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99 ways to combat stress during lockdown

It’s time to say bye felicia to all that stress…

Small amounts of stress are healthy and can help you get stuff done. But high levels of stress can have a serious impact on your mental and physical health so it’s important that you find ways to manage this during the coronavirus crisis when stress is inevitably ramped up.

People find different things relaxing so we’ve constructed a list of our fave chilling out tips and urge you to give them a try to see which ones work for you! It took us a bloody long time but we did it, we really did it. Here are 101 different things you can do to chill out and reduce stress.

Take a deep breath, here goes…

1. Watch something funny. Laughter really is the best medicine. It relieves physical tension, reduces stress and increases immunity…so watch your fave comedy and laugh your way to tranquillity.

2. Body Clench. This relaxation exercise may make you look a bit constipated but give it a go! Starting with your toes, go up through your body, gradually clenching each of your muscles right through to the tiny ones in your face, keep your whole body clenched, hold and then release to let go of all the tension. Feels good, right?

3. Try the Naam Yoga Hand Trick. Using your fingertips, apply pressure to the space between the knuckles of your index and middle fingers. This creates a sense of immediate relaxation by activating a nerve that loosens the area around your heart (don’t worry, it’s not as life-threatening as it sounds).

4. Stop multitasking. No wonder we’re all mega-stressed when we’re replying to text messages, whilst watching TV and speaking on the phone simultaneously! Not only is multitasking totally inefficient, but it’s also linked to the increased production of stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) that can send your body into panic mode! So chill out and take things one step at a time.

5. Get a Colouring Book. They’ve exploded in popularity recently and for good reason – colouring in helps you chill out because it’s very difficult to focus on other things when you’re doing it.

6. Have a banana. When we’re stressed out our blood pressure tends to rise but the potassium found in bananas can help to regulate this. Stress can also leave us feeling depleted but bananas give you a replenishing energy boost.

7. Organise ‘worry time’. (Worryingly) worry can counterproductively occur at any point in the day and release stress hormones into the body that can cause anxiety and lower our immune systems. So schedule a 15 minute worry window in your day, where you can write down your worries and work through them. You can use DTL’s stress reprogrammer to help.

8. Do some baking. The smell of baking can make people feel calm and comforted. Many people find baking stress relieving and adding decorative touches to your creation can give you a sense of pride, enhance how you’re feeling and therefore boost your self-esteem…so what better excuse to eat cake?

9. Cook up a facemask. Yep, that’s right, we are suggesting you mix up half an avocado, a teaspoon of honey, 2 tablespoons of hot water and smear it all over your face so that you vaguely resemble the Wicked Witch of the West. Relax for 10 to look and feel rejuvenated.

10. Stay silly. Don’t leave playtime at the primary school gates. Studies have consistently highlighted the importance of play for helping manage stress throughout our lives. Goofing around is good for us so bring out the lego, pull ugly faces and dance in your pants shamelessly!

11. Keep calm and kiss. Kissing increases levels of the love hormone, oxytocin, which relaxes us whilst decreasing the stress hormone, cortisol. It’s been shown that kissing can lower anxiety in a similar way to meditation as well as generally improving your mood through an increase of serotonin and endorphins in the brain…so if you’re staying home with your significant other, grab ‘em for a smooch!

12. Stay inside and listen to the rain. Want a good excuse to stay in your PJ’s? White noise may make you wanna tear your hair out when it’s blaring out of the TV, but this sound of nature shares similar wavelengths to the frequencies produced by white noise and actually has relaxing effects on the brain. So curl up with a hot choc and let your brainwaves do the work.

13. Watch a nature documentary. Not only are David Attenborough’s dulcet tones particularly soothing, nature documentaries can also sprinkle our minds with mood-lifting wanderlust and highlight the sheer scale of life which can in turn help us gain perspective of our own lives.

14. Meditate. Create a little zen den in your room where you can meditate (e.g. light candles and incense, play calming music). Reaching a meditative state takes practice but there are some great tips for beginners online. Meditation can help ease anxiety and improve concentration, so peace out.

