgehog when I’ve had a good night’s sleep.

What about the other person? When I’ve calmed down I begin to think about them. I stand in their shoes and wonder what their life is like. I wonder where they have learned to respond to conflict in this way. I wonder what’s important to them. I wonder what their hopes and dreams are, and how I contributed to the conflict. And I wonder what would help them to calm down and feel better too, and if they would like a cup of tea, a piece of chocolate, or a pot of bubbles.

Karen Holford, Family Ministries Director for the Trans-European Division

Karen Holford is currently working as Family Ministries Director for the Trans-European Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Prior to this, she was an integral part of the Family Therapy Team for the Association for Family Therapy Scotland.

1 Comment

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    Geert June 16, 2017

    Love the bubbles Karen!!! Definitely going to give that a go!!!
    Just reading your blog already calmed me down..thank you!

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