We live in a stressful world that seems to be getting more intense by the day. Gone are the straight 9 to 5 hours – our ever-capable phones mean we’re continually bombarded by emails, and then there’s the strange pressures of social media to contend with, too.
Back in 1998, National Stress Awareness Day was founded. To mark the 20th anniversary, this year a week’s being devoted to stress management, running until 9th November.
If you’re one of the thousands of people feeling frazzled, overwhelmed and stressed, take a moment to stop, breathe and relax. Here are a few suggestions to help you on your way.
Even if you’re not an art aficionado, the peacefulness of art galleries makes them the perfect go-to place for a little serenity and solace. The team at Manchester Art Gallery has recognised this and co-curated a special exhibition called And Breathe… alongside mental health groups and Charlestown Community Primary School. Running until 15th March, the aim is to allow visitors to experience the calming works of art at their own gentle pace. The hope is by slowing down, you can take time to connect with what’s in front of you, as well as yourself.
Chill with a cat
If you love the idea of having a cat but don’t have the time to look after one, then the Cat Cafe is the spot for you. For £12 an hour, you get unlimited hot and cold drinks along with one-on-one time with the mooching, snoozing felines. The people behind this place are passionate about Assisted Animal Therapy and the idea that simply stroking a cat can lower blood pressure and increase positive mental thoughts. You pay by the hour but can stay for as long as you like. Cocooned in this cosy world, you might never want to leave.
Be nurtured by nature
Last year, Trust Me I’m A Doctor’s Michael Mosley conducted a survey to find the best ways to combat stress after revealing it was the number one mental health question people asked. Spending time in the great outdoors, preferably as part of a conservation group, scored highly. Not only are you breathing fresh air, getting some exercise and socialising, you’re working towards an end goal and altruism provides the feel-good factor. In Manchester, there are numerous groups you can join, such as The Conservation Volunteers, a charity that teaches you practical ways to pep up forgotten green spaces and look after your health and wellbeing too.
Combine massage and meditation
Massage is a wonderful way to relax as thoughts of to-do lists fade along with knotted muscles, but at The Midland Hotel’s spa, they’ve gone one further and introduced a 20-minute guided meditation session. Costing £10, the choice of two recordings act as a soothing prequel or conclusion to treatments such as the Mindful Massage or Serene Sleep. Otherwise you can simply chill in one of the hanging pods, stand beneath a Caribbean Storm rain shower, and relax in the salt-infused aromatherapy steam room. A beautifully indulgent way to unwind.
When we’re small, we spend hours busying ourselves with crayons and clay. Then we go and grow-up. Remind yourself of those simpler days by booking yourself on a creative class such as the pottery taster session at Seven Limes. By focusing on your one-of-a-kind creation, your mind can’t think about anything else. It’s simply you and your clay. Your breathing slows down, your shoulders relax, and you’ll have a lovely vase or bowl to show-off – or hide – at the end of it.
Sweat it out
It might be the last thing you want to do if you’re feeling stressed, but we all know a good workout can do wonders for the mind and body. You’re spoilt for choice in Manchester, whether it’s stretching muscles in a 37degree yoga session; spinning to old school club anthems or putting your best foot forward for a spot of swing dance. If you want to keep your options open, try MoveGB, which launched in the city a few months ago and has now partnered with over 600 gyms and studios so you can mix and match your classes depending on your mood.