15. Breathe ‘Pranayama’ style. This yoga method requires you to breathe through one nostril at a time (inhale through the left by blocking the right, exhale through the right by blocking the left, repeat for 3 minutes) to relieve stress. Weird but wonderful!

16. A spoonful of honey. Mother nature’s delicious treat has compounds that reduce inflammation in the brain which can help improve a low mood. Bee happy… (sorry, couldn’t resist).

17. Turn up the music and dance. Combining music and dance can help build self-esteem, lift your mood and reduce anxiety. Dancing may also help express emotions and experiences that are difficult to communicate in words alone…so dance like no one’s watching!

18. Watch a tearjerker. Okay, so you’re only on the first scene of ‘Up’ and you’re already in floods…don’t panic! The teary-eyed may experience a slight dip in their mood following the film but not long after you’ll notice your mood improves considerably from its original state and crying is an excellent way to relieve stress too so get the tissues out!

19. Try self-hypnosis. Okay so forget dangling pendants and special powers, self-hypnosis can really work! There’s loads of mp3’s you can download online to help reprogramme your subconscious to relieve stress and anxiety so have a listen.

20. Doodle. You may associate doodling with being bored in class but doing it in your spare time can be a great way to relax. When we’re stressed we can get caught in our thoughts but by doodling you’re engaging the creative upper right side of your brain which will give you the space you need to calm down and find a fresh perspective.

21. Play games. Board games, cards and even online/video games (in moderation!) can be a really effective way of relaxing. Fun games can trigger the release of endorphins and can help shift your attention away from stress. Interacting with friends and families through games can help ease stressful dynamics too so organise a pub quiz or games night over Skype if you’re isolating alone. Looks like I’ll be playing Call of Duty forever then…

22. Have a hug. Hugging increases serotonin levels which are linked to happiness and releases oxytocin which lowers stress hormones like cortisol. If you’re staying home with family, friends or flatmates this is a good time to hug them. Maybe warn them first though.

23. Have a massage exchange. Most of us don’t have 50 quid lying around to splash out on a professional massage, so relieve tension the frugal way and exchange massages with a friend or flatmate that you’re staying home with. For example, try massaging the muscle under the thumb to relieve tension in the hands (you’ll look just like a pro!) There are loads of tips online so you, your mate and your bank balance can enjoy the benefits of relaxation!

24. Drink hot water. Learn from the tradition of Chinese healing and drink a cup of good ol’, clean hot water. Okay, so it may not be as delicious as a hot chocolate but it will cleanse your system of toxins that have accumulated in the body and may be causing tension. You could try adding some lemon for flavour, vitamin C and its mood enhancing properties (e.g. reducing anxiety).

25. Support someone else. Moving your attention outside of yourself can help take the pressure of stressors in your own life and supporting others can also give you valuable insight for how to redress your issues. Seeing the impact you make in that person’s life will also boost your self-esteem which in turn, can help de-stress.

26. Watch cute animals on youtube. Oh, the power of cute! Watching our furry friends doing their thing can help reduce your stress levels and lift your mood. Aww!

27. Go Stargazing. If you have your own outside space, laying down and watching a starry night is not only awesome but it increases your brain’s alpha waves which rapidly enables you to relax. Cool, huh?

28. Light some incense. Scents like Sandalwood and Sage can help calm anxieties and aid relaxation (and make your room smell wonderful!)

29. Squeeze a stress ball. Using a stress ball can help alleviate tension by promoting muscle relaxation and providing a general sense of release.

30. Keeping a diary. Venting all those thoughts and emotions onto paper can make your feelings and problems seem less intimidating. Writing can be both insightful and therapeutic so get those words down on paper!

31. Chew gum. Chewing gum for a few minutes can help release anxiety, improve your mood and you’ll never have to worry about bad breath again! Go and rummage through every one of your pockets and bags – you’re bound to have some somewhere. 

