Yesterday I visited London Zoo with my two daughters, fiancé and his sister. We sauntered about in the sunshine, taking in the tigers, lions, penguins, monkeys and other animals before catching the tube back to my almost-sister-in-law’s house amongst tired marathon runners wrapped in aluminium foil.
I was reminded that having a day out is a fantastic way to remove yourself from the stresses that we all feel subjected to in our daily lives to some degree, the perfect way to avoid over-thinking a problem or flinging yourself between a multitude of household chores, weighted down with an inability to relax.
As a drinker, I could not relax unless I had a glass of wine in my hand (and the knowledge that a fairly substantial supply was present somewhere in my near vicinity). I would hurtle between jobs at a hundred miles an hour before finally, at a designated and preconceived time (usually 7 pm), plonking down on the settee with a large glass of vino that said obnoxiously to anyone else present, “Ok, this is my time – you can ask but my responses will be limited from this point onwards.”
As a non-drinker I have discovered other ways of relaxing which are far more effective than alcohol ever was. Nowadays when I switch off, I am still present and able to respond to people if they really need me, and most definitely remain in control of my faculties; this self-awareness means that I always listen to my body and act accordingly – drinking excessively always perked me up and ostensibly eradicated all notions of tiredness, making me believe that I was full of beans and that it would be a great idea to stay up until 3am on a school night watching mindless drivel on the TV or listening to my back catalogue of ‘songs from the good old days.’ In reality I was exhausted and the alcohol only served to make me more so.
Having a day out at the zoo not only helped me to unwind during the time I spent there, it has had a lasting effect on my state of mind as I am reminded of the importance of spending quality time with my family, having some fun and living in the present whenever possible.
We spent a while at the giraffe enclosure, observing those beautiful creatures eating the carrots offered to them by some other visitors to the zoo. Their lofty amble across the paddock as they wandered towards the food held out on offer to them was a lesson in insouciant deportment – it was difficult to imagine them ever feeling stressed out over anything.
Conversely, human beings can be terrific stress bombs overwrought with anxieties and fears, largely over things that most likely will never happen and even if they do, will not be as terrible as previously imagined. It is a worthwhile day out that reminds us of the fact that yesterday has gone and tomorrow is not certain, and that therefore the only time we really have is today.
I like to think that giraffes work on this basis.