7 productive distractions to effectively reduce stress

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When done right, distractions can help us regulate our emotions – and, with the perfect activity, you could be introducing another layer of joy into your life

1. Go for a mindful walk

7 productive distractions to effectively reduce stress

Going for a walk is a recommendation we’ve all heard before, right? Being mindful on your walk, however, can take things up a notch. Allow yourself to be fully present during your walk; what are you seeing? What are you hearing? What are you smelling? Engaging with your senses has a grounding effect, and can distract you from swirling thoughts, all while reaping the benefits of being out in nature.

2. Write a letter to a loved one

Connecting with others has a host of benefits, and, thanks to technology, there are more ways to connect than ever before. When you need a distraction though, why not slow things down and write a letter? Taking time to hand-write your conversation can help to slow our thinking and take a beat. And, let’s be honest – who doesn’t love receiving post?

7 productive distractions to effectively reduce stress

3. Organise something

We’re all different, but for some of us, a cluttered space can make our minds feel cluttered, too. Having a moment to tidy and organise a space gives us something physical to do (grounding us in the here and now) while taking our mind off of whatever we’re worried about. Pick a shelf, cupboard, or even a room, pop on a playlist, and get organising.

4. Read a couple of pages

Sometimes we need beautiful words as a palate cleanser for difficult times. Pick up a poetry book, a book of essays, or a short story, and read a few pages when you need it. Focusing on short-form writing can take away the overwhelm that can come with longer reads, and makes it easier to dip in and out.

7 productive distractions to effectively reduce stress

5. Create something

Tapping into our creativity has a wonderful way of reducing stress and lifting our mood. Next time you need a distraction, create something. Try out a new recipe, play an instrument, work on a puzzle, or write a story. This reminds us of our capabilities, and gives us a great confidence boost.

6. Learn something new

Learning something new engages our minds and shifts our perspective, giving us permission to be messy beginners. Why not learn a language, and distract yourself with Duolingo lessons? Or sign up to a learning platform like Skillshare and work through a class? You’ll not only be distracted, but you’ll also be working on your personal development, and, hopefully, finding a whole heap of fulfilment along the way.

7. Play a game

Whether you prefer board games or video games, all forms of gaming offer a sense of escapism and accomplishment that can be positive. Bring out your favourite when you need a break, and allow yourself to be immersed in a new world, even if only for a while.

4 Tips to Defeat Daylight Savings Burnout

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Spring is almost here, and with it comes daylight savings time change. Sure, we get more sunlight, but losing an hour of sleep can really throw off our internal clocks, leaving us feeling tired and sluggish for days. But fear not, because I’ve got some tips to help you avoid daylight savings burnout and keep your energy levels up during this transition.

Start preparing early

The key to avoiding feeling sluggish when daylight savings hits is to start preparing a few days before the change. Gradually shift your sleep schedule by going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night for a few days leading up to the time change.

This will help your body adjust to the new schedule and make the transition smoother. Annnnnd if you need a little help, the naturally calming ingredients in Slumber Party will have you snoozing in no time. 

Stick to a routine

Maintaining a consistent routine is essential for keeping your energy levels up. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends. This will help regulate your body’s internal clock and prevent you from feeling tired and groggy.

Get moving

Uncover the reading habit bringing joy to our lives and improving our wellbeing

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Join us on a fascinating adventure through the rich history of reading aloud, and meet us in the present day, when we’ve never needed the wellbeing benefits more

Uncover the reading habit bringing joy to our lives and improving our wellbeing

Reading aloud is an activity we might assume is just for young children who can’t read themselves. However, when my 10-year-old daughter recently asked me to read a book to her one evening, I realised that there is something more to it.

She has an Audible library packed with books to choose from, and a bookshelf full of her own books. But, that night, she chose me. She likes the way I do the voices, and we both enjoyed the time bonding and connecting together.

In a world where we have access to an infinite amount of audiobooks at the click of a button, the idea of reading to each other might seem incredibly old-fashioned, and it is! In fact, it has a very rich history. In philosopher St Augustine’s Confessions, written around 400 AD, he reflects on the reading habits of Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan.

“When Ambrose used to read, his eyes were drawn through the pages, while his heart searched for its meaning; however, his voice and tongue were quiet. Often when we were present – for anyone could approach him and it was not his habit that visitors be announced to him – we saw him reading in this fashion, silently and never otherwise.”

The Bishop’s silent habits were considered an unusual anomaly. In Saint Augustine’s era, reading aloud was the way to do it.

While silent reading gradually caught on as time went by, reading aloud was still common. Prior to a world of television, radio, and internet, reading aloud was a source of entertainment, particularly when not everyone was literate. It was part of daily life, in people’s homes, or at the local pub. In the diary of Samuel Pepys, written in the 1660s, Pepys recalls his domestic life, reading aloud to his wife in the evenings, and laughing together about a book that was ‘sillily writ’. On one occasion, he befriends a woman in a carriage and persuades her to read to him. When his wife was upset with him, talking, listening, and reading aloud were how they made up.

Uncover the reading habit bringing joy to our lives and improving our wellbeing

Today, in an age of distraction, we might put on an audiobook while loading the dishwasher, or to pass the time while driving. In these moments our attention is split, the clatter of dirty dishes interrupting the voices, or the honking of horns, a red light, and the frustration we feel during drives. There’s a whole cornucopia of sensory input demanding our attention.

