There is no doubt 2020 and 2021 have been highly stressful for all of us. COVID-19 has thrown up more challenges than we’re used to, leaving us trapped in a negative mindset of “when will it all end?”
Now, more than ever, it’s vital to focus on your wellbeing and seek out ways to reduce stress.
If you’re feeling stressed and unsure where to start, here are 10 stress relief techniques for 2021.
Exercise to Relieve Stress
Exercise is not just good for your physical health but also for your mental health. Even the NHS recommends exercise to boost your mood and can be used to deal with depression.
When we’re confined to our homes, getting out for exercise is more important than ever! You don’t have to run a four-minute mile or lift heavy weights, but a daily walk could do wonders to relieve stress.
Not only is the physical activity from walking good for you, but the change of scenery could also help boost your mood.
A 2013 study found that mindfulness meditation is effective at reducing neurogenic inflammation linked to stress. Harvard Medical School also recommends mindfulness and breathing exercises as a way to reduce stress.
You don’t have to be some spiritual guru to start meditation. It’s as easy as closing your eyes and breathing. Here is a quick guide to get you started:
- Find a quiet place to sit comfortably.
- Close your eyes and breathe normally.
- Focus on your breath entering and leaving your body.
- Your mind will wander; every time it does, bring your attention back to your breathing.
That’s meditation in its most basic form. The NHS also offers simple breathing exercises to reduce stress.
MindPanda has an excellent mindfulness mediation pack designed for all levels if you need some guidance and motivation. If you’re not sure how to get started, check out MindPanda’s free resources, including colouring exercises, mindful word-searches, and more.
Connect with People
According to the NHS, connecting with friends and relatives is crucial for our wellbeing. These connections don’t mean texting and emailing but face-to-face conversations.
While physical connections are complicated during lockdowns, there are still ways to connect with people face-to-face, even if it’s over video chat.
If you’re working from home, try to arrange regular video lunch dates with friends or relatives. You can share experiences, receive or offer support, or have a laugh.
Volunteering is another way to connect with people and improve your self-worth. Developing a sense of belonging and purpose can relieve stress.
Learn a new Skill
Find something new to learn, especially if it challenges you creatively. We spend so much time watching TV these days, so why not divert that time to self-improvement.
According to the NHS, “research shows that learning new skills can also improve your mental wellbeing.” Another study found that even colouring reduces anxiety for adults.
Developing a new skill may also open you up to new possibilities, help start a business or even create new career opportunities.
Improve Your Diet
Too often, we turn to comfort food and alcohol as a way to deal with stress. The trust is that high-fat and high-sugar provide some “false relief” but actually add to stress levels over time.
Being more mindful of what you put into your body is vital for your mental wellbeing. A change to your diet could have fantastic benefits for your mental health and thus reduce stress.
Always consult a registered GP or nutritionist for advice about food and alcohol intake. To get started, the NHS has excellent resources for its Live Well campaign.
Yoga is a fantastic stress reliever because it incorporates both exercise and mindfulness. Yoga isn’t an instant stress reliever; it’s something you must practise regularly to achieve any long-term benefits, including stress relief.
MindPanda’s Mindfulness pack guides you through some light yoga and self-care exercises if you need help getting started.
Ironically, we take gratitude for granted, but studies show gratitude can improve our wellbeing and mental health.
Too often, we focus on the negative, forgetting the good that has happened or that we have done. You might think you’ve “had a terrible day,” when in fact, it was one moment or interaction that made it feel like a bad day. The rest of the day was great!
Oprah Winfrey famously started the gratitude journal back in the ’90s to get into the habit of seeing the good in life. The idea is to get into the habit of writing just five things you’re grateful for during the day.
By practising gratitude, you start looking for things to be grateful for during the day, shifting your focus from the negative to the positive, ultimately boosting your mood and relieving stress.
Take Control of Your Time
Poor time management can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety. Forgetting appointments or trying to rush through a task you left to the last minute is highly stressful.
If you’re serious about managing your stress levels, taking control of your schedule is vital! Managing your schedule doesn’t mean assigning a task to every hour of the day.
- Set goals
- Make todo lists
- Make time for yourself, your friends, your family
- Learn to say no
- Don’t procrastinate
Taking control of your time is empowering and will certainly mitigate stress related to poor time management.
Improve Your Sleeping Habits
Ways to improve sleep:
- Mindfulness meditation
- Exposure to natural light during the day
- Read a book before bed
You may also want to ditch poor habits, including:
- Eliminate screen time (TV/phone/laptop) at least 2 hours before bed
- Sleep with your phone in another room
- Eliminate caffeine intake after midday
- Develop a healthy sleeping routine – don’t sleep in on days off
The cheesy phrase, laughter is the best medicine, is, in fact, true! A study found that humour reduced stress and increased immune function among cancer patients.
Reading a funny book or watching something funny on TV can help, but connecting with people who make you laugh is most beneficial. Try to spend more time with people who make you laugh and feel good about yourself.
As you can see from these stress relief techniques, finding balance is crucial. You’re not going to reduce stress and find happiness by doing just one thing. Every decision we make is inextricably linked to our health and wellbeing.
One of the most essential stress relief techniques in 2021 is maintaining connections. Through lockdowns, many of us have lost contact with friends and loved ones. Find a way to reconnect and talk to loved ones about your stress and mental health.