The following piece was highly commended in the OU Students Association Wellbeing Writing Competition for Freshers Fortnight 2021. The author, Emma, is from Peterborough and is studying Psychology with Counselling BSc.
Wellness is a word that can make you think of so many things. It can be a long walk; a lavender enthused bath or maybe even a glass of wine and a good book to some people. What do you do though if your world revolves around stress, deadlines, coursework and non-stop family life? “there is no time for wellness” “I can’t relax, I have too much to do!” I hear you all cry. I understand that, and I really do; because this is me too! I am here today to tell you that in order to get stuff done, you need to allow yourself a break to unwind. This helps you mentally and physically. Enabling you to do and be the best you you can be!
I am here to tell you that you can still relax, have time for yourself. I will tell you why you should do it, and that it takes only 10 minutes. You deserve these 10 minutes, and you need them; I promise you your world will look a bit clearer and you will feel more grounded, more able to complete your tasks just for doing so.
Imagine if you can, you’re on an aeroplane. There are people all around you, the flight is calm, but a tannoy comes on overhead ‘there is an issue, please place on your overhead air masks and breathe as normal.’ the person next to you is having trouble putting on their mask, do you put it on for them first? No, you put on your own – why? Because you cannot assist the other passenger when you haven’t helped yourself first – this is true for your mental well-being. You cannot help others when you first haven’t attended to yourself.
When you feel stressed/anxious/worried, all tasks can be overwhelming. Negative thoughts like “I am running out of time” or “I can’t do this” can creep in like unwanted guests in your home! When you feel any negative thoughts are causing you to feel overwhelmed, give yourself 10 minutes. In these 10 minutes go and do something that makes you happy – or – feel calm. Personally, I love a good cup of coffee or chamomile tea; I like to sit in a quiet space and use all of my senses to ground myself again.
Using grounding techniques in your 10-minute gap can just help you, re-charge. Sight, Taste, Touch, Sound and Smell – your five human senses, use them and reconnect with your body. It doesn’t have to be meditation. My mind wanders too much for me to meditate, but using my senses; I can ground myself and be back to my task feeling refreshed and with a clear head.
So using my coffee as an example here:
Sight: I can see my dark brown coffee, my coffee cup (which is a Winnie the Pooh mug in the shape of a Hunny Pot) – yellow with pictures all over it. Look in-depth and describe it out loud to yourself (it gives your mind less time to wander back to whatever was causing you to worry).
Taste: Tastes like good coffee! Smooth, bitter and a slight sweetness from the brown sugar I put in it. Taste can sometimes be difficult, but your imagination is key here – an example if you like looking outside, or standing outside what flavour is in the air? Is it fresh grass, dampness from rain or snow? The possibilities can be endless.
Touch: I can feel the weight of my heavy mug, the smoothness of the china and the warmth radiating from the coffee inside.
Sound: I can hear the liquid moving from side to side in the cup, the noise I make as I blow away the steam and the clink from my spoon as I stirred in my sugar.
Smell: This is the best one – This sense can help tie the thoughts into your mind and solidify it in your memory. Coffee has its own unique aroma; you can smell the beans’ bitterness, coupled with an almost floral overtone. Whatever you choose, make sure the smell brings you back to something with a good memory.
After you have finished connecting with your senses and getting back to whatever task you were doing, just mentally do a body scan and ensure that all parts of your body are comfortable and not tense. If you feel any part of you that still feels tense do the following: Tense that muscle group for five seconds, take a big breath in and breathe out for five seconds whilst releasing the muscles and take note that you should have removed the tense feeling in that area also.
That’s it after you get back to the task in hand, keep a mental watch on your body. It’s good to check in with it once and a while. Use the 10 minutes to your advantage. Eventually, you will incorporate them to become part of your day as they have my own.