These past few months have been an exhausting, emotionally draining time for many of us. Whether we’re working longer hours, worried because we’re not working, uncertain about the future, staying indoors with fractious children or a partner, concerned about elderly relatives, no-one’s had it easy.

The amount of tolerance and forbearance required, the mental agility to cope with new, unfamiliar ways, compounded with the challenge of emotionally supporting people devastated at the situation they find themselves in during this unprecedented pandemic has taken its toll on everyone involved.

Coping in the midst of tragedy whilst trying to remain positive, upbeat and maybe professional has been a massive ask of everyone. There are times when you need to take a break. Not a holiday, or a night out with pals, but a simple time out, recharging break.

Sometimes, after a busy, stressful day it’s tempting to flop into an armchair with a drink and the remote control. This might be fine occasionally, but done long-term it’s counter-productive and can result in you feeling lethargic and flat.

When you need to take a break here are some positive suggestions;

– Take your lunch somewhere ‘nice’, maybe in a nearby beauty spot, rather than quickly eating it on the run, at your desk or in the car. Is there a local park, nature trail, garden or beach where you could enjoy a thirty-minute break? Make something tasty and nutritious and savor every bite. And know that everyone around you benefits from your having had some time to step back.

– Go for a walk, run or bike ride and allow yourself personal space each day. Some people like to combine that with listening to music, podcasts or making calls, but why not use this valuable opportunity to clear your thoughts and engage fully in your activity. Notice the colors, sounds and changes each day; focus on the here and now.

– Stay hydrated. Feeling tired and irritable may be because you’re drinking too much coffee or too little water and have become dehydrated. Drink more water and clear the toxins from your body; your fluid levels will soon readjust.

– Dedicate some time to music, maybe revisiting those old favorites you’ve not heard in a while. Or play some quiet, relaxing music to help you chill out.

– Book a zoom call with friends and have a party night, dancing, being energetic, reconnecting and having fun.

– Make a brew and phone a friend for a leisurely chat. Settle down and exchange updates, laughs and mutual support.

– Make time early evening to escape by reading a good book. Perhaps read whilst your evening meal is cooking.

– Be creative. Many people have been baking bread and cakes with enthusiasm over lockdown, stirring and kneading, creating wonderful smells in their homes. Even if your efforts are inedible it can still be a therapeutic way to pass the time!

– Get out the crafts, your painting or handiwork and enjoy being absorbed for a while. Or spend a little time in your garden, tending your plants, maybe growing herbs or vegetables.

– Do something you’re good at, that you’ve maybe forgotten about; DIY, a musical instrument, something that gives pleasure for its own sake. Feel proud at revisiting a positive achievement.

– Enjoy family downtime together. If your children are mostly at home not every moment has to be spent in formal education. Get outside and go for walks, a nature trail, bird-watching, kick a ball about. Or if indoors, play board games, crafts, invent games.

– Take a break with your partner. Lockdown may have unearthed some irritations in your relationship due to spending more time together, each nursing individual worries and concerns. Do things separately but also have regular fun together; walking, talking, cooking, playing. Invest in some positive us time.

– Ask your partner for a massage. No talking, just a wonderful way to ease your muscles and let go of tensions in your body. Maybe alternate turns, but really enjoy the benefits of having your body soothed and massaged.

– Ensure your bedroom is a cosy haven, a place where you retreat and relax. Clean sheets are always a bonus. And if you’re going through an especially busy, tough time it’s good to commit to going to bed a little earlier to wind down.

– Immerse yourself in the sensory indulgence of a bath. Candles, bubbles, your favorite music and a thirty-minute soak could be a great way to relax and feel thoroughly cleansed and chilled after a long stressful day. Warm the towels and go for the full spa experience.

– Take a mental break and practice daily gratitude. Appreciating what you have can raise your spirits, improve your mood and give you a break from tense situations.

– Meditate and clear your mind. Some great free meditations are available online. Even if you simply use them for relaxation it’s a lovely daily break.

– Make the effort to look up. Raising your line of vision from the ground to the trees and sky can improve your mood, open your eyes to sunshine and reconnect you to the wider world out there.

Every one of these suggestions is free and could require very little of your time. But taking a break recharges your batteries, allows your thinking to clear and helps you better manage the daily stresses you’re experiencing.