A spoiler. This post is not about my cats despite the image. But it is my cats that prompted me to write this blog or, more accurately, opinions that people gave me about them. Last year my cat passed away and lonely without a furry companion around the house I went to Cat Protection. I’ve always had neutered toms though one small female did adopt me when I lived in Warwickshire many years ago. I meant to choose an older male but came home with two 6 month old girls. Everyone told me female cats were different. How? More independent, less needy and keener hunters because their instinct is to forage for their kittens. I was advised the relationship I had with them would not be as close; it would be lesser and the implication was that I had not made the right choice for me. Not surprisingly both my cats are different to my previous one. They are individuals and each of them is very different to the other. What struck me was not how different it was to have female cats but how different it was to have two cats. They have each other and a relationship which predates the relationship they have with me. They wash each other, play together and eat out of each other’s feeding bowls and water stations. Are they a replacement for my previous cat? No but then I wasn’t expecting a replica. I just wanted some cats about the house, some furry friends to take care of and make home feel like home.
I hadn’t asked for a view or advice. I was quite comfortable making a decision without referring to anyone else. But why is it that when someone passes an opinion, which usually leads to advice on some level, we always feel we should give some time to consider their uncalled for point of view? I realised I am a sucker for this. It’s as if I have a ‘polite’ mind that requires me to consider everything ever said to me. I realised that I am not very good at accepting that there are three types of advice – good, bad and non-advice. The latter is all those things people advise you that are just irrelevant.
The truth is that it is often hard to separate out good from bad advice and to drill down into how objective and impartial advice is. However non-advice is easy to spot because it just doesn’t relate to where you are coming from and misses the point.
So today I’ve given myself permission to start ignoring none-advice. Say thank you and then never think about it again.
I’ve been feeling stressed about two events in my life right now. Both are transient and not normally things that would bother me. I started to add to my worry by wondering whether age and menopause were at the root of my unexpected loss of confidence. So I tried to apply techniques I’ve learned through practising yoga for 18 years and then adapted in ways that work for me. They helped. So I thought I’d share.
5-10 minute consious breathing – of course we all breathe unconsiously all of the time but consious breathing for a short period can be really helpful in calming the body. You can do it almost anywhere. And practice means that, overtime, you will be able to switch on mindful breathing like a light switch. There are various apps available to help you. I like GPS for the Soul, available for android and i-phone. You can set a speed and time for your breath practice and it simply gives a little vibration when it is time to breathe in or out. You can get lost in the practice without worrying how long you have been doing it. The app will tell you quietly when your set time is finished. And because the app works with vibration not verbal instructions you can use it in a public place (a long train journey is my favourite). The trick is to breathe in slowly from deep inside your stomach and up through your rib cage and into your throat and as you do so expand your stomach and rib cage. When you breathe out you gradually exhale the air in reverse starting with your throat and finishing deep in your stomach. Choose a pace and length of time that feels right for you. You shouldn’t feel light headed, dizzy or breathless. The point is to restore calm. So start with a couple of minutes and extend the length over a few weeks. Whatever is right for you.
Memory meditations – this is something I’ve been doing for years and discover others do too. It’s easy. Try it if you don’t do it already. Close your eyes and let your mind focus on a memorable occasion, something that made you feel happy and positive but an event that is external to you. Something you experienced as an observer. You don’t want the experience to stir up any negative connections or deep personal emotions that will take your mind in different directions. For me it tends to be about a beautiful view or place I’ve visited on holiday. It’s important to choose something that makes you feel warm and at peace with life, so it might be a very detailed experience, like watching a bee collecting nectar from a flower. Just cut out everything around you and just allow the thought to occupy all your mind. Think about what it looked like, how it smelled, the sound of itand how it made you feel. Watch how your body relaxes and your breath slows!
Stare at the moon (or the sky) – literally stare into space. Just look at the sky. Observe the moon, the movement of the clouds, the patterns of the stars or a bird flying across your view. Being lost in space; a space that reminds you that you are a speck on the planet and that the world is existing irrespective of what you do, say or think, is very calming. It gives you a sense of proportion. Your stress or concern will pass and the sky will not change. It’s humbling and comforting at the same time.
Take a walk – just get out and walk – round the block, round the garden or down the road. It doesn’t have to be a hike. Just a 10 minute stroll or a brisk walk changes your perspective. Don’t actively try to think about whatever is bugging you. Let your thoughts flow. Maybe walking through your concern will sort it, calm you or help you forget it for a short period of time.
Now tell me what do you do to ease stress in a health-full way.