Building Our Own Nests
At a concert I went to recently, I heard a soprano sing
O for the wings, for the wings of a dove!
Far away, far away would I rove!
In the wilderness build me a nest
and remain there for ever at rest
The words really spoke to me, and I realised that I had a longing for a nest of my own, a place where I could rest, relax and recuperate.
The truth is that we can all find this place, because it is inside us. But seeking it out, fully inhabiting it and allowing ourselves to rest there is not easy.
What is it to rest and relax?
I asked some friends what it meant to them and they said:
‘For me it's meditation and going to bed early with a great book. I also find drawing very relaxing.’ Beth
‘Relaxation means making things - being creative without time pressure. Walking in a green, natural environment, particularly next to water, is one of my favourite things.’ Anna
‘Relaxation time means many things. But fundamentally it means the time and space to be alone in a safe space and in a relaxed head space without the distraction of external pressures or too much media.’ Hayley
‘Relaxation includes swimming as I love the feeling of the water. In the sea or a lake is the best: however, swimming half a mile in a pool also helps recharge my batteries. Walking along by the canal or through the vines and generally being in nature is also great for de-stressing. As for rest, that's a snooze in a hammock or a soak in luxury bubbles listening to classical music.’ Nicky
‘I find swimming very relaxing on the physical front. Just quietly going up and down at my own pace in subdued lighting- lovely. Also doing puzzles, crosswords, gardening, cuddling in front of the TV, praying, talking to friends, reading- even if it's a who-dun-it!’ Hope
Shannon Norberg, from Mothering Your Heart, (an organisation that offers compassionate support after infertility, baby and child loss ) invites us to ‘try out rest for even a short period of time, with openness and curiosity, just to see what comes of it.’ and acknowledges that after repeated losses, rest can become very elusive.
Resting means different things to different people
It may mean spending time with no or reduced sensory input, time away from phones, TV, the internet or even other people. Time to allow things to settle, to allow answers to emerge, to allow yourself to reset and recalibrate, to slow down your mind, allowing it to process what is already there without adding more. For some people it means time to sleep, for others time in nature, time to read, time to listen to music as an activity in itself. I once made a list of things I could do to switch off, which included baking, running, colouring or drawing, knitting, writing, researching potential travel destinations or reading.
In ‘Living the Life Unexpected’ (Pan MacMillan 2016) by Jody Day, she devotes 5 pages to a feel good menu to help us to both rest and renew. She advises picking one a day or one a week, and emphasises the importance of making it manageable, rather than just another thing you feel you have to do.
Many of us find there are obstacles that get in the way of resting and recuperating
It can take a big effort to step off the treadmill and slow down enough to realise we are getting overwhelmed. And the busier we are, the harder it is. We may ask ourselves questions like, is there time, are we worth it, is it more important to do something for someone else? We may feel that there is so much to do that it would be better to do something off our list rather than step away and sit down for a while. How do we manage to rest so it doesn’t become just another thing to tick off our to do list?
The first thing we need to do is recognise when we need a break
What are the signals that we are getting overloaded? If we can learn to recognise our own particular cries for help and listen to them, then we can begin to work out what it is we need.
Taking a moment to sit still and tune in to ourselves can be very powerful. Ask ourselves, what do I need to do now for myself? Choose something that allows a fresh breeze to blow through your tired, overloaded and stagnated mind. Expand your awareness in the moment so that you get some perspective and can see more clearly, and respond to whatever comes up. And if you are not sure what to do, then dare yourself to just sit and see what happens. Try to rest in the present moment, be present, be here and now and be kind to whatever emerges. And try to remember to relax and be in the moment with whatever activity you choose!
Another approach would be to schedule in half an hour of me-time in your diary, and treat it as if it is as important as a meeting or deadline. The truth is, that we will perform much better if we have had that time. We don’t even necessarily need half an hour – on a busy day just 5 minutes sitting still and doing nothing can be a real tonic. Press the pause button for a moment to see what you need.
Some restful things you could try
Relaxation tips if you have one minute
Take three deep breaths, being conscious of how your breath feels as it leaves and re-enters your body. Say something kind to yourself, for example, ‘You’re doing really well today.’ If you are having a hard time, remind yourself it will pass.
Hug a person or a pet, or ask for a hug.
Relaxation tips if you have three minutes
Try a Breathing Space, an exercise from the Mindfulness work of Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Write down three things you are grateful for in your life right now.
Relaxation tips if you have five minutes
Colour something in, either from a mindful colouring book or a simple shape or picture you draw yourself.
Write a postcard to yourself or a friend.
Listen to a short piece of music or sing along to a favourite song.
Read a poem out loud or to yourself. I love this poem by Sheenagh Pugh.
Relaxation tips if you have 15 minutes
Tend to and water your houseplants.
Read a chapter from a book, either fiction or supportive non-fiction.
Research somewhere in the world you have always wanted to go.
Watch a Ted Talk (they have shorter talks too).
Relaxation tips if you have half an hour
Go for a walk in the nearest park or piece of open space to you.
Take a nap.
Knit, draw, sew or make something.
Watch a TV show or video that makes you laugh.
Relaxation tips if you have an hour or an hour and a half
Go for a potter round the shops.
Cook yourself a delicious meal and eat it with candles burning and your favourite music playing.
Call a friend.
Relaxation tip if you have two hours
Watch a film that you know you love.