75 results for Relaxation
There’s nothing worse than trying to rest at night and not being able to. And, while this is typically put down to everyday stressors, what many people don’t consider is that the moon could be playing a part in sleep disruptions.
From bright full moons keeping us awake at night to the supposed impact of the lunar cycle on our physical and psychological well-being, there have been many assumptions made about the moon’s hold over sleep.
Here, we’ll explore learnings from scientific research and astrology to understand if and how the moon can affect our sleep.
What scientific evidence is there?
The first thing to note is that there have been limited studies done on the moon’s impact on sleep, which has led many people to put it down to a placebo effect. However, perhaps consider what previous studies have shown before disregarding this as a reason behind your insomnia.
In the early 2000s, a group of Swiss researchers carried out a study into the link between ageing and sleep cycles. Years later, they decided to revisit to see how the moon’s presence could have impacted the participants’ sleep, too. They used electroencephalograms (EEGs) to investigate how the participants’ sleep cycles changed during different moon stages and this revealed a significant link between lunar cycles and bad sleep.
Specifically, in the days leading up to and after a full moon, it took them five extra minutes to fall asleep, meaning they experienced 30% less deep sleep compared to usual and lost out on a total of 20 minutes of rest overall.
Similarly, research published in the Sleep Medicine journal also suggested a correlation between lunar cycles and sleep. This included the time it took to fall asleep, as well as the duration of sleep and REM latency.
There is even research demonstrating how the moon can impact people of different sexes. In a study published in the Journal of Sleep, results indicated women’s total sleep time, REM sleep and stage four sleep were disturbed most when it was close to a full moon phase. Whereas, men’s sleep times were more prolonged when the full moon was present.
What do astrologists think?
For astrologists, there’s no question that the moon impacts sleep. And, for different zodiac signs, the results can be extremely varied.
In astrology, the full moon is said to help people see things from a different perspective and make them more instinctive and spontaneous. This comes to the surface at night, making it harder to fall asleep.
If you find you struggle to sleep and want to see if it’s connected to the full moon, starting up a sleep diary could help you to identify whether you are more sensitive to the full moon than others. You could take note of:
- The time you try to fall asleep: This means the time you put your phone away, turn the TV off and close your eyes.
- How long you sleep for: Take interruptions into account and don’t count them in your total.
- How you felt as you slept: Did you feel uneasy, confused, relaxed or any other emotion? Dreams are usually a good indicator of this.
- The nature of your dreams: Whether you had nightmares or good dreams. The vividness of dreams can also indicate your sensitivity to a full moon phase.
Is there a link between lunar cycles and sleep?
Looking at both scientific results and an astrological point of view, there seems to be evidence to suggest certain lunar cycles can impact how soundly you sleep at night. What seems most plausible is the excess light that a full moon, in particular, brings, which can disturb sleep cycles.
This fits in with the idea scientists have highlighted about the role of blue light-emitting devices such as phones, TVs and alarm clocks that confuse our circadian rhythms and make it more difficult for us to feel sleepy at night. Of course, things like a lack of exercise or activity can impact how sleepy you feel, and you’ll often find you get more rest when you’ve had a busy day.
Similarly, it’s more than likely that people who’ve struggled to sleep the night before will feel groggy, suffer from brain fogs that can form headaches, and have a reduced mood, as confirmed by the NHS. So, again, it seems plausible and acceptable for people to associate the full moon with psychological changes, including mood disorders like anxiety.
However, there is a suggestion that lunar insomnia could be down to a placebo effect. We all struggle to sleep from time to time: it’s a common experience for all humans. But, it’s also in our nature to want an explanation for everything, too. This means that when we do struggle to sleep, we typically want to find an answer as to why it could be, and consequently end up attributing the problem to an external factor like the moon.
While there is no definite cause and effect link between lunar cycles and sleep (due to the lack of research done on the topic), there is scope for further investigation.
What can you do to alleviate lunar insomnia?
If you do believe that the moon plays a big part in your sleep disturbances (known as lunar insomnia), there are a couple of ways you can alleviate this and get a more restful night. This is all to do with sleep hygiene and creating an optimum environment for promoting rest.
Leading a healthy lifestyle helps to relieve many problems and, for people who struggle to sleep because of the moon, it can be a big help to reflect on this.
Tips for a restful night
- Cut out certain foods before bed: Sugary foods can create a spike in your energy levels meaning you won’t feel tired when you get into bed. Similarly, gluten is said to keep some people up as it can disturb digestion.
- Quit smoking: We all know to avoid caffeine close to bedtime or it’ll keep us up at night. But nicotine is also a stimulant that can affect our bodies in a very similar way.
- Keep your room at the optimum temperature: The most comfortable temperature for sleeping is thought to be between 16°C-18°C.
- Invest in a comfortable mattress: When you can’t get comfortable in bed, it’s unlikely you’ll have a good sleep or will wake up feeling refreshed. Your mattress should be the correct firmness for your sleeping position and ideally will be replaced every 10 years.
- Make use of blackout blinds and curtains: If the excess light from the moon seems to be keeping you tossing and turning, investing in blackout blinds will remove this and help you to sleep quicker.
