Ten non-horsey ways to help you feel on top this season

We are all guilty of giving others - a.k.a. our horses - 5* care, but what about you? Whether you are a dedicated volunteer, hardworking owner, full time rider or ambitious amateur, we take a look at some of the things you can do to take care of yourself and keep you feeling on top this season.


Mindfulness is an increasingly popular therapeutic technique which involves focusing your awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting any feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations without the need to immediately act on them. Spending a few minutes a day trying to achieve mindfulness can have a great effect on stress levels. The NHS is in favour of it as a technique for wellbeing. Even if you just give yourself five minutes to notice the feeling of typing at your keyboard or the feel of the chair against your back, you’ll notice you feel calmer and more balanced.


Suffer from pre-competition nerves? A surprise success, the adult colouring-in market is huge and seems to continue to grow. But why is colouring-in so big? Many believe it is an easy way into mindfulness because you have to concentrate hard on what you’re doing. Others think it’s an easy way to take yourself back to a childhood and simpler times. Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, so you might as well pick up your pencils and have a go.


Several riders have shared how keeping a journal is a great way to plan ahead and track progress as a great way to de-stress. Many people advocate writing a gratitude list each evening. It’s actually a really good way of monitoring what is going well in your life. When problems hit, it’s easy to forget the good things so this is actually a very powerful tool.


Smoothies are a great way to start the day and they needn’t be complicated. Whip up some coconut butter, spinach or kale with frozen bananas and a handful of ice or almond milk for a delicious breakfast treat. 


Good fats help reduce cholesterol levels and are an important part of a healthy diet. Coconut oil is delicious in smoothies and great used as a skin moisturiser. An oil that gets less attention is rapeseed oil, which is a shame as it helps reduce cholesterol levels, is packed full of vitamin E and is lower in saturated fat than olive oil. It tastes great in salad dressings and is ideal used at high temperatures.


Good food is another key to beating stress. Generally, we fall into two camps when we’re stressed: those of us who comfort eat – reaching for cakes, bread, biscuits, crisps and chocolate when the going gets tough – and those who can’t face the idea of eating anything when feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of life. Sadly, neither works. If you can’t face the idea of eating very much, then whizzing up a smoothie packed with good foods, such as spinach, bananas, blueberries and some protein, will keep you going rather than running on empty. If you reach for the sweet or savoury treats, why not try a handful of medjool dates or cashew nuts to see you through until your next meal is due.


Spending time in the natural world is one of the most grounding things we can do, and eventing fans will already know how great it feels. Whether it’s pottering in the garden or going for a strenuous hike, being outdoors is a balm for the soul. Numerous studies have shown that gentle outdoor exercise is recommended for those with anxiety or depression, but it is good for everyone. Being surrounded by nature reminds us we are part of something bigger and puts our problems into perspective.


When the whole world seems to be racing along at a billion miles per hour and all our friends seem to be happy, successful and having it all, it’s well worth bearing in mind that the face we show to the world doesn’t always reflect how we’re feeling inside.

We all put our best selves out there on social media, but it’s pretty safe to assume that we all suffer from occasional doubts, exhaustion and worry. It’s at times like these it’s good to turn to others for inspiration. This could be a chat with a close friend who you admire, but equally we are so lucky now to have a wealth of inspiration at our fingertips. There is a TED Talk on pretty much every subject. Brené Brown’s talk on the power of vulnerability, for example, is a must-watch if you’re feeling you’ve lost your way a little.


Silence is good for the soul and apparently also good for the brain. Many studies have been carried out into the effects of noise pollution, but few have looked at the opposite. Imke Kirste, a biologist at America’s Duke University, was conducting a study on mice, focusing on how different sounds might lead to new brain cell growth.

On analysing the results, however, she found that new cells were made by the hippocampus – the part of the brain that processes memory – during periods of silence rather than sound. So, when all you want to do is sit in a quiet room and relax, you can tell them you are not being lazy or uncooperative, but are actually creating new brain cells.


On the opposite side of the coin is sociability. When we’re feeling a bit down or worried about something, it’s easy to want to hunker down and stay home alone.

The old adage that a problem shared is a problem halved is true, though, and getting out and seeing friends can often be the boost you need. If the problem runs deeper and is related to an illness or life event, then social media can be an enormous help. There are Facebook groups for pretty much any situation you might find yourself in, from relationship breakdowns, to quitting smoking or coping with a particular illness. Often speaking to people in a similar situation is a great way to learn coping strategies first hand.

Now you've calmed your mind, how about calming your home? Find out how here. 
Extract from full article originally published in AGA Living magazine.