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Jamie-Lee, Blackpool’s Time To Change Hub Co-Ordinator shares top tips for dealing with stress during the Covid-19 outbreak

It is Stress awareness month and I am sure most of us are very aware of our stress levels at the moment. I thought I’d share some thoughts on some stress relief tools. It’s important to find what works for you, there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to stress relief. What works for some people might not work for others.  

From minor challenges to major crises, stress is part of life. And while we can’t always control our circumstances, we can control how we respond to them. What works for you at home might not be an option when you’re at work or in the community (dancing around your living room might be helpful but dancing in the supermarket might not be!). 

It is important to have a variety of stress relief tools so you will be able to choose which one may work for you given the circumstances.

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is like taking a short holiday in your mind. It can involve imaging yourself being in your “happy place” maybe picturing yourself sitting on a beach, listening to the waves, smelling the ocean, and feeling the warm sand underneath you.

Guided imagery can be done with a recording where you listen to someone walk you through a peaceful scene.  There is some good APPs for your phone out there if you want to give it a try.  Or, once you know how to do it yourself, you can practice guided imagery on your own. 

Simply close your eyes for a minute and walk yourself through a peaceful scene. Think about all the sensory experiences you’d engage in and allow yourself to feel as though you’re really there. After a few minutes, open your eyes and return to the present moment.

Meditate

Meditation brings short-term stress relief as well as lasting stress management benefits. There are many different forms of meditation to try.

You might develop a word or sound that you repeat in your mind as you take slow deep breaths. Or like myself, you might try taking a few minutes to practice mindfulness, which involves being in the moment. Simply pay attention to what you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.

When you focus on the here and now you won’t be able to overthink about something that already happened. You can’t worry about the future. Meditation and mindfulness take practice, but it can make a big difference in your overall stress level. I for one was very sceptical for years but after a bit of practice mindfulness really helps me.

Muscle Relaxation

Muscle relaxation involves relaxing all the muscles in your body, group by group. To practice, you can start with a few deep breaths.

Then, practice tightening and relaxing each muscle group, starting with your forehead and moving down to your toes. With practice, you’ll learn to recognize tension and tightness in your muscles and you’ll be able to relax more easily. Each time you practice, however, you should experience a feeling of relaxation sweeping through your body. 

Breathing

Just focusing on your breathing or changing the way you breathe can make a big difference to your overall stress level. Breathing techniques can calm your body and your brain in just a few minutes.

The best news is, no one around you will even know you’re doing them. So whether you’re in a stressful meeting or you’re sitting in a crowded room, breathing exercises could be key to reducing your stress.

While there are many different breathing exercises, a few simple ones include:

  1. Breathe in through your nose and watch your belly fill with air. Count slowly to three as you inhale. Hold for one second and then slowly breathe out through your nose as you count to three again.
  2. Breathe in through your nose and imagine that you’re inhaling peaceful, calm air. Imagine that air spreading throughout your body. As you exhale, imagine that you’re breathing out stress and tension. 

Take a Walk

This is my favourite but not always possible. Exercise is a fantastic stress reliever that can work in minutes. Taking a walk allows you to enjoy a change of scenery, which can get you into a different frame of mind.

In the privacy of your own home, there are many stress relief strategies that can help you relax fast. So whether you’ve had a tough day at work or you’re stressed about how much you have to do, these strategies can give you some immediate relief from your stress.

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