- Avoid using technology: You should stop using your phone — or any other technological device that emits blue light — at least an hour before bed to ensure the light doesn’t interfere with your natural circadian rhythm.
With so much debate around lunar insomnia, we’ll need to see more research before we can say for certain whether it’s a real phenomenon. However, hopefully, I have highlighted the potential links between the moon and sleep and shown you how to tackle any sleep problems you credit to the moon.
Phil Lawlor has been the Sleep Expert at Dormeo for over three years.
From getting hands-on in the factories, to testing mattresses himself, Phil is certainly well-versed on what makes for a perfect night’s sleep.
You might be familiar with the words, “Self-care is more than just scented candles and bubble baths.” Or words to that effect, anyway. And it’s true, self-care is so much more than that – it’s a toolkit that’s unique to each of us.
For some, that toolkit might include meditation or yoga, whilst for others, it might be eating well, getting enough sleep, or moving more. But for many of us, there’s an undeniable magic about baths that makes them a brilliant tool for self-care.
Not only can a bath bring peace to quieten our minds, but it can also allow us to give our bodies a well-deserved rest, too. With just a few simple ingredients, you can transport your mind elsewhere and relax your muscles, creating a haven in your own home.
And there’s evidence to support these benefits, too. Research shows that having a warm bath can lower your blood pressure while also increasing your heart rate. It’s what creates that sense of peace and calm.
If that’s not enough to convince you to add baths to your self-care toolkit, here, the Therapy Directory team share their bathtime routines to achieve ultimate relaxation.
Tia, Editorial Assistant
For me, a bath is the perfect way to relax and recharge after a long day! A weekly bath is an essential part of my self-care routine. But, if I’m feeling under the weather or a little stressed, I might have more than that.
I love putting on a chilled-out playlist, adding a lovely smelling bubble bath, and letting my worries melt away.
Kat, Senior Writer
I usually have two baths a week, one on a Sunday to help me feel recharged and ready for the week ahead, and one on a Wednesday evening as a mid-week treat. I would say they are a key part of my self-care routine.
A bath gives me some much-needed space and time to fully switch off from the outside world.
I always spray a relaxing aromatherapy spray and, if it’s been a particularly hectic week, I may bring a glass of red with me too! My must-have product would have to be my aromatherapy spray, it’s the Total De-Stress MoodFix Mist by Tisserand and it makes the whole room smell like a spa.
I usually bring in my laptop on a stool so I can watch YouTube videos. I tend to watch beauty or lifestyle videos because they feel oddly relaxing and like a slice of escapism – exactly what I want when I’m in the bath.
Claire, Head of HR
I’m a bath person. I take a bath every evening, always have done (unless I’m in a rush and going out… which doesn’t seem to happen nowadays!). I love them. It’s where I unwind each evening.
I sometimes burn a candle, but my essential product is bubble bath. I dim the lights (I wisely invested in smart bulbs) and then I will either read or watch TV on my iPad. Ultimately, it’s a calming room to just be in the moment.
Bonnie, Senior Writer
I 100% prefer baths to showers, so I love including them as part of my (almost) daily regular self-care routine. I like to splash out a bit on nice bath salts and bombs. I love this black pepper, rosemary and sea salt blend that uses essential oils and just smells amazing; it’s really relaxing and goes a long way.
Like most people, I love a good Lush bath bomb too, but I’m not such a big fan of the price. I try and stock up when they have a good sale on, so it can still make baths feel luxurious and relaxing, without the guilt of spending a fiver on a single bomb.
Bathtime is podcast time. My current faves are Aaron Mahnke’s Cabinet of Curiosities or the My Favorite Murder (comedy true-crime) podcast. It could be true crime, strange mysteries, self-help, general knowledge, or fiction – I’ve got a list I shuffle through, depending on what I’m in the mood for.
That way, I’ve got a set time to relax in the bath without wasting the whole evening, as most episodes are around 30-60 minutes. It feels like much more active relaxation for me than sitting down with Netflix or Youtube.
Jay, New Business Development Executive
I have a bath every one or two weeks with a very simple routine; water as hot as I can possibly handle and Epsom salts. And it’s only ever in the evening – it really helps me fall asleep after as my muscles are super relaxed.
I either read on my Kindle or listen to a podcast, usually something relaxing like The Moth or stand-up comedy. Anything that I can unwind to and that stops my brain thinking for that period.
It’s escapism within my own house. I think it’s great alone time with some self-care thrown into the equation.
Kathryn, Head Writer
I take a bath almost every single day, and they’re a vital part of my self-care routine. When I moved out on my own, after a bedroom, a kitchen, and a lockable front door, the thing at the top of my list for a new place was a bath.
For me, my bathtime routine is about showing myself deep love, care, and appreciation. It’s about reclaiming my time, slowing things down, and indulging in myself entirely.
I go all out, it’s a real ritual for me. I have several different bath foams, or sometimes I might use bath oil. All of my products use aromatherapy principles, so I chose what to use depending on how I’m feeling that day. I also have candles lined up on my windowsill and one on my bath caddy. All of these are lit before I get in the bath, night or day.
