This Stress Awareness month, we wish to share tips to improve mental wellbeing when faced with anxiety or stress.
Whilst feelings of stress or anxiety will occur, this is the body’s automatic survival mechanism, we can learn how to respond helpfully, to feel more in control.
Tools to help you manage stress and anxiety
Redirect your attention to things within your control
Practice noticing your thoughts and feelings and shift your focus. By doing this, we see meaningful and lasting benefits in our wellbeing. Whilst worries and ‘what if’ thoughts will occur, you can control how you choose to respond.
Reduce Anxiety with Thought Challenging
Thought challenging is a simple yet powerful cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) technique for reducing anxiety. Anxiety can be unhelpful, as the mind fixates on threat, uncertainty or negativity. Thought challenging opens our focus to a bigger picture.
Here are two thought challenging techniques to try:
The ABCDE Technique:
Attention – If you feel distressed, focus on your inner dialogue. What is it telling you?
Believe? – Your thoughts, when stressed, may not be accurate.
Challenge – Is the thought fact or opinion? What might you think if you were feeling calmer?
Discount – Acknowledge anxiety may dominate your thinking and let unhelpful thoughts go.
Explore options – What is helpful to focus on right now? What options do I have available?
The THINK Technique:
True? – Is this thought 100% true? If not, what are facts, and what is opinion?
Helpful? – Is paying attention to the thought useful to me or others?
Inspiring? – Does the thought inspire me or have the opposite effect?
Necessary? – Do I need to focus on the thought? Is it necessary to act on it?
Kind? – Is the thought kind? If not, what would be a kinder thought?
Reduce Stress and Anxiety Through Distraction Activities
Distraction can be effective in alleviating feelings of stress and anxiety, as activities grab your attention and focus. They reduce unwanted feelings, increase energy, motivation and contentment.
Have a go at some of these distraction activity ideas:
- Read a biography about someone who inspires you
- Learn some basic yoga poses
- Do some mindful colouring
- Watch a live stream theatre show from The National Theatre
- Reorganise or redecorate your living space
- Learn a new musical instrument
- Make a list of goals for the year
- Find a new podcast to listen to
- Do a free online drawing class
- Join an online book club
- Do a Mindfulness practice
- Start learning a new language
- Arrange to catch up with a friend
- Go bird watching
- Do a workout video
- Learn knitting, cross-stitch or embroidery
- Learn something new with a free online course
- Do some baking
- Watch TED Talks
- Do some gardening
Take some time out and stretch
A few moments of stretching brings benefits to your physical and mental health. Try these 7 Quick Stretches for Stress Relief You Can Do Right Now.
Create a Stress Resilience Plan
- Create a routine: take breaks, write weekly goals lists, decide on a sleep schedule, create new weekly traditions, be kind to yourself. Maintaining structure and having routines can help increase a sense of control and contentment.
- Start a daily gratitude practice: set aside time every day to write down 3 things you are grateful for. Cultivating gratitude can help boost mood, improve sleep and reduce stress and anxiety.
- Start a daily breathing practice to help you feel calmer: inhale gently and count to 4 (expanding your belly as you do); hold the breath for count of 2; exhale gently and slowly though the mouth for a count of 6. Repeat for 5 minutes. Research shows that regular practice of belly-breathing has helped people feel calmer and reduced negative and unhelpful feelings.
- Improve the quality of social connections: schedule video chats or phone calls with loved ones, write letters, meet for a socially-distanced walk.
- Develop a regular exercise routine: find something you enjoy and schedule it in to your week. Research shows exercise helps us to relax, reducing stress response.
Make Stress Your Friend
In this TED talk, Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.
Stuart Low Trust Saturday Project Trainer’s say:
“I recommend taking the time to get to know your personal stress triggers, symptoms and what helps you to feel calmer. I find practising mindfulness meditation helps me cultivate a gentle approach to letting go of stress and gives me more clarity to move forwards.”
– Katy, Mindfulness Trainer.
“Every morning I walk along the river bank for about 30minutes. I sit by my favourite tree observing the river clear water flowing calmly and focus on my breath. I listen to nature sounds. I write my reflections of the day in my journal. At lunch time I set out 30 minutes for mindful eating, and appreciate my food. In the evening, I practice mindful movements before sleep.“
– Maurizio, Meditation and Massage Trainer.
“I find drinking Tulsi tea to be both energising and calming and it’s full of beneficial health properties. Listening to music such as Hiroshi Yoshimura’s album Green on YouTube which includes lots of lovely water and bird sounds and taking time out to breathe. Occupying my hands through cooking or making some art such as drawing or weaving helps to slow down racing thoughts. I’m a big sun worshipper so I always try to get some fresh air and sun, whether that’s going for a walk, sitting in a sunny spot at home or sticking my head out the window! Watching a favourite film or videos that make me laugh always helps to pop a stress bubble too.”
– Jenny, Art workshop leader & Education Coordinator at Estorik Gallery.