Before I left to go skiing recently I’d been feeling stressed and was finding it hard to fully relax and switch off. Now that I’m back, I can barely recall what was bothering me.
It’s a reminder to me of just how important it is for us to have times when we completely disconnect from the day-to-day.
Switching off from work and personal commitments shifts our perspective. It acts as a reset and it re-energises us and lifts our mood. It doesn’t of course change any challenges or issues going on in our lives, but it definitely makes us better equipped to deal with them.
While we can’t always go on holidays or hit the slopes, we can incorporate some of the benefits of a break into our daily routines.
So what made this skiing trip such a powerful reset, and how can we include elements of this into our everyday lives?
Here are a few lessons I learned:
Engage in ‘flow’ activities
Skiing forces you to be in the moment. Engaging in ‘flow’ activities – ones that require our full attention such as singing in a choir, playing an instrument or playing a team sport, not only make us feel happier they also improve our resilience.
I find, however, when I discuss flow activities with people they so often say “I used to …”. I used to play the guitar. I used to play 5-a-side football. I used to write poetry.
So it’s worth asking – do you a) know what your flow activities are and b) do you make time for these things?
Change your environment
Skiing is a total change of environment. Sub zero temperatures. Snow. Mountains. A different country. A different language. Different food.
A change of environment can be really helpful when you’re stressed, have a busy mind or are finding it hard to switch off or get perspective. And you don’t need to go on a ski trip or a holiday to achieve this. Just going for a walk, visiting a café or park or going somewhere different to where you spend most of your day/week can be enough to shift your perspective and mood.
Spend time in nature
Skiing is of course in the mountains – in nature. Most of us though don’t spend enough time outdoors even though nature is incredibly healing and restorative and the benefits for our wellbeing and our mental and physical health are significant.
So how might you spend more time in nature? And where is your happy place – the sea, the mountains, a nearby park, being in your garden? Even having more plants in your environment is known to be beneficial for us.
Find exercise you enjoy
Skiing is a lot of exercise. And we all know how good exercise is for us. But most people go skiing because they enjoy it. The challenge is that if exercise is in the ‘should’ category, it’s much harder to do it when you’re tired, busy or under pressure.
So what form of exercise suits you? A previous client of mine hated exercise but felt he ‘should’ be fitter for his young son. Then one day he saw a sign for a 10k zombie night run which he thought sounded fantastic but also knew he would have to get fit for. Suddenly he was excited to get out running!
These days there is literally a form of exercise to suit everyone. Individual, group or team, competitive or non-competitive, speed or endurance, indoors or outdoors, with music blaring or relaxing silence. From Zumba to tag rugby to having a personal trainer to spinning classes to online yoga to walking Meetups in the mountains.
Does it work better for you if you do something with others? Like tennis or squash or a team sport? Personally I find it really hard to just go for a walk for ‘no reason’, but will walk forever if chatting with a friend. Or do you find it easier if you decide to do it at a set day/time so you don’t have to think about it?
A few years back my husband wanted to start playing football again and I wanted to get back to yoga. He found a group of guys playing football every Wednesday evening at 9pm and I knew there was a yoga studio 5 minutes from my house with classes on every day. Fast forward a few months and he was playing football each week – everything else fitted round it. Whereas because I could do yoga any time, I never decided a certain time was my ‘yoga time’ and I hardly ever ended up going.
The easier it is for you to do and the more enjoyable you find it, the more it will become and then stay a regular part of your life.
I absolutely love dancing and totally forgot until I was back on the slopes (after a four year gap) that there’s loads of dancing at après ski! I went for the skiing but found I also LOVED the dancing! And fun is an incredible antidote to stress, is good for our brains and boosts our creativity and our resilience.
So what do you find fun or really love doing just for it’s own sake? What feeds your soul? And are you doing this enough?
Connect with others
Shared experiences like coming down that tricky slope together or singing along to cheesy music in apres ski, foster a sense of connection. And feeling a sense of belonging is vital to our wellbeing.
So where do you get your sense of belonging or connection from? When do you feel part of something? Who do you feel closest to outside of family? Who is your Tribe (or Tribes)?
For many people, the challenge element to skiing helps with the immersion and ability to switch off from other things. Challenging yourself, getting outside your comfort zone or learning new things often also helps people feel alive and energised.
So where might you like to grow, learn or challenge yourself in your life or work?
It’s so important for us to take holidays or proper breaks to help us switch off fully, reset and recharge. But even without going on holiday, incorporating some of these lessons into our daily lives is another way to help us relax, feel good, gain perspective and boost our ability to deal with whatever life is throwing at us.