As the bath is running, I take off my make up and put my hair up – at that point, the smell of the bath products is already in the air and inhaling the steam is the first step to immersing myself in the experience. Once I’m in, I have a line-up of essential oil blends, which I rub into my palm, inhale, and then press into my chest.
On a Friday and Saturday, I have a glass of red wine with my bath. On Sundays and throughout the week I have sparkling water or just still with ice in – I love a cold drink in the warm bath. I actually have a dedicated ‘bath snack’ bowl, which I usually fill with olives or another savoury snack.
If my day has been particularly stressful and I’ve got a bit of a headache, I have a cold, gel face mask that is kept in the fridge – and that’s incredibly soothing to put on. My bath is on a level with the window in my bathroom, so in the summer I open it up a smidge, take in the breeze, and listen to the sounds of the world outside.
I have bathtime playlists that I have put together for just this occasion. These are perfect for when I’m feeling stressed or worn out. If I have a bit more energy, I might listen to a podcast or Radio 4. Whatever I do have on, my mind does tend to wander – it’s a way to work through my feeling that day, pick up on what might still be concerning me, and resolve or bank that for another time.
I use Neal’s Yard bath foam, and my absolute favourite is the Seaweed & Arnica Foaming Bath, for the overtired, followed by Olverum’s bath oil. I also use Aromatherapy Associates Forest Therapy essential oil blend. This blend is all about harnessing the scents of nature, and inducing that deep sense of calm we find among trees – the perfect feeling to experience from the comfort of a warm bath.
Life in lockdown can feel like an anxious time. Of course, as we continue to adjust to the ‘new normal’, feelings of anxiety and overwhelm are to be somewhat expected. But what is clear, is that it has become essential to look after our minds and bodies by finding ways to create moments of calm.
One country whose wellness practices we can look to (and take inspiration from) is Sweden. From the land of the midnight sun in the far north to the sandy coastline of the south, Sweden is a country that takes its leisure-time and spa visits very seriously.
Below you will find expert tips from Swedish beauty experts Oriflame, for creating mini Swedish Spa moments to help you lay back, breathe and indulge in a little Scandi escapism, as our world becomes more and more unpredictable. So, as your bathroom becomes your beauty salon, light some candles, put on a chill playlist, and retreat into relaxation.
1. Dress to feel amazing
There’s nothing quite like slipping into your favourite dressing gown, pyjamas, or set of ‘comfies’. Whether they are fancy, stylish or simply a trusty old go-to, the feeling of comfort they can bring is just what you need to set your Swedish Spa moment off right.
2. Create an aromatic atmosphere
Smell is without a doubt the most evocative of all senses, holding the power to transport us into different lands whilst instantly altering our mood. Channelling the power of scent through mini spa-moments such as drawing a hot bath laced with aromatic essential oils is a highly effective way of creating an atmosphere of calm. Bath oils are great for helping you achieve this in an instant by combining a relaxing aquatic scent and a soothing essential oil in one.
According to Google search, Showerstoyou.co.uk found the following five essential oils to be favourites among Brits:
- Lavender – 3,600 monthly searches
- Peppermint – 1,900 monthly searches
- Lemon – 1,600 monthly searches
- Rose – 1,600 monthly searches
- Frankincense – 1,300 monthly searches
New to aromatherapy? Here are 10 simple ways to introduce essential oils into your routine, to reap the rewards for your health and well-being.
3. Get tactile
Whoever said you can’t give yourself a little rub down? With beauty therapies like massages now off-limits, DIY sessions are set to be on the rise. Take five minutes to give yourself a daily Swedish hand, shoulder and head massage with luxurious oils as a reward for making it through another day of isolation. Choose ones which are enriched with floral and marine fragrances, designed to create deep relaxation from the inside out.
The following video explores the basics of self-scalp massage. Scalp massage can be highly beneficial for headache pain, including tension headaches and migraines, as well as helping to relax the facial muscles and reduce jaw tension:
4. Give your hands a little extra TLC
As we turn the dial up on hand-cleanliness through extra washing and liberally applying hand sanitiser, protecting hands and nail beds from dryness is more important than ever. Turn regular moisturising into a Swedish Spa moment by reaching for hand masks and applying before bed to nourish thirsty hands.
Treatments rich in vitamin-packed natural Canola Oil are highly nourishing, so you can be sure that you’ll wake up with butter-soft skin that smells sensational, too!
5. Take your time
As we all know, me-time is a huge luxury and we rarely get enough of it in the real world. A small silver-lining to isolation means we will rarely be in a rush, so take the time to take care. Take things slow and make mini self-care spa-moments feel like they last a lifetime.
Remember, although we must adhere to social distancing recommendations, you can still access the benefits of many complementary therapies from home.
Do you remember the last time you did absolutely nothing? Switching off both body and mind is becoming an increasingly difficult thing to do, but its importance is perhaps greater than ever. Many of us know the health benefits of meditation, but the practice can be hard to master. Floatation therapy could offer an alternative, not only freeing the mind but also the body.
