Stilling the mind

What do you do when your mind gets stuck in a track, running round and round in a repetitive, fruitless worrying at something you can do nothing about?  It doesn't happen to me often.  I don't think of myself as an anxious person at all.  I am naturally quite calm and even tempered, cheerful by default, inclined to have a good time whenever I can with family and friends, good company, a glass of wine and good food.  So it always surprises me when one of the inevitable anxieties of life somehow gets a hold of me and I find my mind running round and round with it, like a hamster on a wheel.

Sometimes gardening helps but it didn't today.  I was weeding down in the native tree bed.  The mindless, repetitive nature of pulling weeds can be calm and soothing, the sun on my back, almost like a meditation.  But today all that mindless repetition  just seemed to allow me to run round and round in my mindless nagging worry.  I tried all the stuff about mindfulness, concentrating on the moment, feeling the sun, seeing the colour of the nepeta against the shocking pink of a hardy geranium, but it didn't work.  Whatever the self help books tell you, it doesn't always!  I decided to weed hard for an hour or so.  Then at the very least I would have achieved something while my mind went round and round.

Yoga helps when you can get at it.  When I started I was so bad at yoga that the very idea that it could have any calming or relaxing effect was laughable.  Now that I have been going for about three years I remain resolutely unbendy in some areas, pleasingly flexible in others and always come home from a class feeling mentally and physically ironed out.  No yoga this week though as I am away tomorrow and will miss my usual class.

So this afternoon's calming, feelgood arsenal consisted of:
one Solero icecream, eaten on the bench in the sun,
half an hour of quite difficult knitting, needing enough concentration to absorb my mind but providing the rhythmical physical satisfaction of handling the needles,
half an hour with a cup of tea watching the chickens scratch and then watering the scented leaf geraniums,
half an hour planting out euphorbia oblongata seedlings in the cutting garden.

 
And slowly the mix of being outside and both doing things and doing nothing worked its magic.  By tonight I had hopped off the hamster wheel and packed it away in its box.  This evening we walked up the hill as usual.  Walking is the other great way for me to still the racing mind.  Whenever I walk the very action of putting one foot in front of another makes me feel good.

So there you are: tea, chickens, knitting, walking, yoga, planting things out in the sunshine.  I also find that
talking to those I love and walking and playing with dogs are great calmers and cheerers.

What works for you?

Comments

  1. I think it's always tea and a good book, but now that it is summer, the garden is my therapy. Except not today-100 degrees F.♥♫

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    1. Yes, a really absorbing book is great, generally not of the high brow type!

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  2. Wish I had your powers. For me it has to be something totally distracting - a film, just maybe a good book, but relief is often just temporary. Maybe the next day it is less, with the benefit of sleep. Time, the great healer. Alcohol can help too, to see a different perspective. Through a glass brightly. Oh dear, the grind of the mind. Stay happy!

    Lacking your green fingers I bought two ready-made hanging baskets today and a £4 rosebush. The medlars brought from the Mill are covered with white flowers and the walnut that came as a self-seed ditto - a tiny whip a foot long - is now as tall as me. They are all rather beautiful these trees; the willow that came as a free gift from Woolworths when I bought an apple, is now the height of the house and will no doubt undermine its foundations in due course. The forecast is for rain tomorrow and I must go to bed and dream of planting acorns.

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    1. Now alcohol, you are so right. How could I have missed alcohol off my list?

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  3. Substitute Magnum Gold for Solero and I would share your recipe entirely... :)

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  4. You list is my go to stress relievers as well minus the chickens(sadly!). And I avoid driving during hamster wheel periods at all cost. Too much thinking time. Thinking makes he wheel spin way too fast!

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    1. That's interesting. I agree with you about driving and yet walking doesn't work in the same way at all. It is much easier to connect with the landscape while walking and that stops the wheel.

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  5. I'm having a time of it, too! Gardening seems to help me the most....

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    1. Gardening normally works well for me too. Hope your time improves!

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  6. Missing some of those outlets here on holiday, but I brought along some sock-knitting and that helps. The other day I was so wound up I thought it was time to try out the bikes our kind landlady lent us -- and that was just the ticket! Ended up sleeping much, much better that night -- sounds as if you will be too, and you'll have a more beautiful garden. . .

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    1. If I lived somewhere flat I would have a go at cycling. Up here it would be madness. You would either kill yourself going down or coming back up.

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  7. Sorry to hear that you're feeling out of sorts. For me it's meditation, it's something I've been practicing for a few years now having only dabbled before, now I feel huge benefits - I still have the capacity to worry for England, but at least I'm learning ways to reduce that or even stop it sometimes - although serious amounts of chocolate, red wine or Bunnahabhain certainly play their part!

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    1. I have always been interested in meditation. I think one of the reasons I enjoy the yoga is that the teacher is keen on meditation so there is some of that as well as the physical elements of the class.

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  8. Meditation sometimes helps. Reading, quilting, playing music - as in actually picking up an instrument and MAKING music, really helps. That chattering monkey-mind is often a precursor to the Black Cloud, so it's good to nip it in the bud! Being outside helps both situations, but I am no gardener. Gazing at your header photograph certainly lifts the spirits, Elizabeth!

