Stress is the second biggest cause of absence from work and it costs the UK billions each year. We all experience stress and the causes are diverse: problems at work, relationship break-ups and money worried are some of the common reasons for increased stress levels. The most important thing is learning to deal with stress, so are there courses and therapies available in the capital that can help lighten the load?
Long periods of stress can leave us worn out, anxious, depressed and unable to sleep. Our bodies and minds become exhausted and start to grind to a halt. While it’s not always possible to deal with the causes of stress, it can be a good idea to invest in a little emotional weaponry. If you’re suffering from stress then you could learn to take control by learning simple, effective techniques that attempt to relax your body and your mind.
Learning to set aside time to meditate and focus your mind can be an effective way to reduce surging levels of stress. The term ‘meditation’ can apply to different practices but usually involves focusing on posture and breathing, and you don’t have to be particularly interested in the spiritual side of it to benefit.
A course in meditation can help you to get to grips with relaxation techniques in a formal way. Some people find a group class a good introduction and often continue with their new-found knowledge privately after completing the initial training. People from all walks of life and all age groups attend classes. If you go into it with an open mind, you’re bound to come away with something.
Some classes combine meditation with other complementary areas – like art or yoga – while others focus purely on how to meditate. The aim is to de-clutter the mind and find some respite from stress and unhelpful thoughts.
If you are keen to try a discipline that works on both mind and body, then a yoga class could help you to gain focus and tone up at the same time. Before you don those tracksuit bottoms and invest in a yoga mat, take a look at the different yoga disciplines as they vary greatly. That way, you’ll know what to expect and you’ll be able to judge the one that’s right for you.
If you’re an absolute beginner with limited flexibility and experience, then it might be advisable to start with Kripalu yoga or restorative yoga; both of these are gentle and focus on stretching, breathing and are considered to be gentle forms. Other forms of yoga can be more rigorous, like fast-paced Vinyasa yoga or the Ashtanga yoga form, which requires a certain level of fitness and is perhaps suited to those used to regular sporting activities with good existing muscle tone and flexibility.
Some forms of yoga have been adapted by professionals to include a unique element, like so-called ‘hot yoga’ or Bikram yoga, developed by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s, which adds heat into the equation. If the idea of exercising in 105 degree heat and 40 per cent humidity appeals, then this form of yoga might be for you! It’s a unique series of 26 Hatha yoga postures performed in a heated room. The idea is that the heat helps your muscles to stretch and forces you into a detoxifying sweat.
If the idea of remaining still for an hour during meditation sounds too sedate for you and you would prefer to include an element of movement into a regular stress-busting class or course, then perhaps tai chi is for you. Tai chi is often called a ‘moving meditation’ and is an exercise that enhances mental and physical strength simultaneously. It is claimed that tai chi can help to refocus and circulate the body’s life energy or ‘chi’ and promote a sense of wellbeing.
The ancient Chinese system of tai chi was initially developed as a martial art but has evolved into a popular low-impact exercise, said to aid relaxation, improve quality of sleep, increase joint strength and reduce stress. It consists of a sequence of slow, carefully executed movements designed to stretch and strengthen your body, combined with meditation and focused breathing exercises. It’s important to learn the traditional moves under the guidance of an experienced tutor, but with practice you’ll soon be able to use tai chi as part of your daily ritual at home. You could train as a tai chi master or yoga teacher and spread the benefits to others.
As stress management and the treatment of the physical symptoms of stress is a burgeoning industry, it’s also a viable career option for many people. Constant raised levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol can lead to all sorts of physical problems – panic attacks, a stiff neck, insomnia, anxiety and depression are just some of them – and you could help others to manage symptoms such as these by becoming a expert teacher or practitioner. A range of treatments claim to help with these problems, like counselling, Neurolinguistic practice (NLP) and treatments that treat the mind and body like reflexology, aromatherapy massage, acupuncture or reiki.
There are several ways to deal with the mental and physical manifestations of stress, so whether you want to take part in a class to benefit you personally, or want to train to become a practitioner in one of the disciplines that tackle the symptoms of stress, there are plenty of course options listed in this magazine. Have a look through the Health and Complementary Therapies courses in massage, accupressure, reiki, tai chi, yoga, and aromatherapy. Our Psychology, Counselling and Self Help chapter lists some great courses to keep stress at bay, including NLP, personal development courses, meditation and relaxation classes.
Hotcourses Editor is the mysterious, faceless force made up of all our different contributors over the years. From masters in their field to top notch journos, take a peek at some of the talent we’ve had the pleasure of working with.