A floatation tank is a self-enclosed tub containing Epsom salt-infused water. Heated to body temperature, the idea is for the water’s buoyancy to hold your body as you let go entirely and experience deep relaxation. By removing sensory stimulation, your brain wave patterns will slow and you should find yourself feeling relaxed not only in the tank but for days afterwards.
Taking away any stimuli from the outside world can make it easier to switch off for those who typically struggle with meditation.
This approach has been found to be beneficial for a range of physical health conditions including migraines, joint/muscle pain and fibromyalgia. It can also have profound effects on reducing stress levels and easing mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and sleep issues.
A 2018 study found that just a single one-hour session in a floatation tank caused a significant reduction in anxiety and improvement in mood in 50 participants with stress and anxiety-related conditions.
Therapy Directory’s own Membership Services Team Manager Jo Ferguson says floating does wonders for her mood. Here she recalls her first experience:
“It sounds cheesy, but from the moment I emerged from the pod my overriding emotion was one of indescribable elation, and I remember driving home with the biggest smile on my face for absolutely no reason.
“Coming out of a float feels like a new start for me: I feel re-energised, reinvigorated and at peace with the world.”
Floatation therapy has even been used alongside conventional therapy to support soldiers struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.
In Sweden, there are over 120 float centres and the treatment itself is covered by the health service. Opinions in the UK seem to still have a little way to go, with it being seen as a luxury rather than a medical provision, but with more awareness of floatation, this could be set to change.
If you’re keen to try it out for yourself, you can visit floatationlocations.com to find a floatation therapy centre near you. Once you’ve booked in for your first float, follow the guidelines below to make the most of your time.
Preparing for floatation therapy
- Try to avoid large meals before floating and use the toilet before entering – remember, you want as few distractions as possible.
- Avoid caffeine and any other stimulants before floating, these may make it harder for you to relax.
- Avoid waxing or shaving immediately beforehand, the levels of Epsom salts in the tank may irritate your skin.
- Avoid using hair dye or fake tan before you float, this could contaminate the tank.
When you’re in the floatation tank
- Try to be still as you float, rather than trying to move around the tank. Interlace your hands behind your head or have your arms stretched out.
- Keep your eyes closed and if thoughts pop in, acknowledge them and let them go. Breathe deeply and enjoy the feeling of weightlessness
- Remember there is no ‘right’ way to float. If closing the lid and having the light off doesn’t feel relaxing to you, experiment with leaving the light on, and/or the lid open.
After your float
- Try not to jump into strenuous work after your float. Take some time to enjoy the relaxing benefits and head back into your day slowly and with intention.
- Note how the float makes you feel just after, for the rest of the day and for the rest of the week. If you find it helps reduce stress, consider making it a regular thing.
Carving out time for relaxation and self-care is important for both mental and physical health. If this is something you’re struggling with, you may find our guide to overcoming self-care stumbling blocks helpful.
According to one study, an overwhelming 88% of us head out into the garden to help improve our mental wellbeing, while another revealed over 80% of us feel happier after visiting gardens. But what therapeutic benefits can gardening have? And how can we make the most of them? We explore seven simple ways getting back to nature and spending a little quality time in our gardens (or with our window boxes and favourite indoor plants) can help boost well-being.
1. Improve your physical and mental health – gardening can have a surprising impact on our overall health and well-being. Along with encouraging a healthier lifestyle, gardening offers a range of physical benefits that can help you maintain mobility, burn calories and, over time, strengthen your bones, muscles and joints.
Gardening can also have positive results for those with arthritis; with the help of an occupational therapist, you can discover ways that gardening can play an important role in helping keep up your levels of physical activity whilst directing you towards the right tools and techniques you can use to avoid causing pain. Arthritis Research UK offers some great tips and self-help advice specifically for gardeners.
As Thrive explains, research shows gardening can help improve communication, learn new skills, boost confidence, and increase concentration for those who may be experiencing ill mental health. Regularly caring for your garden can help create a new structure within your life, offering more opportunities to meet new people whilst giving you a greater sense of achievement as you watch your plants flourish.
2. Boost your mood with natural sunlight – we’ve all heard of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but it can be easy to forget that natural sunlight can have a positive effect on our moods even if we don’t experience SAD ourselves. Spending time outside, basking in natural sunlight can help trigger the release of serotonin, a mood stabilising hormone that can help us feel more positive and productive.
Spending time outside tending to your garden, allotment or window boxes can be a great way to combat feelings of depression. It can also help stimulate the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone, meaning it can encourage a naturally better night’s sleep.
3. Bring a touch of mindfulness to your routine – mindfulness can have a surprising impact on our mental health and overall sense of well-being. The term mindfulness refers to a specific way of paying attention to what is happening in the moment, rather than allowing all of the pressure and everyday stresses to cloud our thoughts. Helping particularly to combat feelings of anxiety and depression, mindfulness can help reduce stress, insomnia, and has even been proven to have benefits for those experiencing addiction and chronic fatigue syndrome.
While you can work with a mindfulness counsellor to help incorporate the practice into your life, there are plenty of ways you can begin introducing the habit into your daily routine. Focusing all of your senses on your plants as you care for them can be a good way to connect with the moment. Focus as you touch the soil to see how dry it is and check the leaves for damage. Try clearing your mind as you water, weed, and care for your plants.