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    1. Making music - what a great idea! I wish I could. I don't play any instrument and don't have a great voice but I do love to sing, preferably in a choir full of people who do have great voices.

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  9. Lovely post, and lovely geraniums...

    I find that if I take time out to just look at things - really look - then that's a good way of calming down. Plus, I discover all sorts of things just by watching and not doing. The bees in my garden, for instance, seem to prefer the foxgloves that grow behind the greenhouse (whoops) to all others, and of those they prefer the paler ones which they visit and revisit and revisit. If I'd done what I was supposed to be doing (de-sideshooting the toms) instead, I'd never have noticed.

    (In the past, of course, I'd have had a ciggy - er, just changed by spellchecker to 'piggy', no comment. Not since 2005, now I watch bees...)

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    1. I am adding watching bees to my mental list right now. Love it. And easy to do up here too!

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  10. Reading a good book is a great distraction, but sometimes, the minute you stop, those same thoughts grab hold again. The worst is at night, when you wake at 2 in the morning to the hamster wheel.
    AS you said sometimes the best thing is just to do something mundane but useful so that at least you have something to show for the time, not just a haywire ball of stress!

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    1. It can be a sort of going with the flow, just to do something useful. As mater says, at least you end up with a weeded garden!

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  11. Gardening and walking usually help me. Hope your spirits are lifted soon:)

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    1. Yes me too. Gardening and walking while drinking a glass of wine and reading a good book - that's it!

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  12. Oh yes Elizabeth - all this sounds very familiar. I do envy those folk who can say that as you can do nothing about it it is no good worrying. I usually work myself into a frazzle for a couple of days and then suddenly realise that I have got it into perspective and the worrying has gone. I think we all have to find our own way through these things.

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    1. You are right. Everyone does it differently but it is interesting to hear how people work. I am not usually a frazzler so it takes me aback when the hamster wheel starts turning, but as you say, it stops again!

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  13. Gardening, walking the dog, sailing, dark chocolate, a cold glass of sauvignon blanc... I may still worry, but they all help pass the time pleasantly. Glad you are feeling brighter again!

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    1. I will take the cold glass of sauvignon blanc please.

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  14. The whippets are one of my great stress relievers, although having five can bring its own stresses. And walking and knitting. And big skies ... to just go somewhere where the sky stretches away for ever!

    Glad you found your equilibrium :D

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    1. Big skies, that is a good one. Mine is hills or the sea I think.

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  15. Elizabeth, I definitely recognize what you describe about wheels spinning away in you head.

    My varied collection of antidotes include some already mentioned, walking (both along busy city streets and quieter park pathways,) reading, knitting/crocheting, meditation, housecleaning. Although this might sound strange, I also find the very active, physical and mental, requirements of my workplace drive away just about all my personal thoughts. Sometimes, this is a benefit!

    Best wishes to you. xo

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    1. Housecleaning? I suppose it can be therapeutic and even if it isn't you have a clean house! I like your list and I agree about the demands of a job, although that can be a double edged sword.

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  16. Horses are my antidote to the hamster wheel. On horseback is the only time my brain is washed of everything else in the universe and there's a physical aspect that induces smile-making endorphins, followed by restful and restorative sleep. On really bad days, when I don't have time, money or available riding, I drive up the hill to a local stables and "breath me some horse". The people up there understand what that means, which helps too.

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    1. I love the idea of horses as the answer!

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  17. I am on that hamster wheel at the moment. It happens fairly regularly, work is a bit stressful at the moment but I tell myself I worry too much. Then I tell myself back if I didn't care so much, I wouldn't be worrying so much! I need a day to myself and all will be well again, I hope.

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    1. A day to yourself is always a restorative. Hope you have got yours!

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  18. I'm glad you've discovered those things that help you escape the hamster wheel. For me, it's walking in the countryside and watching wildlife.

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    1. We saw a hare the other night as we walked up the hill. That kind of wildlife sighting always lifts the heart.

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  19. I know how you feel, it is awful when anxiety gnaws away at you with little escape. i too find yoga very soothing, meditation in a quiet sunny spot with some positive affirmations, a good chat or going for a run. I do hope the worries ease and flow away.

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    1. I have really noticed the absence of yoga this week. I am not good at creating the same sensation when I try to do it myself. I need the discipline of the class to really focus!

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  20. My sovereign cure is a Day Out . Getting on a train with a good book , a cup of coffee and an unfamiliat destination always works for me . Maybe it's the anonimity ? But it is becoming more difficult to find the time , these days .
    Luckily chopping vegetables for a big pot of soup is almost as therapeutic ...

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    1. Totally love the idea of a Day Out. We too find it hard to find/make the time but a day out, solo or together, really does hit the spot.

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  21. I try to divert the hamster wheel energy into writing a blog post. Or weeding THAT bit of the garden, my Evening Rays have set, I was carefully restriping that garden bed today. Got halfway, enough to motivate me to finish tomorrow?

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  22. 1. Gardening
    2. Sitting by the ocean
    3. Flying and looking out the airplane window at how insignificant everything "down there" seems.
    4. Yoga
    5. Wine

    (Not necessarily in that order)

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