Stress and anxiety are naturally unpleasant feelings, and ones we encounter fairly often in both professional and personal settings. But stress levels are rising across the country, as several factors lead us to fret more than ever before. Whether you suffer from a mental health condition or are simply finding life harder than before, what are some simple ways you can bring your stress levels down?
1. Go For a Walk
The rejuvenating benefits of a simple walk cannot be overstated. Even a brief jaunt to the local shops can inspire a sense of calm, let alone a day hike in the wilderness. In many cases, a walk represents a break from a cause of stress – whether you’re stepping away from a situation, or even just away from your laptop.
Walking is also a form of light exercise, which can increase your serotonin levels naturally. When combined with a beautiful walking location, the effect can be profound. Shinin yoku, or forest bathing, is a term coined in Japan in the 1980s, referring to the simple delight of taking in a natural location. Forest bathing is a form of mindfulness in practice (more on which later), enabling you to reconnect with yourself and enjoy the fresh air in the process.
2. Listen to Music
Music is a real gateway for a great many people, and a source of passion to boot. Music is uniquely powerful here, in its ability to utterly transport you – addressing your emotions and anxieties in the process. We all have a favorite album, whether due to a fond memory or specific emotion it inspires; why not take a breath and listen?
There is also something of a ritual to listening to your favorite music. Playing a calming record on your record player is a step-by-step process, through which you prepare to listen actively; from removing the vinyl from its sleeve to placing the tonearm down, you are investing yourself in an experience.
Mindfulness as a term has already cropped up once – and actively listening to a calming, favorite album could also be considered a mindful act. But what does it mean, and how could it help? Mindfulness is a mental health strategy that aims to refocus your thinking on the present moment.
A lot of anxiety and stress come from worry about past or future events. However, there are things to experience in the present; teaching yourself to zone in on the things in front of you can pull you away from needless fretting, and help you calm down.
Mindfulness exercises are sometimes as simple as paying attention to a ticking clock and can be done anywhere. Not only can mindfulness focus on things you do, but also the things you don’t – for example, looking at your phone. Doomscrolling is just another way to find sources of anxiety, and another way to excuse yourself from the present. Put the phone down, and go for a forest bath!