The flowers you tend to can also have additional benefits. A geranium flower essence is known for giving focus, whilst lemongrass can help calm your mind and thoughts. Exploring the different benefits of various flowers can have added benefits, helping you to feel more calm and peaceful.
4. Discover the benefits of herbalism – used for their medicinal properties for thousands of years, herbalism can offer a holistic approach to certain illnesses and conditions, treating the underlying condition rather than the symptoms alone. Working with a professional herbalist can be one of the safest and simplest ways to get into herbalism and better understand the positive effects it can have.
Once you have begun speaking with an experienced herbalist, there are a number of ways you can benefit from herbalism at home. Growing and tending your own aloe vera plants can be a great first step. Offering soothing effects, aloe vera can be great for treating minor cuts, sunburn, insect bites, as well as dry or chapped skin. Lavender can be another simple plant to try. Thought to help ease insomnia, reduce irritability, and relieve pain, lavender can be harvested during the summer and dried or infused with oil to prolong its healing benefits.
5. Gain a sense of achievement – the more care, consideration and time you put into tending your plants, the greater your sense of achievement will be. As you watch your garden grow and thrive based on your hard work and dedication, you can feel a sense of accomplishment in a low-pressure setting. If you struggle with confidence or motivation, this can act as a catalyst to help you improve across other areas of your life.
6. Explore western herbal medicine – combining ancient methods of traditional medicine with modern scientific knowledge, western medical herbalism, also known as phytotherapy, has grown in popularity over recent years. Medical herbalism practitioners use the whole plant in its natural form to help heal both the body and mind. A type of complementary therapy, practitioners take a holistic approach rather than illness-focused.
While seeing a professional, experienced herbalist is advised, there are a number of beneficial, medicinal herbs you can grow in your garden. Southern Ginseng leaves can be used to help alleviate anxiety and stress, helping lower high blood pressure and cholesterol. Stinging nettles, once cooked or dried, can provide high levels of minerals and vitamins that are thought to be beneficial for those with allergies or arthritis.
7. Start a sustainable self-care routine – self-care has become somewhat of a popular buzzword when it comes to well-being, but what does self-care actually mean? Essentially referring to looking after ourselves and our own mental and physical health, it’s easy to dismiss self-care as something that is ‘nice to have’ or that we’re ‘too busy’ to do. Self-care is an essential part of looking after our own well-being, learning to identify our needs, and starting to take the steps to meet them. Looking after ourselves shouldn’t be our last priority.
Caring for a garden or indoor plants can provide you with a positive, gentle reminder to practice self-care. By getting in the habit of checking on your plants and looking after them, you can really ground yourself and start appreciating the moment as it happens. Not only that but it can also act as a physical reminder of the impact a little care and attention can have in helping you (and your plants) to flourish.
No matter how you celebrate, the holidays can be a stressful time filled with responsibilities, juggling family and friend expectations, all while making sure you still have the time to enjoy the moment yourself. It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement and stress of Christmas and the New Year, but wouldn’t you like to feel a little more present this year?
Whether you are looking for a way to relax ahead of the holidays, treat yourself for being one step ahead of the crowds, or are fighting off a seasonal bug and want to start putting your own well-being first, make this December all about presence, not presents. We share seven ways you can relax, unwind, and enjoy the little moments this holiday season.
Keeping active – during the cold, wet winter months, it can be tempting to stay curled up indoors under a heavy blanket with a big mug of hot chocolate. We know we should keep being active year-round, but it can be tough to keep our motivation going strong. Staying active isn’t just good for our physical health, it can also have a big impact on our mental well-being. The NHS says physical exercise can help those with mild depression, protect against anxiety, increase our sense of self-esteem, and positively impact our moods.
Each of us should do at least 190 minutes of exercise per week. If you’re worried about fitting in a trip to the gym or your regular fitness classes are cancelled over the holidays, try switching things up and making it a family affair. Go for a brisk walk together with your loved ones, or if you’d rather escape from the chaos at home, extend your regular walk with your dog. Try ditching the car and walking to the local shops or work where possible, or start parking further away to get in a little extra exercise where you can.
Seasonal aromatherapy – aromatherapy can be a simple way to de-stress and promote calm at home or as part of your self-care routine. Used through skin absorption or smell, seasonal fragrances can be a good way to stay in the holiday spirit whilst increasing your overall sense of well-being and decreasing stress levels.
Essential oils used in aromatherapy can help assist your body’s natural ability to rest, recover, and heal from seasonal illnesses and stress. Try using peppermint oil to promote relaxation, boost energy, and spread the seasonal scent of candy canes. For a metabolism boost, pine scent can help, or frankincense has therapeutic properties that can help decrease anxiety and stress.
Making me-moments – the holidays may be a time to celebrate with friends and family, but that doesn’t mean you should allow your self-care routine to suffer. Take a look at what you have planned over the festive period and block in some regular ‘me-time’. Going at things full-tilt during every day off you have in the lead up to the holiday may leave you feeling overwhelmed by stress, and underwhelmed by your own sense of holiday cheer and satisfaction.
