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March 26, 2019

6 ways to beat city stress

Miranda Thompson

London is undoubtedly one of the world’s most thrilling cities to call home. A destination for blockbuster, global events – who can forget the 2012 Olympics?, scenes of sporting triumph from Wimbledon to the London Marathon, it’s know for events that bring communities together – think the parades of Pride and St Patrick’s Day street parties. There’s no doubt that living in an energetic, vibrant city like London can be totally exhilarating. With literally millions of people, places and things to encounter each day, the possibilities are open, endless – and always exciting.

But as any urban dweller (50% of the world’s population) will know, the pressures of being ‘on’ all the time – whether in work, play or within your personal life – can sometimes mean you can lose track of looking after yourself, especially when it feels like everything around you goes at 100 miles an hour.

Statistics show that people who live in cities are more likely to develop anxiety and mood disorders. The reasons why are as yet uncertain, but it’s clear that the density of a packed urban area can be a recipe for stress and fatigue.

It’s part of the thinking behind The Collective’s new Self Care Sundays series, which explores creative ways to improve members’ health and wellbeing through events like DIY skincare with Hackney Herbal or mindful meditation (including a specially curated, zen-inducing playlist).

So what are the solutions for keeping city stress at bay? Here’s six ways to beat city stress and help you recharge.

1. Learn how to breathe properly

Take inspiration from the current trend for conscious breathing – after all, it’s a solution that’s quite literally right under your nose!. Breathing has long-known to be a built-in stress reliever. The yoga community is already au fait with its benefits, used to instil calm and help you refresh. Mastering the art of deep breathing at a workshop led by a breath coach (try Rebecca Dennis, a favourite of British TV and radio presenter Fearne Cotton’s). You’ll learn how to use a proper deep-breathing technique, detoxify, calm the mind and strengthen the immune system.

2. Find yourself in a forest

One of the many benefits of being in the great outdoors is that it’s known to be an instant stress-reliever. Research has shown that as little as 15 minutes spent among trees can lower cortisol levels, which are linked to stress. Practise the Japanese ritual of forest bathing, a form of therapy that promises mental rejuvenation by spending time among trees, where shirin-yoku London run slow, sensory walks to help restore wellbeing in Epping Forest, London.

3. Silence is golden

Living among the hustle and bustle of an urban environment means that we’re often short on silence. But if you’re able to carve out a quiet corner within your day, your body will thank you. Studies have shown that just five minutes of complete quiet can have a beneficial effect on your mental health, zapping cortisol levels and lowering blood pressure and heart rate. Another study found that it can help the brain generate new brain cells. What’s more, taking a break from your phone can help tackle anxiety and insomnia induced by too much screen time. The Quaker Meeting House in London’s West End hosts free weekly drop-in silence sessions for two hours each Friday, where you’re allowed to read and write – and mobile devices are are banned. Sounds like heaven.

4. Bathe in sound

You won’t need a tub for this wellness technique, currently taking London’s wellness scene by storm. At the other end of the spectrum to complete silence, a sound bath is said to induce a deep meditative state that’s vital for mental and physical relaxation. It’s brilliant for people who find it difficult to switch off. Using either crystal singing bowls or a gong, the sound waves and vibrations produced from the instruments are said to slow down your brain and place you into a meditative state, with the rhythm altering your brain waves from beta – our usual ‘doing state’, to alpha, our ‘daydreaming’ stage, then theta, the slowest, which occur during deep meditation and dreams. They’re known to aid relaxation and natural healing, as well as sometimes inducing good quality sleep.

The Collective have already hosted a session with sound healer Ruby Larimar – why not try a bath with her to give your brain a break and reset? Your brain waves will thank you.

5. Get crafty with ceramics

No longer just a hippie pursuit, pottery and ceramic-making has become one of the UK’s most popular evening courses – and we’re gushing over its many benefits for mental health. The act of simply taking a couple of hours out of your day to sit down, become creatively engaged and use your hands to make something is a world away from our normally plugged-in states, giving your mind a mental break.

Pottery-making engages the ‘effort-driven reward circuit.’ The resistance that the clay gives back as you shape it on a wheel gives the practice its power, and can help alleviate symptoms of depression. The Collective knows just how working with hands can alleviate stress, hosting events like tile casting with designer Olivia Aspinall, carving bespoke silver rings or creating herbal-infused skin products with Hackney Herbal.

Bonus: your plate and pot collections could improve immeasurably.

6. Clear up your aura with crystals

The current celebrity craze for crystals (advocates include Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lawrence and Gemma Collins) shows no sign of stopping, with high-street stores like Oliver Bonas and Urban Outfitters even stocking rose quartz on their shelves. When it comes to seeking shelter from city life, it’s all about harnessing the crystals’ healing power – a tradition which stretches back 6,000 years. It works by placing certain crystals on the right area of your body to realign energy that is out of sorts, and channel the energy in the direction that is needed to create an experience that’s said to be relaxing and soothing.

You can educate yourself with London-based crystal healer Emma Lucy Knowles’s book, The Power of Crystal Healing, which gives guidelines on which rocks might work for you. Carnelian is said to boost your immune system whilst amethyst promotes sleep. Or holistic healer Ruby Larimar is also a crystal therapist and offers treatments designed to leave you de-stressed and refreshed.

What’s your favourite way to beat city stress? Tell us your best tips.

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