Sweat ran down my back, making my shirt stick to my skin. My heart beat fast, hammering me from within my chest. A nausea swirled in my guts, tying them in a jumble of knots.
My breath came in short, ragged gasps as though I’d been running, although I hadn’t.
I had been sitting in my front room, staring blankly at the TV. I wasn’t seeing the bright moving images on the screen, because something I was watching, its relevance now lost on me, had triggered a stress response in my body. As I sat shaking on the sofa, my body had reacted as though I’d been running away from a predator, and I was racked with fear. I was now lost in a personal minefield of thoughts which jumped out at me at every twist and turn. The trigger, whatever it was, had opened a pandoras box; a muddle of worries and fears that squirmed inside. As I tried to focus on one, it commingled with another and yet another, all of them writhing together gaining strength from each as they began their twisting invasion on my mind.
I stood up shaking and walked towards the kitchen. A bottle of whiskey drew my eye, and whispered a promise of refuge in its amber nectar. I hesitated and the door tempted by the ease of which respite could come with the taste of its warmth on my lips. But the reprieve would be brief, and my worries would be worse tomorrow with a thumping head.
I walked past the kitchen and found my way to the bathroom. Locating some salts I poured a generous handful under the hot tap and let them dissolve. I added a few drops of essential oils, and inhaled as the aroma merged with the jets of hot steam.
As I slid my body into the warmth and let the water draw me in, I visualized my squirming, writhing ball of worries and stress outside the bathroom door. I knew they wouldn’t go away, I still needed to deal with every one of them, but right now I needed to re-gather my strength and my energy in order to be able to untangle them and see them all as the individual challenges they were and not as an ever-increasing mass, that were seemingly all conspiring against me together.
I allowed my senses to indulge themselves in the experience of taking a bath. The water cocooned me; a warm blanket around my whole body, its gentle pressure protecting me from the world outside. As I moved my hand through I focused on the “whoosh whoosh” sound the water made and felt conscious of the vital part water played in our physiology, our every function relying in some way on its properties.
I inhaled deeply and received the sweet smell of lavender and jasmine into my nostrils, welcoming its delicious perfume. I felt the effects of the aroma on my psyche, as I slipped deeper into relaxation.
Fleetingly my mind was drawn to the writhing mass outside the door where I’d left it, but not for long enough to re-awaken it from its current slumber, in fact it barely stirred.
Back in the soothing waters, my mind let go once more. I closed my eyes and filled my lungs with a deep breath, allowing my chest and shoulders to rise above the water, as my ribs expanded to take the breath fully. At the top of my breath I held it for a moment, feeling its energy in my body. With deliberate slowness, I allowed it to leave my body, taking some tension with it. For a few long moments I lay in the water, inhaling fully, and exhaling slowly. Every time I exhaled I visualized the stress leaving my fingers and toes, in rivulets through the water.
After some time, when I felt the bath begin to cool, I stood slowly and turned the shower onto cool. Still sitting in the warm bathwater as it flowed away, I let the cool water wash over my head, cleansing the stress from my body into the water, where it was slowly flowing down the plughole.
After stepping out of the tub, and gently drying my skin, I noticed how it tingled, feeling refreshed, and enlivened while my muscles felt warm and relaxed.
I slipped on a robe and remembered the monster, id left outside the door. I checked myself for feelings of fear or stress, and currently found none. I took a breath and smiled as I opened the door. I was greeted with a very small creature who looked up from where id left it on the floor, and said “I´m still here, but my power over you has gone. You’re the boss of your life, not me.”
The moral of this little tale is that we all have problems. No-one goes through this life without having to face very tough challenges sometimes on a daily basis. We may not be able to change or effect some of these challenges in the moment, but we can make them more manageable, by taking a break from them. Allowing our senses a rest by indulging them in a simple but fulfilling experience. This story illustrates this by the example of taking a bath, but it can be anything where you can focus on the present moment and place your worries somewhere else so they cannot occupy the space you need to restore. You will find that when you return to your tasks they don’t seem anywhere near as menacing as they did before your break and you will be able to deal with them in a calm, and more efficient manner.