Find what works for you. Maybe that’s making time for reading, meditating each morning before you start the day, reflecting each evening through a journal entry, or taking half an hour out to try an energising yoga routine. If you’re feeling worn out, don’t push through – take that nap. Instead of giving in and putting on seasonal cartoons, take back the remote and put on your own favourite movie. Don’t wait to find time to take care of yourself – make time for it. When we don’t prioritise our need to relax and unwind, we risk becoming even more stressed, overwhelmed, or starting down the path to burnout.
Therapeutic laughter – even science agrees that sometimes laughter can be the best medicine. Laughter can go a long way towards helping you feel calmer, more balanced, and back on track. Not only can a good laugh help release endorphins and increase brain connectivity, but it can also help foster feelings of safety and togetherness if we are feeling particularly down or anxious.
Research also suggests laughter can help protect our hearts, providing an anti-inflammatory effect that can protect our blood vessels and heart muscles from the damaging effects of cardiovascular disease. What better excuse do you need to switch over from the seasonal tear-jerks and heartwarming movies to a comedy film or two?
Practising mindfulness – take some time out to pay attention to the moment, rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. Mindfulness can bring small moments of calm and focus to our daily lives, helping us to feel more present and connected within ourselves and with the world around us.
If you aren’t sure where to start, we’ve created a list of 10 apps to help you relax and be more mindful to help you get going. Offering a wide range of features from sleep stories and breathing exercises, to guided meditations and advice, there is something for beginners and experienced practitioners alike.
If you’d rather find a tech-free way to get the whole family involved, mindful colouring can be a great way help children and adults alike feel calmer and less anxious. Fun, cheap, and accessible, mindful colouring can help you increase your awareness of the world around you as well as your place in it as you move carefully from colouring one pattern to the next. If you’re looking for some free resources to get you started, Happiful have a range of free mindful colouring resources and mindful activities to help kids, teens and adults feel less stressed, anxious and worried.
Calming cuppa – having a sit down with a cup of tea can be surprisingly beneficial if you opt for a herbal blend. Chamomile has been used for centuries as a remedy for illnesses including colds, fevers, and stomach troubles. Known for its relaxing properties and calming effects, having a cup of chamomile tea can be a soothing way to settle any physical ailments you may be experiencing whilst giving you a moment to be more mindful, focus on the warmth of your mug, and forget future worries and past stresses.
Taking your relaxing cuppa in the early morning sun can be an extra way to boost your feelings of wellbeing. A lack of daylight exposure during the winter months can be a contributing factor to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Grabbing a few extra rays in the morning or over lunchtime can help combat this.
Going tech-free – just hear us out on this one. Put down your phone, switch off from social media, and declare some downtime free from gadgets, the internet, and outside influences. Take the time to bask in the moment, catch up with friends and family, and ditch the FOMO (fear of missing out) and urge to document every moment on Instagram or Facebook. Constant alerts and checking our messages can be exhausting.
A 2017 study estimated us Brits check our phones more than 28 times a day – that’s over 10,000 over the course of the year – while a 2018 study revealed we spend an average of 24 hours each week online. Take a stand this December and declare an evening phone-free. If that sounds a bit daunting, try starting off small with an hour of device-free while you do something together with your loved ones. You might be surprised at how different you feel when you stop focusing on what’s going on elsewhere, and start enjoying each moment as it comes.
A holistic, complementary well-being technique that has been gaining popularity recently, sophrology is seen as a modern evolution of mindfulness and meditation. Blending together Eastern philosophies with Western science to create balance, tap into your own resilience, give you the strength to deal with life’s challenges and open you up to happiness, sophrology was first developed in the 1960s by neurologist and Professor of Psychiatry, Professor Caycedo.
Offering a structured method to optimise health and well-being, sophrology consists of a series of easy to do mental and physical exercises. When practised regularly, it can encourage you to have a healthier, more relaxed body and a calm, more alert mind. Particularly popular amongst athletes to increase their mental and physical performance, sophrology has been gaining more popularity and attention as mindfulness has entered the mainstream.
What can sophrology help with?
Combining relaxation, meditation, gentle body movements, breathing and visualisation techniques, sophrology allows for a stronger mind-body connection. Offering a combination of mental and physical health benefits, many who try sophrology report it helps with:
- feeling relaxed, recharged and able to re-centre
- achieving more restful, uninterrupted sleep
- boosting energy levels
- improving focus and relieving stress
- encouraging and teaching to enjoy each moment as it happens
- decreased feelings of worry and anxiety
- increased feelings of confidence and happiness
For those who struggle to meditate for longer periods of time, sophrology can be a good alternative with similar benefits. Practising just five to 10 minutes before stressful events or situations such as meetings or presentations can help you to feel less nervous and overwhelmed whilst boosting feelings of calm and confidence.
Incorporating just a few simple breathing exercises and relaxation techniques as part of your daily routine between meetings, or during your commute, can help you to feel more prepared to face and overcome challenges more positively while enhancing their feelings of confidence and well-being.
