Stress is unavoidable in life, but we should all take the time to figure out some non-destructive ways to destress from whatever hurdles we have to overcome in our day. I’m writing to tell you about a few of the ways I work on my mental health, remind myself to breathe and take a moment to let things go.
Before you read them I want to make it clear that what works best for me, may not be the ideal tip for you. These are in no particular order and note that I use a combination of these depending on the situation and I also recognise and accept that something that may work for me today, may not be appropriate for my stress tomorrow. Read this list, and make your own, try things out. Be open to the process taking some time to figure it out, but then know that at the end of it you’ll have a great list of ideas for when you need to remind yourself to just chill.
I’ll start with the most obvious one, if you’re on this website already then you know that all of us involved in the team understand the importance of exercise. For me, exercise is less about looking good, and mostly about getting out all of my (anxious) energy. It gives me something to focus on and silences the rushing thought in my mind for an hour or so. Exercise releases endorphins which is what we want! So get those dolphins flowing and find a form of movement that makes you feel good on the inside.
Romy Kunitz, Clinical Psychologist, has this to say the effects of exercise on managing stress – “Research has shown exercise can have far-reaching beneficial effects on the brain. The release of endorphins (feel-good hormones) helps an individual to destress and helps to release pent-up anxiety”
I notice in myself that when I am stressed or anxious I breathe faster and more shallow, so when I am in a stressful situation or something is bothering me I remind myself to take a few seconds and a few deep breaths before speaking or acting out on my emotions. This is one thing I can do no matter where I am. If it helps and is appropriate I also close my eyes and make sure that my exhale is through my mouth. But if I’m somewhere that I’m conscious about others, I just keep my eyes open, take a deep and slow inhale, then exhale through my nose slowly. Five of these and I’ve taken about 30 seconds to myself to recentre my mind and hopefully be able to get on with whatever was in front of me before that moment.
One of my favourites is to list three things I’m grateful for that day. It reminds me to look at the small things, and to also bring myself back to the reality that even if I had a stressful day, there are still some small lights in the storm and those are usually the lights that carry us through until the storm breaks. If we make ourselves become more aware of those little things then it will be easier to notice them as they happen and to appreciate the moment.
Another one that has helped me in the past is to make a list of what my senses can identify in that moment. What can I see? What can I hear? What can I feel? What can I smell? What can I taste?
These questions make us become present as we take the time to note specifics that we would otherwise potentially be ignoring. I may not realise that I can actually smell fresh cut grass (my favourite!) and I can see a beautiful blue sky. Realising these two things would provide a moment of calm for me as I appreciate nature and what it brings.
Other activities I’ve used to practise mindfulness are;
- Journalling (I find the act of writing very cathartic),
- Bullet journals- allows for more creativity
- Walking outside for a big long walk and making a point to be present and look around
- Turning my phone on do not disturb so that whatever I am doing I will not be distracted by a noise or a vibration of notifications.
Headspace is an app for guided meditation. I primarily use it once I get into bed, but there are many many different programs depending on what you need it for in that moment.
There are simple beginner programs for general meditation, but there are ones that also explore grief, student life, work productivity, children (having kids and being a kid), as well as more. I’ve used several of the guides, but the one that I find most relevant is the whole section dedicated to sleep. If you’re someone who likes white noise, they’ve got you covered. If you woke up from a bad dream, they’ve got a 10-minute meditation just for you.
I use what they call ‘sleepcasts’ which begin with a wind-down exercise such as guided breathing, and then the voice (male or female) tells you a random story inspired by the background noise. My personal favourite is the campfire one, which has a crackling fire in the background.
I’ve been using the Headspace app for about two-three months and I’ve noticed a big difference in how quickly I can switch my mind off and fall asleep. It is a subscription service for the complete collection, but there is often some kind of free-trial and discount offer on, and you can also access a basic pack for free so that you can try it out and see if it would work for you. You can read all about them, what they do, and the science behind them here.
This one is just WOW for me. I always like the pressure of a tight hug or a big squeeze when I’m stressed, I find that it can calm me down pretty quickly. It isn’t always available though, and people can’t just walk around squeezing me in a bear hug whenever I get overwhelmed (as much as I would LOVE and also really not love that), nor can they really be there to give me a big squeeze before bed so this is where my Neptune Blanket came in. It’s another one in my night-time repertoire. If you don’t already know about the Neptune Blanket you can read about them directly on their website here.
However, I’ll give you my summary which is that the blanket is weighted with a bazillion tiny glass beads and you lie under it and the world becomes a quieter place. They advise on their website of the size to buy depending on your body weight. I have had my blanket for heading onto a year now and though this did not make me fall asleep any quicker, it definitely took care of keeping me asleep through the night.
As you’ve probably realised, I put a lot of effort into my sleep. I also have a diffuser with lavender oil to add to my abundance of night-time wonders. It all comes down to helping me switch off, wind-down, fall asleep quicker and stay asleep through the night. I have struggled with nightmares for most of my life but since I’ve been putting so much emphasis on my sleep health I haven’t had a single bad dream. Getting good sleep helps me to deal with whatever comes my way the next day, it helps me recover from my workouts, it helps me recover when I’m sick, it helps me process the previous day. Sleep is pretty important. Find out how much sleep you function best on. It might be 9 hours for you or it might be 5, whatever it is, make sure you make it a priority.
For an in-depth guide on how to improve your sleep, check out this article from Nathan.
Well, that’s it for my list. You may think this list hasn’t got enough on it, or it’s too much. That’s the beauty of making your own. I don’t believe that television ultimately helps me to de-stress, nor does a beer with my friends. Though, if these things work for you and they fit in with your goals and the life you want to live then chuck them on your list, it’s all personal to you.
What helps you to relax in the moment or at the end of your day? Leave us comments below and you never know who you may be helping!
Happy chilling everyone.