Don’t let the busyness of city living get on top of you. Create good mental health habits with Christopher Paul Jones’s four top tips for coping with stress
Words Christopher Paul Jones
The rush hour, playing sardines on the Tube, dodging people who are trying to text while they walk. London life can be pretty stressful.
So how can you get away from the stress of city living without leaving the comforts of London behind?
Tip 1: CHANGE YOUR BREATHING
When you’re stressed or anxious, your breathing tends to become fast and shallow. So to change your stress level you need to change your breathing.
Place one hand on your chest and breathe in slowly through your nose for four seconds, so that your stomach moves out. Hold this breath for eight seconds and then breathe out for 12 seconds as your stomach moves in. Repeat this a few times and you’ll become relaxed and centred.
Tip 2: CHANGE YOUR PHYSIOLOGY
Did you know your emotions affect your body and your body affects your emotions? So, stand tall, pull your shoulders back, hold your head up and put a huge smile on your face. If you maintain this whilst trying to think of something that is making you anxious, you’ll find it nearly impossible to feel bad.
Tip 3: CHANGE YOUR VISION
When navigating our way through London we tend to go into a goal focused mode of trying to get where we need to be. Our mind can fill with inner talk, for example. “I am going to be late”. This increases our stress levels. This single-minded focus is known as foveal vision.
If, on the other hand, we use peripheral vision, it is less stressful, can help relax us and it turns down our inner talk.
Here’s how to shift your vision:
Look straight ahead and focus your attention on a fixed position in front of you, just above eye level. Hold your arms straight out in front of you, with your thumbs pointing upwards, and still focusing straight ahead, relax the muscles around your eyes, soften your gaze and become aware of your breathing.
Keeping your attention on your fixed position and without moving your head, slowly move your arms out to the side. Stop moving your arms when you can no longer see your thumbs from the corner of your eyes and let your arms slowly drop to your sides.
Keeping your eyes relaxed and still looking ahead, imagine your vision expanding and notice even more of the room around you. Begin to see more on your left, then on your right and notice how you are beginning to see so far back on either side, that you can almost see behind your head.
Continue taking deep breaths, looking straight ahead and keep broadening your awareness. Keep going with this until you notice that the internal noise in your head starts to dissipate and then eventually disappears.
Tip 4: CHANGE YOUR FOCUS
While breathing deeply, start to notice the shape of all the objects at the edge of your vision. Become aware of four things you can SEE around you without moving your head. Remember to keep your eye muscles softened.
Now become aware of four things you can HEAR around you. Continue breathing deeply.
Now become aware of four things you can FEEL around you. Continue breathing deeply.
Repeat the steps above, this time focussing on three things, then two, then one thing.
Notice how you feel differently.
So, the next time the stress of London is getting you down remember, changing how you feel is easier than you think.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christopher Paul Jones, aka The Breakthrough Expert, is a therapist based in Harley Street who specialises in helping people let go of their fears, anxieties and even their phobias; from a fear of public speaking to anxieties around work, Christopher has helped 100s of people ‘let go’ and get their lives back. He even cured his own morbid fear flying, to the extent he was able to take a sightseeing flight through the Pyrennees – strapped to the OUTSIDE of a helicopter!