We’ve put together a list of 10 simple but effective ways to relax……

* Worried with lots of ‘what if’ thoughts? Stop and ask yourself what you are actually worried about. Then ask yourself if you have any control over it.

If you have, spend your time planning how to resolve it. If you haven’t, then all the worry in the world won’t have any influence other than to worry you more. Try to adopt the, “It is what it is” mantra.

* Play a game, anything pleasurable. The older we get, the more anxious we get, and the less we play. Yet, playing a game focuses our thoughts on the game and the present and enables us to smile, perhaps laugh and feel positive. Try it, whether alone, or with others, or with a pet – you may be surprised.

* Go for a walk, it doesn’t have to be far. Brisk walking can have a calming effect sparking nerve cells in the brain that relax the senses, plus you get some exercise. Concentrate on what’s around you, on what you can see, hear and feel.

* Adult colouring books are increasingly popular as more and more people recognise the benefits. They slow your thoughts down, your behaviour and stabilise your mood.

* Smile. Science repeatedly shows that the act of smiling reduces our body’s stress response. Our faces can carry so much tension too, so practise smiling and use your smile more often. Laughing is better still, so search YouTube to find yourself a ‘laugh out loud’ video.

* Chewing is a powerful relaxant. It can also reduce blood pressure, improve our digestion and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Chew your food a bit longer and eat mindfully – really thinking about the taste and texture of your food.

* Shutting your eyes can provide a quick and effective break from a busy world. Simply close your eyes and count slowly to 10 and back again, or trace a figure of 8 on your palm several times.

* Breathe well. As a stand alone tool or combined with any of the above, learn to breathe from your stomach. Breathing from high in our lungs makes the brain think we are in alert mode and on the lookout for danger.

* Create some space. Spend 5 minutes on that pile of papers, or your handbag, or car glove compartment, or kitchen drawer…… In the process you will have focussed on clearing out the past, achieved a task and feel more optimistic and motivated about tackling another.

* So much is said about the benefits of stroking a pet, but unfortunately the responsibility isn’t for everyone. Visit a friend who has a pet or go for a walk in the park and you’ll find owners more than happy to let you stroke their dogs. Alternately, give us a ring and find out when Dandy, our Pets as Therapy dog will be in the clinic.

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