Michele Spring is a mom of 2 young boys, suffers from Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Celiac Disease, and is an expert on using the Paleo diet to feel your absolute best. Through her blog posts and short how-to videos she’s here to help teach and inspire you to live a Paleo lifestyle while having the time of your life doing it. When she’s not blogging at Thriving on Paleo, you can find her sewing up a new outfit, reading a great book, or desperately trying to keep her kids from making her house look like a tornado hit it.
Even though I’ve followed the Paleo diet for years now, I recently learned that diet alone is not enough to keep you from disaster when it comes to your health. I had dealt with years of unmitigated stress and no actual outlet for that stress, and it caused me to go into severe adrenal fatigue this past spring. Trust me, as a mom of 2 small boys, adrenal fatigue is something you want to steer clear of. Watching your kids play as you lay helpless and exhausted from the couch is not the way you want your children’s youth to pass by.
Luckily, I have been able to bring my health back to places it hasn’t seen in over 15 years using the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol (I also have Hashimoto’s and Celiac) and through the help of a fantastic functional medicine provider. However, the one area I really do continually make sure I work on is stress management.
Meditation is big in the Paleo-sphere and while I really have given it a good college try, I just cannot do the traditional, sit on the floor, quieting my mind, humming “Ommm” way. For example, these are two of my experiences:
My son: “Mommy, I have to go poop”
Me: “Oh shoot, did I put the laundry in the dryer?”
Me: “Stop it! You are meditating. Ommmmmmmmmmmmm”
Me: “Hmmm, did I take some meat out of the freezer for dinner?”
Me: “Ugh, I give up”
Does this sound familiar to anyone? If so, you are in luck as I have come up with 5 alternatives that I feel get me into a deeply relaxed state that are perfect for us busy types.
Alternative 1: Knitting
I’m not talking about knitting those super complicated sweaters or blankets here, I’m talking about repetitive motion, forget what you are doing kind of knitting. Anything where you have to knit 2 purl 34 knit 17 or whatever, those are way too complicated for me and put me in the state opposite of relaxed. If you are an experienced knitter and that works for you, go for it. However, I’m pretty much on the way waaaay beginner side so something like this cowl (seen in the picture below) are perfect for people like me. It’s literally, cast on your stitches, knit one purl one for about 213982319238 stitches. But it is SO relaxing. I have been known to be working on this cowl and to start drooling on myself with my jaw hanging slack, like one of those people you see passed out on an airplane. Not very attractive, but that’s how relaxing it is.
If you don’t know how to knit, fear not, there are tons of tutorials on You Tube or you can take a class on something like Craftsy or Creativebug (these are what I used to learn) and they’ll have you up and knitting in no time.
Alternative 2: Coloring
Ever notice when a kid colors how they seem to get lost in the moment and are completely focused on what they are doing? We seem to have lost this as adults, but they actually make adult coloring books where the pictures are very intricate and artsy. You can find them at craft stores or in book stores and color them with whatever medium you want. I prefer colored pencils but if all you have on hand are crayons, that’s fine too. This activity also has the added bonus that you can do it with your kids. Let them at their Frozen coloring books coloring Elsa and Olaf while you color in flowers and fish. You’ll find as you work on your piece that you get so focused on staying within the lines or picking the perfect color that you forget about everything else. It is quite a refreshing experience.
Alternative 3: Meditative Drawing
I found this really cool book at a craft store called Zentangle Meditative Drawing and have found it to be quite useful in my quest for relaxation. Like coloring, it forces you to focus specifically on what you are doing, but this one is even more open to creativity. There is no real need for drawing skills when doing this technique. Trust me, I have NONE (last week when I tried to draw an airplane for my 2 year old he said “No mommy, airpwane. Not fishy”). And the bonus with this one is that you can come up with some pretty cool looking pieces of art that you could frame or make into birthday cards, etc. See the video below for a tutorial on how to do 2 techniques.
Alternative 4: Walking
Walking, I have found, is amazing for getting into that trance-like state. You have to do it under certain conditions though. Typically the most relaxing type of walk is one you do yourself and ideally with some sort of music that you can get lost in. I am a huge fan of the band Phish, so their repetitive jam sequences totally get me there. I have gone on walks where I literally do not know what happened to the last 15 minutes and how I got back to my office. And have then felt like I just had an hour-long massage, I was so relaxed. But if the hippy jam band isn’t your scene, other types of music certainly work, like classical or jazz for example. I would probably stay away from the really dance-y tunes that make you want to sing however. “All the Single Ladies” from Beyonce comes to mind. Save that for dancing with your girlfriends or when you need a pick-me-up walk, not so much for relaxing, trance-like walks. You could also walk on a gravel trail and listen to your footsteps repetitively crunch into the surface. Anything where you don’t have to work too hard and can tune the world out works.
Alternative 5: Technology
The Heartmath app and monitor doo-hickie is the closest thing in my list to “real” meditation but it doesn’t feel like it. It’s not cheap ($130 USD) but it, out of everything, also gets me the most relaxed out of all of the alternatives. You hook the monitor into your phone and then attach the other end to your ear and breathe deeply according to the prompts on the screen. When your heart beats (based on what it detects from your ear) in a certain rhythm, you are considered to be in “High Coherence”. However, when your heart is not in that rhythm you can be in “medium” or “low” coherence. The app lets you know when you reach these levels, and I find it really hard to get into high coherence if I am not fully concentrating on following the breathing patterns. I can totally tell when I start thinking about other things because I immediately fall out of high coherence. So it keeps me accountable. And the reason it works so well for me is because I am a bit of a Type A perfectionist so I can’t stand it when I’m not at the highest level. Call it gamification of meditation if you will, but it works really well.
So those are 5 of my alternatives that I hope you can use to bring some relaxation into your lives. These are by far not the only ways to relax and we’d love to hear in the comments some of your methods as well.