8 Stress Awareness Activities
Stress Awareness Month falls in April. It’s used to help highlight ways that stress can impact people, and what you can do to help relieve stress for yourself and others.
When we feel under pressure our bodies release hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline as a response, this is what’s happening internally when we’re stressed. Stress is an extremely common response faced by millions of people around the UK. While it isn’t a mental health problem in itself, prolonged periods of stress can have a negative impact on your health and wellbeing and lead to burnout.
This National Stress Awareness Day try out these 8 activities for new ways to cope with stress. Most of these can be done in under 10 minutes, so even if you’re rushed off your feet you’ll be able to find something here to help.
1. Do something creative
When we’re doing something creative we’re using a different part of the brain to where stress is occurring. Even if it’s for 5 minutes, being creative can help to relieve feelings of pressure. You could draw, doodle, sew, sing, or cook yourself your favourite meal.
Being outside in nature is great for our wellbeing. Going for a short walk or sitting in a green space can have an extremely calming effect on how we feel. Why not invite a friend to go for a walk around your local park this weekend?
3. Move your body
Exercise is a very effective way to combat stress. When we exercise our bodies release endorphins which help us feel good. This doesn’t mean you have to spend hours in the gym pumping iron – you could go for a walk, or dance around your living room to your favourite songs. You’d be surprised how much of a mood-booster it is!
For more information about exercise and mental health, check out this video from personal trainer Harry Thomas about the link between mental and physical health.
4. Meditation and mindfulness
Meditation is the practice of noticing your emotions and gaining a sense of perspective on them. It’s typically done by sitting or lying down in a quiet place and focusing on your breathing. When you meditate, you’re learning to focus on the present moment and gradually let go of outside thoughts or distractions.
The first few times you try meditation you may not feel the benefits, or you may find it difficult to keep other thoughts out, but by practising over time you’re likely to find it easier. You’ll also find that you’re better able to let go of distracting thoughts in day-to-day life. It should help you to feel calm.
To start your meditation practice, you can try an app such as Headspace. They have lots of free guided meditations you can follow. Try this guided meditation for stress by Headspace.
Mindfulness is the ability to be present and fully engaged with whatever you’re doing in the moment. It’s a great way to centre your thoughts and calm the mind. Start by noticing things in your immediate surroundings such as smell, touch, sounds, taste and sight – this can help to ground you.
5. Write it down
You’d be surprised what a relief it can be to write down what you’re thinking and feeling. You’re not writing with the aim of anyone reading it, just for yourself to get down on paper what you’re feeling. This can be a big stress reliever.
6. Do something you enjoy
When we’re really busy it’s easy to eliminate the things we enjoy from our schedule. But these are the things which help us to relieve stress.
At Mental Health UK we teach people about The Stress Bucket. Think of your emotions as a bucket. Daily activities and regular stressors fill up our bucket with water throughout the day. Doing things we enjoy act like holes in the bucket, relieving water so that your bucket doesn’t overflow. If you don’t do things you enjoy regularly then your bucket is at risk of overflowing, and we can experience extreme stress or burnout. You can download our Stress Bucket worksheet and fill it in with things you enjoy.
7. Talk to someone
As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved. Speaking to a friend, loved one, colleague or therapist can help you to lighten the load you may be feeling. The person you’re talking to may also be able to help you organise your thoughts, create an action plan, or take some tasks off your plate.
8. Listen to music
Music can have an excellent mood-boosting effect. Sometimes belting out the lyrics to a cheesy ballad makes everything seem all right. If you’re in a public place, s listening to your favourite music can help you feel better quickly. Classical music can be especially relaxing right before bedtime.
For more information about stress, head to our Stress and how to cope with it page.
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