32. Drink green tea. Feeling all worked up? Green tea is a source of the chemical L-Theanine which can help relieve anger.

33. Call an old friend. Feeling out of control? Speaking to an old friend can be really grounding. Social connectedness can reduce stress levels and no doubt the nostalgia will get you smiling and laughing too!

34. Snuggle up with a pet. Cuddling your pet can help reduce anxiety through the release of oxytocin in your brain, ease feelings of social rejection and make you feel cared for which can help boost your self-esteem. The cutest therapy going!

35. Sniff those flowers. Did you know that certain smells can change our mood? Floral scents can lift your mental state and make you feel less anxious…so go in your garden and stick your nose in the rhododendron bush!

36. Stretch it out. Stretching has been linked to relaxation and stress relief as well as a greater sense of wellbeing. It’s also incredibly satisfying.

37. Organise your space. Mess can really start to clutter up your mind so clean your room and reorganize your desk. Tidy room, tidy mind (sorry, we said it).

38. Take a walk in nature. Not only will walking trigger the release of endorphins which can reduce stress hormones, but being out in nature can boost serotonin levels which can also contribute to an improved sense of wellbeing.

39. Be a tourist. Try mixing up your daily exercise and walk on different routes. Not only will it stop you getting bored but you’ll be surprised what you find when you’re a tourist in your own city, town or village.

40. Wash dishes. Okay, so I get that you’ve probably spent half your life avoiding this task but you’ll be surprised at how therapeutic it is. Not only will mindfully washing the dishes relax you, but you’ll please any other household members too and feel a sense of self-esteem boosting accomplishment. Concentrate on letting your mind and body experience the task with serene awareness (e.g. focussing on the smell of the soap, the feel of the dishes and the warmth of the water).

41. Visualisation. Your mind is a powerful tool. Whether you use it to visualise success, visit a happy place, or embark on an imaginary journey, the technique can help alleviate anxiety and sadness so go get creative in your head!

42. Sleep well. Whilst stress can interfere with sleeping, sleeping can also relieve stress. So use some of our chilling out tips to help you relax before bed and follow our DTL Sleep Guide so you can ensure that you’re spending a third of your life in bedtime bliss…zzz…

43. Cook your fave dish. Nourishing yourself with a good meal can help boost your sense of self-worth. Cooking can be a relaxing and rewarding process and hopefully you’ll feel accomplished instead of poisoned by the end!

44. Write a card for someone you care about. Whoever it is I can assure you that they’ll appreciate a card letting them know you’re thinking of them. Random acts of kindness like this have beneficial effects for both you and the person at the receiving end. You can feel good about making someone else feel great and performing these acts has been linked to helping socially anxious people feel more positive.

45. Light some candles. Candlelight is known for its calming effects and (even better) scented candles have aromatherapeutic properties which can improve wellbeing. Watching the flame of a candle can also be a great starting point for meditation. So sit back and enjoy the glow!

46. Take a nap. Don’t feel guilty, naps aren’t just for those over the age of 65! The afternoon power nap can effectively reduce stress, improve your mood and increase alertness, so we give you full permission to climb back into bed!

47. Countdown from ten. Caught in chaos? Take a couple of minutes out of your day to mindfully countdown from ten and back up again. Continue this process until you feel calm enough to resume your day.

48. Wake up and smell the coffee. Finally, a saying that makes literal sense! Smelling coffee actually reduces stress hormones, so we suggest you have a good whiff of a decaf variety over breakfast.

49. Give your temples a good ol’ massage. Learn from the great art of acupuncture and give those temples a gentle knead with your index and middle fingertips. Massaging your temples helps relax the other muscles in your body as well as soothing your headache symptoms (bonus!).

50. Feed the birds. Enjoy the company birds can bring and track all the different species you can view from your doorstep, garden or terrace. Okay, so I know it’s not exactly a night out with your mates but give it a try!… being around nature has a range of positive effects on our mental health (such as reducing anxiety) and you’ll be able to see the happiness you’ve brought to these cute little creatures.

