DIY techniques can beat stress as effectively as a costly massage.I am what is known, in official terminology, as a stresspot. Nothing is too big, or too small, to get me in a flap: deadlines; tube delays; the election. So I was intrigued, earlier this month, to see new research (from Seattle's Group Health Centre for Health Studies) showing that cheap, DIY relaxation techniques can reduce anxiety just as effectively as expensive massages. Could such simple exercises really help a worry merchant like me? I resolved, over five days, to give some a whirl.
Deep abdominal breathing
Neil Shah, a psychotherapist and founder of the Stress Management Society (SMS), says that "breathing from your stomach" is one of the best ways to reduce stress. He tells me to imagine a triangle running from my belly button to my hips, with a balloon inside; every time I take a breath, I should imagine the balloon inflating. At least five minutes a day, he says, will send more oxygen to my blood, reducing the effects on my body of the fight-or-flight mode that stress evokes.
I try this during my morning commute, which involves two packed trains. It feels unnatural at first, and I'm sure people are noticing – so I close my eyes, and by the time I get off the first train I'm infused with an unexpected sense of beatific calm. At work, I pop to the loo every so often to breathe deeply. By evening, my mind is calmer and my pulse slower; I feel different, more equable.work, I pop to the loo every so often to breathe deeply. By evening, my mind is calmer and m