I didn’t know that this week (from 3-8 November) was International Stress Awareness Week until I saw a post about it on social media yesterday.
This is a topic that is close to my heart. I am a massive stress head!
However, I have developed ways to deal with my stress and I wanted to share them and hope that some of my tips can help someone else who may be feeling a bit anxious.
After seeing how my eldest suffer during his GCSE’s, and knowing I didn’t want him to be affected by pressure as I was, I knew I needed to do something to help him with his A’Levels. So I enrolled on a Relax Kids training course so that I could learn how to help children and young people understand and manage their emotions and give them tools and tips to help.
I could not have predicted how the course would change my life! Having suffered panic attacks myself in the past, I can now recognise when they are going to happen and am able to manage the symptoms and bring myself back to a relaxed state before it gets out of hand.
As for my son, he wasn’t very interested in listening to my tips (unsurprisingly for a 17 year old man!) but my way of supporting him when he is feeling anxious has changed and improved things. He was also taught some mindfulness tools in some external sessions which had a very positive effect on him. He didn’t go into a huge amount of detail but he is now able to calm himself down when he’s in crowds, something that used to affect him quite badly and he definitely handles stressful situations better than he did.
Don’t get me wrong, we both still get stressed and feel anxious, but we’re much better equipped to respond to those feelings.
The things that help me the most are:
My first tip to help with stress is the classic….breathing. Mindful and deep breathing. There are so many different exercises and tools you can use, a quick search on YouTube or a Google for guided breathing for relaxation will bring back plenty of tips. My personal favourites are 3/3/3 breathing and the ribbon breath.
Lie or sit comfortably, and inhale for a slow count of 3 through your nose. On the count of 1, breathe deeply into your belly, on the count of 2 breathe into your ribs and on the count of 3 breathe into your collar bone. Exhale with a big sigh through your mouth. Repeat as many times as needed. This is a wonderful breathing exercise and is such an easy one to remember. I often use this one when lying in bed unable to switch my mind off.
The ribbon breath was taught to me by my fantastic pregnancy yoga teacher on the day I went into labour with Finley, this breath saw me through a comfortable and short labour and I still use it regularly. With your eyes closed, lie down on your back with your arms out to your side or sit cross legged with your hands on your knees. As you inhale through your nose slowly, visualise a ribbon being threaded through from your left finger tips, up your arm and to your shoulder. Hold the breath while the ribbon loops around your face, as you slowly exhale, visualise the ribbon threading back down from your right shoulder through your arm and to your finger tips. Take this breath back up through your right finger tips and out of your left, and repeat as many times as you need to.
Grounding tool -
If you’re feeling anxious, look around you and find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. This is called “grounding”. It’s helpful to use when you’re feeling anxious.
Hand massage -
This Japanese hand massage may look very simple but the effect it has is amazing. The theory is that each finger represents an emotion (as pictured). Massage some hand cream into your hands, then take it in turns to hold each finger, ensuring all of the fingers of the opposite hand are in contact with the finger, for at least a minute or two. Eventually you should be able to feel your pulse through your finger and you will feel it start to slow down. Repeat this with each finger. It’s instantly relaxing.
Do you use any of these tools? Or do you have any other recommendations? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.