51. Hum the tune of your fave song. Feeling anxious? Humming can dramatically slow down your heart rate and ground you. It also has a relaxing effect on your face, neck and shoulder muscles. Humming your fave tune will lift your mood and ensure you don’t get some other irritating song stuck in your head!

52. Open the windows. Not only does fresh air promote wellbeing and relax you, but getting more oxygen to the brain improves concentration and gives you the energy boost you need without the same sugar comedown of a chocolate bar (damn).

53. Be nice to yourself. Criticising yourself again? Take some time to practice self-love, whether that means starting the day repeating positive affirmations about yourself or nourishing your body with the nutrition you need. Remember ditching negative self-talk really will relieve a lot of stress. Check out some of DTL’s tips on building your self-esteem.

54. Have a bath. Taking a dip in a hot bath will relax your muscles, enabling you to unwind both physically and mentally which can help prepare you for a good night’s sleep too. A good soak can also be a great way to reduce daily anxiety…unleash the rubber ducks!

55. Get up earlier. Sorry guys. Whilst I wish early starts weren’t the reality, setting your alarm clock even just 15 minutes earlier could reduce your stress levels and bring back some routine. Waking up earlier also provides you with some valuable time to relax with yourself and prepare for the day ahead…so wake up sleepy heads! (Yawn).

56. Avoid negativity. Don’t let other people’s negativity shoot your adrenaline levels through the roof. It’s important not to judge someone for being negative, try to support them but make sure you separate your identity and emotions from it. If their negativity is aimed at you, it looks like they’re engaging in bullying behaviour so read DTL’s advice on how to talk to someone who’s bullying you.

57. Take care of your plants. Not only does filling your room with flowers look pretty and purify the air, but being around plants can help people feel more relaxed and actually reduce your likelihood of developing stress related depression.

58. Get knitting. Get creative using your motor skills to make repetitive motions that relieve stress. Give your brain a much needed break and if your thoughts get distracted, return to the movement. Go and raid the cupboards for those knitting needles!

59. Relax your jaw. Release the tension you’re carrying in your jaw by opening it wide for a half a minute, breathing through your nose and gently closing it. Great practice for the dentist too 

60. Reflect on the day’s achievements. Don’t get stressed about what you should be doing, feel great about what you have done instead. We’re not expecting you to have climbed Mount Everest, you could have just given a friend some good advice. The reflection process can help boost your self esteem and ease anxiety as you’ll see how great you are already!

61. Munch some crunch. It’s important not to use food as a stress reducer as this can lead to unhealthy eating habits. But when you do reach for a snack, try some carrot sticks or a handful of almonds as this will help relieve stress by working your jaw muscles as well as giving you a nutritious boost. Gnaw away!

62. Deep breaths. When we’re feeling anxious our breathing changes and this ‘overbreathing’ can actually produce more anxiety. But deep breathing will encourage your mind and body to slow down and return to normal. So next time you feel yourself getting anxious, have a quick break and take a deep diaphragmatic breath in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold it for 2 and exhale slowly through the mouth for 4 (wait a few seconds and then repeat). Panic over!

63. Decompress your stress. Invest in a 3-pack of flannels, soak them in warm water and place one on each of your shoulders and your neck, then close your eyes and relax those muscles. Ta da!

64. Turn off ALL electronic devices. Technology can be wonderful but interconnectedness comes at a price…laptops, phones and tablets all subtly increase our stress levels making us feel constantly ‘wired’. They can also disrupt your sleep which will only contribute to stress so make sure you switch them off an hour or two before bed. Oh the conflicting joys of the 21st century!

65. Browse your books. Sit back, relax and get lost in that good book you brought months ago but never read. New research suggests that reading even for just six minutes can reduce your stress levels by two thirds!

66. Clear your closet. Having a closet full of clothes you never wear just creates clutter and adds to the stress bucket. So make a day of it, and prepare to auction off your unwanted clothes after lockdown and donate the proceeds to Ditch the Label – thanks!

