Mathew Baker, co-founder of The Depression Project, shares five easy ways to reduce stress levels from the comfort of your living room. And no, Netflix does not count.
This week is International Stress Awareness Week, a global initiative created by the International Stress Management Association to provide support and information about stress management to those who may be silently suffering. Which to be honest, is a lot of us. In Australia, nearly five million people are battling with the effects of stress. Although it’s is not an uncommon affliction, it is vital that we all take steps to ensure that the effect of stress don’t ever become debilitating.
Mathew Baker, professional counsellor and co-founder of The Depression Project, shared with body+soul five simple techniques that can be conveniently executed from the comfort of your home/couch. As we enter the busy silly season, stresses can snowball quickly, so keeping these simple practices in mind can provide instant calm and return a sense of control to how you feel.
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Practice a mindfulness exercise
This is a fantastic way to help provide some relief and separation from the stressful situation you may be ruminating about. A very effective mindful exercise that I usually recommend is called the “54321 grounding exercise”. It’s as simple as it sounds and only takes a few moments. Once in a comfortable space, breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth and slowly bring awareness to five things you can see, four things you can physically feel (such as your t-shirt on your body or the cushion your back is resting on), three things you can hear, two things you can smell (or two smells you like), and then, finally, one emotion you’re experiencing.
When we experience stress, we often find ourselves getting stuck on a certain thought and can find it difficult to release our mind once we get going. Exercises such as this one can help take us out of that space and instead bring awareness to our surrounding environment and the present moment.
Try regular journaling
Whether your stress is grounded in something in the present, such as an overwhelming amount of work, or a past event that you still may be fixated on, it’s likely you’re holding onto negative emotions that can end up building up into something quite daunting. Journalling is a fantastic way to help release and sort through these emotions and leave you feeling much lighter.
Once you’re comfortable and have a blank sheet of paper in front of you, the freedom to write down whatever you feel inclined to write can be quite liberating. It’s normal to feel a level of resistance at the beginning, but like any habit, it gets easier over time. I’d recommend implementing journaling into a more regular routine in order to feel the relief consistently.
Indulge in sensory experiences
A sensory experience is absolutely anything that encourages you to focus on a particular sense or senses. This can be as simple as creating a zen-like atmosphere in your home with candles, classical music and soothing tea. This can also involve a good stretch or turning to the help of professional practitioners and booking a massage to help alleviate tension that you are physically feeling.
Although often viewed as a luxury, an increasing number of Australians are relying on regular massage in order to fit in that necessary hour of self-care time and really de-stress from the ever-connected world, both physically and mentally. This is also becoming much easier to do, with apps such as Blys delivering on-demand massage to the comfort of your own home. Research from Blys revealed (unsurprisingly) that nearly half of users, 44%, use the platform to relieve stress.
Try visualising less stress
Visualisation is simply the practice of picturing a less daunting environment or feeling and mentally transporting yourself there. Combined with deep breathing, visualisation can help provide distance, context, or motivation to help you through your stressful situation. What you visualise can be anything from a future holiday you’re going on, a “happy place” or even a role model who you want to act in alignment with to help you through your current circumstances.
Practising gratitude is a great way to break through any “black and white” filter that may be telling you “everything is a disaster” or “nothing is going right”. We often end up in these mindsets when we are stressed because we focus on the “triggers” that led to getting into this negative state. Practising gratitude can, therefore, bring awareness to some positive things going on in your life, thereby preventing you from falling into a vicious cycle in your brain that may lead you to catastrophise the situation.
To do this, sit down with a pad and pen and write down five things you’re grateful for – this may be memories of past events you’re glad to have experienced, loved ones you’re glad to have in your life, a sports team you follow, or future events you’ll be grateful to have. Picking up a gratitude journal or simply making a habit of this every morning can be a great way to start your day off on a light, positive note.
For more tips like these, you can visit The Depression Project on Instagram here.