What to expect from a sophrologist
Sophrology can be practised alone or with the guidance of a sophrologist. Typically, you will start sitting or standing while your sophrologist talks through a series of basic exercises. This often starts with focusing on each part of your body, tensing them, releasing, and energising.
They will then guide you to focus on a specific subject, such as noticing how your body is experiencing calmness. This allows you to be able to reproduce these physical sensations of calmness more often at will in your day to day life. With regular practice, these states can be integrated into your everyday life.
Depending on your own needs, you can ask your sophrologist to help guide you toward improving performance for public speaking, increasing calmness for exams, focus for sports competitions, and more. These exercises can all help strengthen and improve your abilities.
Whether you are about to enter your first year at university or are returning for a new term, going back after the holidays can feel daunting and unsettling. Journaling can be a good way to track your thoughts, explore your emotions, and uncover the silver lining when feeling overwhelmed.
A great tool for raising our self-awareness, journaling can not only help us to be more aware of our thoughts and feelings but can also prompt us to take better care of ourselves and encourage self-care in our routines.
Regularly journaling each morning can help us feel calm and prepared for the day’s upcoming activities. Alternatively, writing down our thoughts each evening can help us clear our minds, release and reflect on our day, and focus on the small positive moments we may have overlooked. Journaling can help us reflect and explore our whole emotional experience – positive, negative, and everything in between.
If you are new to journaling or are just looking for some hints to get you started, we have put together four simple prompts to help inspire and encourage you to explore your emotional well-being through journaling.
Practice self-love, self-care, and look after your own well-being
Knowing about self-care and practising regular self-care can be two very different things. By incorporating self-care activities like journaling into our daily routine, we are taking care of our emotional and mental well-being, while reminding ourselves that it’s ok to take time out to love, care, and look after ourselves. Self-care isn’t selfish; it’s vital to our well-being.
Spending time along with our thoughts and letting them out via journaling can be a good way to explore our emotions, thoughts, and experiences. This gives us the time and space to reflect on our day, pick up the signs that we may be becoming stressed while reserving previous time for ourselves.
Uncovering habits and routines that are no longer helpful or beneficial. Is there anything you currently do that used to have a positive impact, but may no longer be making you feel good? Some activities may start out helpful or with good intentions, but over time may become stressful as our situations change.
Try making a list. Write: habits and things I do regularly on one side of the page. On the other side, list the ways this makes you feel and how it affects your overall mood.
Perhaps you used to love doing Monday night yoga with your friend during first year, but now you leave class feeling stressed as they always turn up late. Perhaps the study group you belonged to last term is now too far for you to make it on time after your last class of the day, or your new schedule means you volunteering twice a week seriously cuts into your study time or impacts how much sleep you can squeeze in.
Just because something has become a habit or routine, it doesn’t mean you have to continue doing it no matter what. Identify what is no longer working for you, and find ways in which you can change, tweak, or drop these and replace them with something more sustainable and less stressful.
Foster a more positive mindset and increase your confidence
When we are feeling negative, it can be hard to reframe our thoughts and focus on a completely different, more positive spin. It’s all well and good to be told to write lists about things we are thankful for, or to focus on what makes us happy, but we aren’t always in the right place to jump straight into this.
If you’re feeling particularly down or have had an awful day, try writing down a list of everything that has gone wrong, made you upset, or just outright sucked today or over the last week. Put everything down on paper. Had a bad hair day? Failed an assignment? Ended up late to class? Write it down.
Now, go back and add the word ‘but’ to each of those sentences. Think of something that went ok or turned out better than expected. It could just be a tiny way in which you managed to make it through the bad day that you may not have considered before, or a way in which you can turn that negative into a positive in the upcoming days. For example:
I had a bad hair day… but I had the confidence to go to class anyway.
I failed my assignment… but I can email my lecturer to ask for tips on where I went wrong.
I was late to class… but I spent time connecting with my dorm mate on the way to class, and I am glad I took the time to get to know them better.
You don’t have to reframe things perfectly. You can still acknowledge and feel those negatives, but by remembering to add on a small positive or change we can make to help things feel better, we can reframe negative experiences and reinforce the ways in which they have or can still help us.
Keep calm, banish stress and overcome anxiety
Journaling can help us to explore and release our emotions, thoughts and feelings. When we name what we have been feeling and put it down on paper, we acknowledge our emotions, accept that what we are feeling is valid – it is ok to feel how we feel – while moving one step closer to releasing these feelings and thoughts.
By putting a name to our feelings, we can take away some of their power, release our anxiety around that negative or stressful emotion, and begin to understand, unravel, and tackle what was making us feel this way.
Take a moment to reflect. What is making you feel anxious or unsettled? Write down everything you can think, leaving a two to three line gap between each item. Once you have everything written down, go back to the beginning and start asking yourself: why? Asking this at least three times can help you uncover what is really making you feel anxious or stressed. For example:
I hate my dorms. Why?
Because they’re too loud when I’m trying to study. Why?
Because I don’t go to the library when I need to study. Why?
Because I’m nervous about meeting new people while I’m there.
The reason why we feel stressed, upset or anxious may not actually be what we initially think it is. It may seem a little annoying at first, but embrace your inner curious child and keep asking why until you get down to what is really bothering you.