67. Study a new topic. I know it sounds counterproductive considering the stress studying causes, but study a topic you don’t or didn’t do at school, like gender across cultures, or survival skills…we would all feel more relaxed if we knew how to survive on a desert island.

68. Take a break from social media. Whilst interconnectedness and the opportunities of social media offer us so much, using it too often can have adverse effects. It can lower your self-esteem, take you away from the moment and bring drama into your life. All of these factors massively contribute to stress so take a break!

69. Have a good cry. Let’s face it, we’re living through difficult times so bottling up your emotions can lead you down a dangerous path and suppressing those tears actually increases your stress levels so make sure you let it all out and you’ll be surprised by the relief it brings.

70. Write a gratitude list. Unsurprisingly, stressful events can leave us feeling negative and as if we’re lacking in some way. But having a greater sense of appreciation for the people and things in your life can really help you gain perspective, feel more positive and enable you to better handle stress. So try writing down 5 things you’re thankful for.

71. Try herbal remedies. Mother nature scores again! Next time you’re feeling stressed try sipping on some chamomile tea, full of anti-anxiety components, or drip some lavender oil on your pillow at night to help relax you for a peaceful night’s sleep.

72. Don’t procrastinate. We’ve all been there…one minute you’re studying, the next minute you’re checking out the photos of your friends’ mutual friends’ friend on facebook (wow, that even sounds as stressful as it is), but all procrastination does is put things off and stops you achieving your goals which only generates more stress!

73. Lower your standards. Setting ridiculously high standards for yourself generates anxiety by putting pressure on you to perform and it can make you particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of emotional stress. Nobody’s perfect so try loving and accepting yourself as the great individual you are.

74. Get a hobby. Pursuing a new hobby is a fun way to break away from life’s demands, as well as allowing you to build your self-esteem and express yourself, which all contribute to the reduction of stress. Why not give writing poetry a go or try out an online yoga class…do whatever interests YOU!

75. Watch the sunrise (or set). Okay, so perhaps getting up at the crack of dawn to watch a sunrise is a little bit ambitious, but watching a sunset on a clear evening is both breathtaking and incredibly relaxing. So let go of your worries and let yourself get immersed in the colors. It’s true that the best things in life are free.

76. Ask for help. Everyone needs a helping hand sometimes. Trying to cope with everything on your own just exacerbates stress. Whether you open up to a trusted friend, family member or us here at Ditch the Label, a problem shared is a problem halved!

77. Eat stress free. Incorporate stress-busting foods into your diet like avocados, oily fish, whole wheat varieties and oatmeal. Please Sir, can I have some more?

78. Enjoy simplicity. Used to living life in the fast lane? Rushing around is not only stressful, we forget about the simple things that bring us happiness too so learn to stop and notice life’s little pleasures like laughing with your friends or enjoying the feeling of sun on your skin when you go out for your daily exercise. Mindfulness can significantly reduce anxiety so relax and enjoy the moment!

79. Strike a (yoga) pose. There’s loads of yoga poses you can try at home that can help reduce anxiety. Have a go at the child’s pose by sitting on your knees and bending forwards so that your face is resting on the floor, keeping your arms by your sides. This comforting pose, helps us turn inside for a while and slow down our racing minds.

80. Stop judging. With so many things to worry about, don’t let worrying about what other people do with their time be one of them. Sitting around criticising others isn’t gonna make anyone happy. Try supporting them instead. If you often find yourself judging others it’s likely that you’ve been giving yourself a hard time too so ditch the criticism and you’ll not only feel better about yourself but you’ll have a lot more time to relax too!

81. Nurture yourself through words. Read whatever inspires you; poems, positive affirmations and empowering quotes….let the words ground you, calm your mind and regenerate you.

82. Avoid Caffeine. That comforting cup of coffee may not be so kind to your nerves. Whilst giving you a temporary boost, caffeine injects adrenaline into your system and increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol. A cup of coffee can brew trouble for anxiety sufferers so try an equally heart-warming decaf alternative instead.

