Take Time Out

However busy you are, it’s important for your mental health to take time out for yourself, relax and recharge the batteries.

Why is relaxation important?

Life is busy, whether you’re at school, college or work. Sometimes, the pressures can seem all a bit too much. Taking some time off for relaxation is vital to help your mind and body switch off from those pressures.

Some mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression can be caused by “too much work and not enough play”. And not taking time out for relaxation may make any existing mental health issue worse. 

Relaxation is an important part of maintaining positive mental wellbeing.

The stimulants don't work

It’s tempting, after a pressured day to reach for a cigarette, bottle of wine or even drugs to wind down. But these quick fixes are stimulants, and won’t help you to relax properly. They’re also bad for both your physical and mental health.

Drugs, such as cannabis can act as a depressant, making users paranoid and losing their ambition and drive. Drugs and alcohol can cause or exacerbate mental health problems.

Stress-busting relaxation techniques

Pause - make time during the day to take breaks or pauses. Pausing throughout the day can prevent stress from building up.

  • stop what you are doing
  • look out of the window
  • let your shoulders drop
  • stretch
  • allow your mind to calm down

If you find yourself in a stressful situation such as a difficult phone call, a crowded train journey home or a looming essay deadline, give yourself time afterwards to pause and calm down.

Deep breathing - Taking deep breaths after a stressful situation and concentrating on your breathing can have a calming effect and help you relax.

  • close your eyes
  • take deep breaths in and out
  • Think of your favourite place, maybe somewhere that you go on holiday
  • Focus on the place and picture yourself there
  • What can you see? What can you smell? What can you feel?

Imagining being in your favourite place can take you away from your current stressful situation and help you relax and calm down. It can also help prevent stress levels gradually rising throughout the day.

Mindfulness

  • Be mindful – be more aware of the present moment, including your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you. Some people call this awareness "mindfulness". It can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges. Learn more in Mindfulness for mental wellbeing.

9 Great ways to relax

  1. Switch off the screens – turn off your phone, tablet and computer and go and do something that doesn’t involve tech gadgets instead.
  1. Get a hobby– a hobby away from work can help you switch your brain off from work pressures. If you love woodworking, for example, you focus on the tools and the wood rather than the presentation you’re giving next week. You’ll cope better with work after taking a break from it.
  1. Aerobic Exercise – increases your heart rate and releases endorphins that make you feel good. Going to the gym, cycling, skateboarding, surfing, horseriding, swimming or team sports such as cricket or netball are all great exercise. Choose one you love and build your exercise routine around that.
  1. Walking– as moderate exercise, walking releases “feel good” endorphins. It can also help you to switch off - you have time to take in your surroundings and walk in a steady rhythm. Walking can be a less stressful way to travel than on a packed Tube or crowded bus. Fresh air helps you relax and sleep better.
  1. Spend time in the natural world – An old Zen proverb says: “You should sit in nature for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re busy, then you should sit for an hour.”
  1. Yoga, tai chi and Pilates - disciplines designed around controlled movement and breathing techniques, which can aid relaxation.
  1. Run a warm bath–light some aromatherapy candles, run some scented bubble bath under the taps and play some chill-out music while you have a relaxing soak.
  1. Watch a film or read a book– escapism is a great way to switch off from reality and help your mind relax.
  1. Meet a friend– leave a stressful situation and spend some time with a friend. Talking things over, having some laughs and hearing a different perspective can take your mind off things and help you wind down.
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