We know there are loads of reasons why you might feel a little stressed. Whether you forgot your maths homework, your period started and made you feel really grumpy or you’ve woken up with a bunch of spots and have a party to go to at the weekend. Or all of them. At the same time. Sigh.
There’s that saying your nan comes out with sometimes: “When it rains, it pours.” Really does seem to be true sometimes, doesn’t it? And often that feeling that there’s just so much going on can make the best of us feel stressed out. Some people get snappy, some find their chest feels a bit tight and it’s difficult to breathe properly and others just feel really, really sad.
Well, unfortunately we can’t do your homework for you, stop your period from showing up or magically make your pimples disappear (we really wish we could too). But what we can do is share some of our top tips for dealing with things a little better when life gets OTT.
And it all starts with a technique called mindfulness.
You might have heard the word before, when people talk about meditating. But don’t worry. You don’t have to get out incense and a yoga mat and start chanting. There are way more doable (and not to mention way more fun) ways to help you chill the hell out.
What mindfulness means, simply, is that you pay close attention to what’s going on. Whether that’s thoughts, sounds or just what you’re doing. Sounds simple, right? Here are five ways to use mindfulness as a secret superpower to combat your stress:
1. Breathe. More. And deeply.
Sure, it sounds like silly advice to breathe more. Everyone breathes, right? But often when you’re feeling sad or like you have too much on your mind, you tend to either breathe too quickly or even hold your breath. You know what this does? It causes your body to freak out. It thinks something bad is happening and makes you feel light-headed, your palms sweat and everything feels way less manageable.
But we all have control over our breath. Even when it feels like we don’t.
A good place to start is breathing in for five seconds. Holding your breath for three seconds. Then breathing out for five seconds. It sounds so simple. But just by counting your breath you’re shifting focus from feeling sad to breathing deeply, so your body doesn’t go into panic mode. Let’s call it the 5-3-5 trick.
2. Get back to nature (or whatever’s outside)
You probably already know that taking a walk outside when you’re feeling stressed can help you. It takes you out of whatever irritating situation you’re in and gets you moving. But next time you go for a walk, really pay attention to what’s around you, as well as how your feet feel.
Yep, that sounds funny but if you can notice ten things about your walk and name them, like ‘rusty red leaves’ or ‘black cat’ you’ll find yourself focusing on that and not feeling as stressed. We’ll call this one… walking for 10. For 10 minutes. Finding 10 things. We bet that’ll be all it takes for you to get your thinking back on track.
3. Think with your feet
The same goes for how your feet feel. Ever thought about how your feet feel when you walk? [Bear with us…] Feeling the way they touch the ground. Paying attention to the heaviness of your feet and even counting your steps is a great practice in mindfulness too. Taking you out of your own head and doing something else with that awesome little brain of yours, rather than worry. Feel those heavy feet. Really, f e e l them.
4. Do something really, really slowly
You don’t need to space out to relax. Or to take a walk. Or even to breathe (although we recommend you always do keep breathing, please). You can just get on with your normal daily routine, but pick one or two things to really focus on.
Whether you’re making tea or eating a chocolate button, next time you do it don’t just do it automatically or in a daze. Take a deep breath and do it slowly. If you’re making tea, watch the water pour out carefully. Count how long it takes to pour it. If you’re holding a chocolate button, feel it in your hand first and even smell it. Try and notice ten things about what you’re doing instead of letting your mind race. Do things slow. Reeeeal slow.
5. Listen to your favourite song
Music can have such a powerful affect on us all. A jolly track can send us into a happy, bouncy state. But a sad song can make us feel a bit mopey and weepy. Whatever music you choose to listen to, we recommend being really mindful about it.
Put your favourite song on and pay attention to it. Simple. Think you already pay attention to it? Think again. Notice all of the lyrics, the beats, the rhythm, the different instruments. Imagine you’re in a music class and you need to pull out all of the different bits of the song. It’ll keep your mind nice and focused. Pull that song apart.
Dance to it, if you fancy. Stress? What stress?
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Image: Katie Edmunds