Around the world, millions of people are suffering from unprecedented levels of anxiety and stress. Feeling overwhelmed is now such a common state of mind, we have an entire subculture dedicated to the art of keeping it in check. Yet the promise of a slower, less jarring way of life is not something you can wave a magic wand at.
It’s true that sometimes major brickwork is required – leaving your toxic job, ending a bad relationship – to get to the source of ongoing stress. More often than not, however, it’s the kind of insidious strain best tackled by slow yet steady changes.
By creating little shifts in how you show up in the world, you can build your way to a lasting sense of calm. Here are a few everyday tactics for doing exactly that:
Delete social media apps from your phone
Social media is like catnip for dopamine, but it also leaves us tired and wired – particularly at the end of the day. By deleting social media accounts from your phone, you’re disabling that urge to scroll come 8pm. It’s simple but surprisingly effective because you’re not actually depriving yourself. Theoretically, you **could** still log on onto your laptop and check Insta Stories if you really want to. But the lazier side of you will likely win through, giving your mind the space it needs to unfurl and process the day.
Finish your day with a half-hour walk
Most of us know it’s a good idea to start the day with a stroll – but the same habit creates a helpful parenthesis around sunset, too. There’s something about the ability to cut loose around 5pm that provides a lever into dialling down for the evening.
Even if you continue working for a while after you return, an evening walk softens the edges of your day. Somehow, the combination of fresh air and fields (or parks and pavements) ends up blotting what’s going on within. Just by being outside, what seemed stressful or unfixable before invariably takes on a lighter tone. It’s like an escape chute for all the mind debris you’ve built up during the course of your working day.
Make time for creative friendships
Did you know it takes on average 200 hours of time spent together to form a close friendship? That kind of bond is not going to be forged on snatched coffees or boozy bar runs alone. Instead, richer friendship material lies within the capacity to just be together in a slow, easy-going environment.
This might look like a monthly paint and sip night, an afternoon at a retro gaming workshop or a meandering woodland walk. However you frame it, the aim is to allow the dynamic you share together room to breathe. You’re also giving each other permission to drift and roam – which is highly comforting, especially in the context of friendship.
Light a candle at mealtime
Takeout Pad Thai is all well and good, and the odd duvet dinner is joyfulness defined. But above all, what makes mealtimes important is the invitation to be present. When it comes to eating routines, it’s not always easy to slow things down – especially if you’re rushed, or fighting for elbow room at the table – but the effect can be profound.
Lighting a candle might sound silly (especially if you’re just chowing down a quick bowl of oatmeal) yet it’s a gesture we associate intrinsically with romantic evenings and lazy afternoons. In other words, it coaxes us out of a frenetic mindset and into a place that’s a little more playful and reflective. Try it and see.
Allow space for weekend mooching
In today’s uptight culture, time is either “productive” or “wasted”. But is wasted time really such a bad thing? Perhaps we never slow down enough to know. Granted, getting drunk in your pants isn’t an obvious pathway to success (although happy days: it’s a thing in Finland). Yet equally, you likely undervalue what the Italians might call “dolce far niente” – the sweet art of doing nothing.
What does this look like on a regular basis? Rather than cramming your weekends full of people and events, try streaming in pockets of unscheduled time. You don’t need a plan for these moments. The whole point is, you can just use them for whatever you feel like; Netflix, napping, pottering around the house. Whatever you do – or don’t do – there are huge benefits to be had from letting go of the notion that time must be rigidly mapped.
Flash Pack is a group travel company that specialises in small group adventures for solo travellers in their 30s and 40s. Find out more about how we work, and our mission to build a global community of friendships.