We used to have this bright red poster with white writing on it that said, "Keep Calm and Carry On". Originally created in 1939 at the start of World War 2 by the British Government to boost morale and raise people's spirits in the light of huge global uncertainty, these words became a symbol of the determination and hope held by our country.
Calm is an interesting word and comes from the French word calme which means "tranquillity, quiet" and the Italian word calma translating as "quiet, fair weather". In the 15th century it changed to mean a more figurative "freedom from agitation or passion". Looking at these, the foundations of the word communicate calm as being still, knowing stillness.
The summer holidays, when kids are out of school, brings home the tensions between busy lives and a need for calm. There is an endless stretch of free time ahead, but by the end of the first day, echoes of "I'm bored!" ring out and parents scrabble to find the next thing to do to pacify the wants of their children. Workers start their annual leave and aim to get as much done in their 'down time' and fit as much in to feel that they have made the most of their long-awaited holiday. And here in Wales (not the sunniest place on earth) we sit out in the sunshine for as long as possible, turning a lobster pink, for fear that we won't see it again for another 364 days!
Sometimes it can feel relentless - the need to be doing, going, moving, being seen. The push notifications reminding us that others are out there having fun in the sun - so why aren't we! We see happy families, drinks in hand, splash park in the background. We look longingly at the bronzed and beautiful on our screens and want to be the same.
So, amid this FOMO, how and where can we find calm, especially when our lives are so hectic, frantic and crammed full of stuff? How do we create stillness whilst juggling jobs, caring for family members, and keeping our heads above water? I want you to know that on the other side of this blog is a real person, an optimist, and a dreamer yes, but nonetheless a human being who also struggles with the paradox of the times we find ourselves in. I have done all of the above!
I am a great believer in being bored, I also know the benefit of sitting and doing nothing in particular and I don't want to share my life on social media. But there is always the pull of doing more, being productive and keeping my business visible. So, I've written myself a set of rules for this summer holiday. They are not hard and fast, I have no skin in the game, but I am putting them on here to stay accountable to myself. They are personal to me and are not in any way a judgement on anyone else's life. As I say, all of the above is something I have experienced and felt myself.
So, here goes, Sarah's Summer Rules of Calm:
Sit down and drink the damn coffee. I know when I'm anxious because I am restless and cannot sit still. To allow myself, my mind, and my body to physically sit and drink a cold/hot drink is an important signal that I am slowing down and taking it easy.
Equally, sit down and eat breakfast - preferably outside. Starting my day by sitting down to a meal sets me up for more relaxation throughout the day. It is like priming my brain that I am not going anywhere in a hurry and can take my time.
Grounding every night before bed. This is a new one and something I will cover in more detail in its own post, but putting my bare feet on the grass for 15 minutes each night helps me sleep better, reduces aches and pains and is a lovely calm way to end the day.
Let the kids use screens. OK, this one goes against every fibre of my being! BUT during holiday time we allow our children to use screens each day - not at mealtimes, not before bed and not when we are out together - but more than during school time.
Plan in some activities. I do not want to fill everyday with places and people, but I do find that having set days for a trip or visit is important. Then the in-between days can be more flexible and spontaneous. This includes time for the kids, but also coffees out with friends and time with family for me and my husband.
Plan a budget. Whether this is food out, a visit to a park or doing a regular shop, having a set amount of money can reduce stress and strain and the feeling that money is just disappearing like sand through my fingers!
Light a candle. Even though it is not dark out and I will forego my usual bath for a shower in the warmer weather, I still light candles. The ritual of lighting the room this way and filling the space with scent always feels like a treat. Doing this before bedtime is especially calming.
Walk don't run. I try to walk as much as I can, but also slow down my pace. This applies to walking the dog, getting groceries, or simply posting a letter. I am in no rush, there is no hurry, and I can take my time.
Arrive early. In the past I was always late, running late for everything and missing trains, appointments, and people! I've worked on this over the years, and I am getting better. But holiday time is an ideal time to arrive early and just watch the world go by as I wait.
Saying no is my way of saying yes. I've covered both saying no and yes in previous blog posts. But saying no to certain invitations or to something that won't do me good (like sunbathing until I turn pink!) is a way of saying yes to protecting my time and my own wellbeing.
Stop the scroll and be intentional with my posts. I run my own business and so the pull to keep up is very real. However, so is burnout! Switching off my phone at night, not scrolling and consuming via a screen and being intentional about what I put on my socials is even more important when on holiday. I won't be photo dumping any time soon!
Finally, sssshh! Calm and stillness are found in the quiet moments of the day. Sometimes these happen by chance - right now my children are out playing, but more often they must be created. Late in the day, after everyone is in bed is a very calm time for me and I choose to sit alone outside, shoes off, listening to the night.
So, how will you create calm in your days this summer? What would you put in place as a guide to live by? If you need more ideas and motivation, I have just the thing. I have a 4-part programme, which is self-paced and online. It is an Introduction to Women's Wellness and is available for £28.00 until 30th August when it changes to its full price of £48.00. It is the perfect way to carve out a small amount of time in your day for you. And once you're signed up, it's yours to do as and when you want. Click the link below to sign up and find out more about creating calm and balance in your life.
As always, feel free to share this with those you know that could benefit from more calm in their lives.