A little while ago, I was having a really rough day. I had slept terribly for a few nights, I was grieving the loss of a family member, struggling to get through a three hour lecture on Neuropsychology at University, and I was fighting with assignment deadlines I didn’t think I could get through. My mind was racing at 100 miles an hour full of everything I needed to do, everything I was worried about, ruminating on recent events. I generally felt fed up, tired and stressed. I’m sure everyone reading can recognise times where that has happened to them.
This was around the time we had some beautiful weather in February. As I study near the coast, I decided to take a stroll down to the beach after what could be considered the hardest lecture I’d ever sat through – it was literally brain surgery! I don’t know why I decided to go to the beach, I’m not particularly bothered by them normally, and I don’t like the way sand gets everywhere – but off I went anyway. When I reached the beach, I stopped. I slowly took off my shoes and just took a moment to breathe. I spent some time thinking about the softness of the sand in between my toes, I listened to the waves, and I just kept breathing. I spent some time collecting myself, giving my mind the breathing space it needed. Thoughts about all those stressors kept coming in, but I just kept directing my attention and my focus back to my experience on that beach in that moment. I gave myself permission to just be in that moment, without having that moment ruined by the stress I was experiencing about the past or future.
This might shock you to learn, but what I did there was Mindfulness. People often worry that they don’t have time to practice Mindfulness because they can’t fit in an hour of meditation a day. Mindfulness can be informal, just appreciating the current moment, and guiding the mind back to the current moment when it wanders.
After my short time on the beach, I can’t say I was “relaxed” as such, but that’s not necessarily the point. What I had gained was time for myself, time where I wasn’t adding to my stress by the way I was thinking, and I gained perspective. I started to think about how life is like the beach. Some days, it’s sunny, the sea is calm, the tide is out and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Other days, it storms – the waves come crashing in, the sky is dark and it rains. The thing you can guarantee is the waves will calm again, the sky will brighten again and the rain will clear. I looked back over the course of my life, and realised that whenever I’ve had those difficult days, eventually I have felt better. I realised I wouldn’t feel this way forever, these difficult moments in life will pass, and that perspective can be one of the most helpful things when we are negotiating those times.
So the next time you’re feeling stressed, or you’re having a bad day, why not get outside? Spend some time in nature and immerse yourself in that moment, just give yourself some breathing space.
By Bethan Jones, Valleys Steps Course Practitioner