Keep track of small moments of happiness and preserve our happy memories
Remembering the big things is easy; it’s the small moments of happiness every day that could make us smile fondly when looking back that are easy to forget. Journaling can help us preserve these moments, cherish them, and appreciate them when we are struggling in the future.
Write a thank-you note or letter to yourself. It can be as short or as long as you need; focus on what you are thankful for today or over the past week. Try to remember and appreciate every individual thing you have done for yourself and your own well-being. These could be small moments you have taken, like having coffee and having a quiet moment for yourself before class; giving yourself extra time to lay-in after a stressful day; or bigger things like taking up a new, mindful hobby.
Reflect and thank yourself for taking the time to explore and release your emotions, positive or negative, so future-you doesn’t have to worry about holding on to them, can learn and let them go. Record the moments that made today memorable, good or bad, so you can take the time to sit, make peace with them, reflect, and help prepare for a new day ahead.
Whether you are new to journaling or are looking to make it a more regular part of your routine, try to remember: you don’t need to censor yourself. Write openly, honestly, imperfectly. Your journal can be as private or as public as you want. There is no right or wrong way to journal.
Use this time and process as a way to gain emotional release. Don’t stop to edit or make corrections. If a prompt makes you stumble or feel stuck, drop it and just write from the heart. Start writing and keep going until it feels natural to stop. Let your train of thought unravel, as you explore the thoughts and feelings you may not have previously taken the time to face. Let go and just be.
I distinctly remember my doctor telling me I was just a ‘headache-y’ person when I was younger. I was at the GP again, in floods of tears because I just couldn’t take the headaches anymore. When I hit my teens I had a couple of migraines, but thankfully they didn’t take root and I haven’t had any recurrences.
I was recommended over-the-counter painkillers and, finally, prescription medication. This helped a small amount but I hated being reliant on it and, after years of being on the medication, I was advised to come off it. So I started to seek my own ways of overcoming the pain.
Now, in my thirties, I can safely say that I no longer have daily headaches. Yes, they do still pop up from time to time, but when they do, I consider them warning signs that I’m not looking after myself and need to start upping my self-care practice. Here are a few things I’ve done/do to help:
Note your triggers
If your doctors can’t find a medical cause for your headaches, it can be helpful for you to start a headache diary. Note any time you get a headache and include what you’ve eaten and drunk, how you’re feeling mentally and how much sleep you get.
I’ve done this in the past and know I’m triggered by a lack of sleep, too much sleep, not enough water and the big one – stress.
Tension headaches are caused by physical tension, and this can often be held in your shoulders, neck and back. Practising yoga helps me ease this tension and really helps both body and mind to wind down. Perfect for easing stress.
I try to meditate regularly to keep my stress under control. It encourages you to focus on your breathing and enjoy some delicious me-time. I try to meditate on lunch breaks at work or after I practice yoga.
I have a lovely aromatherapy oil diffuser in my bedroom and often use lavender oil if I’m battling a headache. It helps to create a relaxing atmosphere, which is perfect if I’m struggling to sleep. Peppermint, rosemary and eucalyptus are also recommended to help headaches.
This is a rare treat for me, but one I want to invest in more regularly. As mentioned, tension headaches come from tension elsewhere in the body. Regular massages ease this physical tension and once again, allows you some much-needed quiet time.
Other therapies I’ve not yet explored are acupuncture and herbal remedies. I feel as though I’ve now got my headaches under control, with my arsenal of self-care tools (and the occasional dose of painkillers for the particularly nasty ones). I don’t think I’ll ever be headache free, but I’m thankful that now they don’t bother me for long.
As stereotypical as it may be, many of us Brits do like a good cup of tea. There’s just something very comforting about sitting down and taking a few moments to sip and relax. But how about taking things a step further?
If you’re keen to be a little more mindful in everyday life and even start up a regular mindfulness practice – your tea could hold the key.
Setting aside five to 10 minutes a day to mindfully make and enjoy a cup of tea can be your prompt to sit quietly, root yourself in the present and practise mindfulness.
How to make your daily cuppa more mindful:
Choose your tea carefully
Think about how your body and mind are feeling right now. Are you feeling lethargic and in need of a pick-me-up? Are you feeling a bit stressed and want to wind-down? Is your digestive system playing up? Or do you simply want a cup of pure comfort?
Whatever it is you want, pick your tea accordingly (take a look at our herbal tea suggestions).
Embrace the ritual of tea making
Whether you’re steeping a tea bag in hot water or watching leaves unfurl, making tea can be a ritual. Take your time with it, be slow with your movements and be mindful. Take in the sights, smells and sensations as you’re making the tea and be present throughout.
Do nothing else while drinking
Once you have your cup of tea, pick a spot to sit and enjoy it (preferably alone). Avoid scrolling through your phone, watching TV or even flipping through a magazine. Try and take this time to be quiet and present. Focus on your breathing, the warmth of the tea, the aromas coming from the cup, the way the cup feels in your hand.
This is your time to quiet your mind and just be. Whatever storm is swirling around you today, let this moment be calm and still.