But when we listen to a loved one, it’s not just that we get to hear their voice. We see their mannerisms and facial expressions as they read the story. It is a multi-sensory experience that involves sight, sound, and even touch if we snuggle close together. This allows us to truly rest in the moment, our attention on a single point of focus rather than being called in dozens of different directions.

While researching this article, I heard from many adults who enjoy reading aloud to their adult loved ones. They reported enjoying spending time together, sharing what they are reading with each other, and that it was a more intimate activity than simply watching

What is sleep tourism?

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With one in eight of us feeling tired all the time, could sleep tourism help us feel more rested and relaxed? Or is it just another wellness trend to get us to book a new kind of vacation?

What is sleep tourism?

As a nation, we are tired. According to YouGov, one in four of us feels tired most of the time, while one in eight feels tired all the time. In fact, we’re so tired that two in five of us would rather sleep more than spend time with our families. It’s no wonder that so many of us are willing to try anything to get a better night’s sleep.

What is sleep tourism?

Sleep tourism refers to any kind of holiday with programmes focused on getting a good night’s sleep. Thought to be a top trend for 2023, the travel industry has reported seeing more sleep-related services appearing on hotel and tourism-related websites and packages. Designed to promote restful sleep, relaxation, and overall wellbeing, you can even find specific ‘sleep retreats’ to help guide you towards improving the quality of your sleep.

Why are we focusing our holidays around sleep?

While the thought of building a vacation around rest and relaxation seems natural, the idea of going on holiday to sleep more can seem a little strange. But sleep expert and CEO at MatressNextDay Martin Seely thinks we could all benefit from trying a sleep retreat.

“Going on a sleep retreat could benefit anyone. This is because sleep is essential for many, many reasons. Sleep helps us learn new information and consolidate memories. There’s also evidence that lack of sleep can make you more prone to depression or anxiety by affecting your moods and emotions, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)”.

While the reasons why we may feel the need to seek help to get a better night’s sleep can vary, Martin explains that there are often common themes. “Many people have trouble falling asleep at night because their minds are racing with thoughts about work or life in general. Others have trouble staying asleep due to stress or anxiety about what tomorrow may bring.”

By taking a break from our normal routines, we may be able to help break the cycle of bad quality sleep (and our anxiety surrounding it), helping us to reset and gain a better night's rest.

Counselling Directory member and therapist, Nicole Grilo, (MBPsS, MBACP, FDAP) explains more about the benefits of sleep and how it can be seen as a superpower linked with better health outcomes.

“Sleep is so beneficial and essential, as it facilitates body restoration and repair. Sleeping heals our body and is what [we need] after a day of movement or exercise. Give yourself at least nine hours in bed. Stay away from coffee and sugar at the end of the day. Give yourself time to wind down [and] keep a consistent routine.”

What to expect from a sleep-focused retreat

If you’re considering building a holiday around improving your sleeping patterns and overall feelings of rest and relaxatio

Meet the 85-year-old and a 31-year-old living together as part of an innovative scheme

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In a world where loneliness and isolation seep into the lives of many, an innovative scheme is bringing together older people with those seeking accommodation. Here, Kathryn Wheeler meets a household who made the move, to find out why it works for them

Meet the 85-year-old and a 31-year-old living together as part of an innovative scheme

On an extraordinarily cold Thursday evening, I park my car outside a home on the outskirts of Oxford. I’m here to meet with Mary, 85, and Alex, 31, two people taking part in Age UK Oxfordshire’s Homeshare – a scheme that matches older people who are looking for help or companionship in their homes, with another person who can lend a hand, and who is in need of affordable accommodation.

I’m led into the sitting room by Maria, Mary’s daughter, where I meet Marian from Age UK Oxfordshire, as well as Mary and Alex themselves. The five of us sit around a warming fire, Max the dog delighted by the company, while Alex and Mary relay yesterday evening’s outing; a concert at the school Alex’s sister works at.

Mary and Alex are one of the 50 matches between ‘Householders’ and ‘Sharers’ that Age UK Oxfordshire has supported in the past three years. To be part of the scheme, the Householder pays from £150 per month, and the Sharer pays £200, the split in bills is then worked out between the household. Each arrangement comes with a minimum nine-month commitment, but many last much longer – the longest in the county now approaching the five-year mark. It’s a forward-thinking arrangement, but the set-up of sharing a home isn’t completely new to Mary.

Meet the 85-year-old and a 31-year-old living together as part of an innovative scheme

“I used to have a lot of students living with me, this is when my husband was alive,” Mary, a former music teacher, tells me later, when the two of us sit down together. And, she explains, she heard about Homeshare some time before she took steps to take part herself. “Someone told me about Homeshare, and then Marian came along. It was a couple of years after we’d first met that I decided to join the scheme. After my husband died, and his carer left – I didn’t mind being by myself in the house during the day, but I didn’t like it at night. That’s when I decided. I’m very glad, it’s been very reassuring.”

As you would expect, a rigorous vetting and prepping process pre-dates any match, all overseen by a team of two: Marian and her colleague Vicki. Applications, interviews, DBS checks, references, home visits, meetings – introductions between Sharers, Householders, and their families – and ongoing support, are all vital pillars for the success and safety of the scheme.

“I came to Homeshare at a point when I was really struggling with my mental health,” Alex shares. “It instantly appealed to me. I really liked the possibility of providing support to someone, but also, perhaps, being the recipient of some support as well. I felt there was a mutuality to it,” he says.

From there, Alex got in touch with Marian, and was invited to a Homeshare Oxfordshire lunchtime social. Here, he met Mary a