Being away in fabulous Turkey has been a blur of sunshine, family, laughter and new sights, smells and tastes. A total break from the usual routine, any stress has melted away in the lazy Turkish summer heat.
It's occurred to me that it is this break in the routine and the assault of "newness" on the senses that make holidays so stress-relieving. It's not just the fact we are away from work, and that someone else is cooking for us every day and doing the laundry. It's the replacement of the expected with the unexpected that expands our mind and relaxes our brain.
When we are away from home there are a whole heap of tiny decisions that we have to make that we don't usually even think about as we power through each day on automatic pilot. Where to buy the milk; how to charge the laptop; how to order a taxi; what the woman in the coffee shop is saying to us. We have to concentrate harder just on the basics of everyday life in a new environment.
A much greater level of awareness is required to get from A to B or order a snack.
Because our mind can only hold one thought at a time, it is this attention to the minutiae of the present that makes all our cares and concerns drop away. We cannot be thinking about the departmental budget review, or how to work out a better daycare solution if we are figuring out how to successfully navigate the Istanbul metro.
Hyper awareness of the day-to-day in a new environment is so stimulating that it crowds out our everyday worries. We instantly become far more present. It is this that creates the state of relaxation and contentment that a holiday brings. The challenge is how do we take that stress-relieving habit of being present back with us when we re-enter our real lives? It's tricky. It's so easy to be swallowed up in the everyday blur of doing.
One answer to this is to consciously incorporate new experiences into regular life.
To deliberately introduce new experiences to occupy more of our brain so it can drop the worry. This might be as simple as choosing to try a different place to buy your morning coffee, taking a different route to work, put together a new outfit from your existing wardrobe that you haven't worn before, if you usually go to the pub quiz, try the ballet, if you usually go to live comedy, try the movies. Mix up different people for dinner, different venues, different menus. Swap the Marlborough pinot noir for a bottle of French sancerre. Up your awareness levels, taste the difference in the wine, the vibe in a different venue, the different conversational mix of a new crowd. Sprinkle some stress-relieving newness into your every day and let the stress relieving effects of your holiday last for longer than your tan.
Look at some ways you can consciously start introducing something new or the potential for the unexpected in your everyday life. Make a list of five things you can change this week, one a day, starting today.
Louise Thompson is a life coach, yoga teacher and corporate escapee. For more from Louise visit positivebalance.co.nz.