Tag Archives: stress

The science of relaxation: learn to de-stress using your senses

Whether it’s running late for work, revising for exams, or something bigger concerning family or friends, stress occurs on a daily basis for the majority of adults in the UK. But learning how to deal with it is important for mental and physical wellbeing.

 

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One of the most common relaxation methods is visualisation, picturing a scene and focusing on the smallest of details using all of your senses.

But how do you visualise a calming atmosphere when you’re surrounded by office desks, traffic or road works?

Take this opportunity to learn, by listening to different sounds, learning about different scents, and watching different scenes, and discover how to unwind using all your senses.

Sounds

 

A study at the University of Sussex has scientifically proven that nature sounds help us relax, and Jo, a Londoner, agrees. “Just generally being outside is relaxing” she tells WNOL. Orfeu Buxton from Pennsylvania State University explains that when we sleep, we can hear threatening and non-threatening sounds, with water being considered the latter. It tells our brains not to worry, whereas harsher sounds, like alarms and thunder, can be considered threatening, and wake us up.

 

 

Most of the people WNOL spoke to mentioned “birds singing” as a calming sound. A study led by Dr. Daniel Cox found stress, depression and anxiety levels decreased when participants were watching birds. Listen to the clip and see how the bird calls make you feel.

 

 

For many people living in cities, traffic can be a trigger for stress. But compare it to the sound of waves crashing against rocks – it’s surprisingly similar. None of the people WNOL spoke to had ever considered this, but one man did say white noise, like car engines, is soothing, along with the ocean, so this visualisation is likely to help him destress.

 

Scents

 

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Many people rely on lavender to help them fall into a deep sleep (image by Alysia Georgiades)

Lavender is arguably the most popular scent for relaxation, with a range of pillow sprays being sold to improve sleep. But why does it work so well?

One suggestion from Christabel Majendie, a sleep therapist at Naturalmat, is that linalool, a part of lavender oil, acts as a sedative by affecting vital neurotransmitters that help us sleep.

Maybe it’s time to try one of those pillow sprays…

 

 

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There are hundreds of species of jasmine, but they all have a sweet, calming scent (image by Alysia Georgiades)

Jasmine is another scent that has been proven to combat stress, with its subtle, sweet smell helping participants of a study fall into a deeper sleep than if they were exposed to lavender.

A couple of Londoners mentioned jasmine when asked to list calming scents, which could act as an alternative for those who are not a fan of lavender.

 

 

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Pine will remind most people of Chrismas, but its scent is excellent for our mental wellbeing (image by Alysia Georgiades)

Finally, pine (aka Christmas trees) is proven to be a relaxing scent, with its essential oil being found in most health stores. A study from Kyoto University in Japan found that stressed participants who were taken for a 15 minute walk in a forest everyday, were considerably more relaxed afterwards, compared to a group who were not taken for walks. Burning the oil above a candle can fill a room with its aroma, helping you unwind after a long day.

 

Scenes

 

The University of Illinois found that the more trees in a scene, the less stress a person feels. It’s arguably one of the easiest to visualise, with trees scattered all around London, 8 million to be exact, and was a popular response among Londoners, who all said they enjoy watching the branches sway in the breeze.

 

 

For many people, watching a crackling fire can help them wind down, and this no coincidence.

Dr. Christopher Lynn explained to the Telegraph that watching a fire lowered blood pressure and increased relaxation the longer people were exposed to it. When Jo was asked what she thought she explained, “as long as it’s a cold winter’s night and I have a good book it’s relaxing”, which sounds like a pretty perfect moment.

 

 

You’ve already listened to water, but watching it is also proven to lower stress and anxiety levels. Professor Michael Depledge and environmental psychologist Mat White found that showing images of landscapes containing a water feature alongside greenery resulted in positive responses in the participants that significantly lowered stress levels.

The ocean was a popular response from Londoners, who all enjoy staring at the waves moving back and forth. “I like the waves crashing against the shore” said one person, who finds the British seaside and pebbled beaches more calming than ones with sand.

 

So how do you feel?

After watching the videos, listening to the sounds and imagining the different scents, have you been able to visualise the perfect, peaceful environment?

If you have, try picturing it whenever you’re stressed, or need a moment to yourself, focusing on everything from what you can see and hear, to how it makes you feel. Let your muscles grow heavy and your breath soften, and leave all your worries behind.

 

Audio and video recorded by Alysia Georgiades

 

Puppies, Laser Quest and a Heap of Exams- De-stressing in Exam Week

Starting last year, The University of Westminster provided students with the only thing that will calm somebody in the middle of exams, dogs. And lots of them.

 

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The University of Westminster Facebook Page

 

The university has been trying its hardest to ensure their students mental health stays positive during exam season by creating events that students can attend to take their mind off revision, these include: a nap room, a bunny room and a dog room. The sessions were held during the week.

Dan Seamarks, the sabbatical officer for Harrow campus has said “”I think the University has provided a good insight into how to revise and how to stay healthy during the exam period. Today, they’ve released research into this. However, we’re always happy to hear students feedback and ideas to take to the University.”

The students’ Union take student welfare seriously and offer counselling at every campus all year round “”The Students’ Union provides welfare and advice to students daily, as well as through the Exam Period. Officers, Receptionists and the Welfare Team can all point students in the direction of help and support in this tough period. We are steadfast in student welfare being one of our top priorities and our Advice team have been available to support students throughout. We ran a campaign a few weeks ago that was aimed at ensuring students knew about these services in the run up to exams.”

Other universities across the UK have also taken steps to ensure that students are prepared for the exam season. Goldsmith University offered students a free DIY art session in order to help and de-stress students who were sitting exams. Whilst Leicester University also had a puppy room, they also set up a free Laser Quest session. Glasgow University are currently running a two-week programme jam packed with activities such as dodgeball and Bradford University were offering free massages and food for students during their exam week.

The University of Westminster have also released a video on how to cope during the exam period, courtesy of Smoke Media.

De-stress with The University of Westminster

Kicking off exam season, the Student Union at the University of Westminster has organised a de-stress week that includes a nap room, free yoga classes and a handful of fluffy animals to deal with the stress of examinations.

According to a study by ChildLine in 2014, 58 per cent of counselling sessions in relation to school and education problems were about exam stress, a 200 per cent rise from the previous year. Now in 2017, It seems that the number is still rising as teens take to twitter to complain about their overbearing amount of work.

The Nap Room runs from May 8th to May 12th, and its Facebook event page can be found here. The Union started taking action due to the overwhelming amount of work students are facing with final year assessments and exam revision. One of the most famous and sold-out events of de-stress week is the puppy and bunny room, that allows students to play with adorable animals to calm them down from dissertations and final projects.

Pictures: University of Westminster Facebook Page

 

The University began the idea of bunny and puppy day last year and kept it this year due to the high demands. You can see the video of the day below.

Video: Smoke TV

With rising concern for exam stress and its effect on students, there is also a concern about eating disorders and self-harm being at a combined total of 34,000 people who use ChildLine yearly.

A press release from the University Health Awareness Day 2017 claims that, undergraduate students appear to have a lower sense of personal wellbeing than the rest of the population with 21% of students experiencing ‘low anxiety’ compared to 41% of the total population and 43% of the equivalent age group. [The 2016 Student Academic Experience Survey, HEPI]

De-stress week at the University of Westminster will help with students mental health and focus on student successes during exam season.