The world has recently been thrown into a time of change and uncertainty. As a result, many of us will experience an increase in feelings of stress and anxiety. There are many great ways to reduce stress and improve wellbeing that are often advised; staying active, eating and sleeping well, yoga and mindfulness. Here are a few other suggestions that don’t get quite as much limelight for you to try during the isolation period.
1. Breathing Techniques
The magic of breath-work is that it can be done anywhere, anytime and by anyone. It can take as little as a few seconds to transform how you’re feeling.
Why does this happen? Deep breathing exercises help to activate the part of the nervous system responsible for relaxation. Micro-stressors we all experience in daily life can lead to dominance of a stressed state called ‘fight-or-flight’ mode. Slowing down the breath, particularly the exhale, can be very effective at helping to calm the body and mind.
There are many different breathing techniques that I won’t dive into here. See the end of the article for a step-by-step guide on a particular favourite of mine, abdominal breathing.
2. Physical Contact
It is easier than ever to connect with people all around the world. The way our body responds to connecting with people online is a completely different picture to that in physical engagement.
Positive physical contact, such as hugs, kisses, cuddling, sex and massage, can help release oxytocin (the love hormone) and lower cortisol (a stress hormone). This can help lower blood pressure and heart rate, both of which are physical symptoms of stress.
You may be away from many of your loved ones during the lockdown, dramatically reducing the amount of hugs and handshakes you’re experiencing. This is certainly a time to be cautious about contact, but communicate with your lockdown family and see if you can increase the amount of physical affection you share with each other every day.
3. Screen-free time
If we weren’t already before, many of us are now spending the majority of our day staring at screens. With the option of heading out the house to see friends or entertainment out of the window, it is a great time to re-discover the relaxing activities we can do at home.
While following news about Coronavirus is important, spending too long consuming distressing information can provoke increased anxiety. Keep track of how much time you are spending on your screens and, more importantly, how you are feeling during and after being on them.
Try a screen-free routine two nights a week. Some ideas to get you started are: a bath & smooth music, reading a book, cooking a new recipe and playing a game with your lockdown family.
4. Create a stress-free environment
Swap out a messy bedroom and cluttered kitchen for a space that reflects how you want your mind. Think open, organised and calm.
Aim to have as much natural light coming in as you can and think about introducing plants into your home. You don’t need a lot of space to make an environment stress-free. The key is to utilise your space wisely and take out anything unnecessary. Lockdown is the perfect opportunity to have a spring clean and pack up those unnecessary belongings ready for the charity shops.
Click here to learn how to care for houseplants.
5. Understand Your Stressors
The factors increasing your stress in lockdown may be completely different to those in your ‘normal’ life. Spend time during your day being aware of your emotions. When you notice yourself feeling stressed, consider what has caused it, and if possible, write it down. Once you begin to understand your stress triggers, you can take steps to reduce them. Of course, if it is a person causing you stress, you can’t ‘reduce’ them per se, but you can communicate with them how you are feeling and try to address the problem.
We are all different. There is no one way to be stressed and no right way to relax. Keep an open mind and try different things and on a few occasions. You never know what will work wonders for you.
by Rebekah Jade BSc
Abdominal Breathing: a quick guide
Positioning: Find a comfortable position, either sat upright or lying on the floor. Lengthen your spine, relax your shoulders down and unclench your jaw. Close your eyes or maintain a soft gaze towards the floor. Place one hand on your tummy and the other on your chest.
- Inhale: As you breathe in slowly through your nose, allow the tummy to expand out like a balloon.
- Exhale: Gently breathe out through the nose, allowing the tummy to flatten.
Cycle through this motion using smooth, deep breaths. Try and keep your focus towards your breath. It is normal for distractions and thoughts to enter your mind. When they do, just observe them, allow them to pass and gently guide your focus back to your breath.
Closing: When you are ready to end the exercise, slowly open the eyes, roll over to one side if lying, and return to seated. Take a moment to notice how you are feeling before you continue your day.