1. Do Some Yoga
I know, I know. If you’re not a yoga person, the chances are you find those who are intensely irritating, with their serene bendy-ness. But the reason people are so evangelical about yoga is because it’s genuinely awesome – not just for your body, but for your mind, too. And for those who are used to intense workouts don’t be fooled into thinking yoga ‘doesn’t count’ – It’s much harder than it looks, involves using muscles you’ve probably never used before and, if you do it right, you’ll definitely work up a sweat.
2. Try Freewriting
There’s a lot of people expounding the virtues of keeping a journal but, if you’re anything like me, you’ll find documenting your day really rather dull, right now (there’s only so many times you can write ‘had cheese sandwich for lunch whilst the cat shoved her bum in my face’). If you relate, try freewriting. Pick any random topic, then write continuously - whatever springs to mind - for ten minutes. Don’t worry about it making sense. The idea is that this accesses the subconscious, thus reducing anxiety.
Singing has been shown in numerous studies to do magical things to our brain chemistry. It naturally lowers levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) as well as causing the right temporal lobe to light up, in turn stimulating production of feel-good endorphins. So, even if you sound like a parrot being tortured, find a karaoke version of your fav tune on Youtube and go for it (just maybe warn your flatmates and neighbours first. Or at least apologise to them afterwards).
4. Cartoonize Yourself
Creative activities also release endorphins, which help restore our chemical balance during times of stress and anxiety (hello, 2020). Have a go at doing a cartoon self-portrait. Don’t feel pressured to be too detailed or realistic, just focus on your key identifying features (when I draw myself I’m just great big giant lips and teeth with glasses above and hair in a bun above that and everyone immediately knows it’s me). If you get into it, you can start a cartoon strip and take yourself on imaginary adventures.
5. Watch a TED Talk
It’s important to remind yourself that humanity is capable of some seriously inspirational brilliance, thereby restoring your faith in it during troubled times. TED Talks, which showcase the greatest minds in tech, invention, education, medicine and other massive topics in handy 18 minute chunks, is the perfect way to do just that. Some of my favourites are The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown and Your Brain Hallucinates Your Conscious Reality by Anil Seth.
Turns out, laughter really is the best medicine (if your ailment is mental health related). Research has shown laughter boosts mood, reduces the impact of stress and diminishes pain. There’s also evidence to suggest it strengthens the immune system, so what better reason to explore the stand-up section on Netflix or re-watch Bridesmaids for the 85th time?
Baking is complex enough to distract you from anxious thoughts (since it usually requires very exact quantities of ingredients and precise motions like piping and sieving) but easy enough not to create stress or unnecessarily drain your energy. It can be highly creative and gives you a sense of satisfaction and purpose. Plus, at the end of it, you get cake.
Adapted from Natasha’s forthcoming book ‘Yes You Can’, available to pre-order here: https://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/childrens/yes-you-can-ace-your-exams-without,natasha-devon-9781529020731