83. Learn to forgive. Everyone makes mistakes, that’s how we learn. Bullying yourself, mulling over petty grievances and begrudging others is only gonna hurt you so start forgiving yourself and other people and you’ll find there’s a lot less to stress about!

84. Say no sometimes. Being a ‘yes’ person isn’t easy. People pleaser’s listen up!…saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean you’re selfish or rude. Practicing saying ‘no’ will help simplify your life and give you the valuable time you need to relax with yourself.

85. Get some sun. Vitamin D (which our bodies absorb through exposure to the sun) can play an important role in your mental health but at the moment many of us are lacking in it. Keep calm and soak up all the sun you can when you have to go out and if you’re running low, top up with vitamin D rich foods like oily fish and eggs.

86. Listen to calming music. Oh, the power of music! Research suggests that chilled out tunes slow down our pulses, lower blood pressure and decrease stress hormones. So plug in and relax or if no one’s listening sing/shout along to release even more tension!

87. Stand tall. Did you know good posture can actually make you feel more in control and less anxious? Power poses of confidence can actually decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol, so stand proud and your mood will follow. And if your posture is suffering from working at your dining room table, take regular breaks and stretch it out.

88. Drink more water. Even slight dehydration can lower our moods and it can increase levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Dehydration can also cause your body to stop functioning properly which can result in anxiety too…so get sipping!

89. Do a puzzle. Feeling all keyed up? Try and crack a sudoku, a crossword or piece together a puzzle to unwind and get your mind into a state of relaxation.

90. Take your brain on holiday. As much as we’d all love to be sunbathing in the Caribbean right now, most of us are constrained to mind wandering instead. But daydreaming can help you solve stressful problems, relax you and inspire creativity. So get lost in your thoughts and see where your mind takes you!

91. Spend less. Advertisers capitalise on the notion that buyers ruthlessly spend in response to stress and low self-esteem. Remember that having lots of things just adds to stress and won’t solve negative feelings so next time you’re about to part with your cash take a step back and ask “why do I want this?” and “do I really need this?”

92. Do your nails. There are loads of tips online for giving yourself the ultimate DIY mani and pedi. Spend some time looking after number one, feel relaxed and maybe get creative with nail art too!

93. D.I.Y. Remember that set of shelves you bought that would look so awesome in your room? Or the string of lights you always intended to drape across your headboard? Now is the time to rip open those boxes and get them up! Every achievement makes us feel so much better.  

94. Change it up. If you have the option, try moving your furniture around. It feels completely refreshing and makes us see the space in a completely new way. 

95. Listen to an audiobook. Being read a story is ridiculously relaxing and a comforting way to wind down before bed. It’s much less effort than reading and there’s a huge choice of podcasts online so do check those out.

96. Make your room your safe haven. Your bedroom should be your sanctuary for peaceful relaxation so make it that way! Get some candles, declutter your space and why not make a personalised noticeboard of quotes that inspire you, pictures, photographs…

97. Get shredding. Remember that draw full of old bank statements and the bag full of receipts? Yeah, we’re pretty sure you don’t still need those paper phone bills from 2013…

98. Make a list. If you are one of those people (guilty as charged) who likes to make a list and then cross it all off with a flourish then go for it! Maybe even list all the things you’ll want or need to do once lockdown is over. 

99. Make over. Finally use all of those foot masks and hair treatments that you HAD to have but are now falling out of your bathroom cupboard every time you open it. Treat yo’self!   

You made it to the end, kudos!

TL;DR Remember. You may be in a particularly stressful period at the moment and feel overwhelmed but remember it WILL PASS. It’s likely that any negative feelings you’re experiencing are to do with your body responding naturally to stress. So stay calm, and relieve your stress using these tips. 

But, if those feelings become overwhelming and make you feel out of control, do speak to your GP, a trusted adult or talk to Ditch the Label. There’s great support available for you and remember that nobody deserves to suffer in silence.