Everyone has experienced some form of stress in their lives. While some stress is perfectly natural (it plays an important part in our ability to respond to challenging or dangerous situations) too much stress can have be overwhelming and even contribute to medical conditions. The Australian Government’s Health Direct services advise that chronic stress can contribute to serious health issues including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
As the modern lifestyle speeds up the pace of everyday life and increases the likelihood of encountering stress, it’s more important than ever before to take some time to unwind. This month, Australia recognised Stress Down Day on the 24th of July, where everyone is encouraged to find a fun and easy way to reduce stress while raising funds for LifeLine Australia, who offer crucial crisis support and suicide prevention counselling services to the public.
For some inspo on how to stress less, we’ve researched some interesting relaxation techniques and other ways to de-stress from around the globe. You can even give some a go to get rid of any excess tension!
Country of origin: Japan
While a bit of morning aerobics may not seem that unusual, the sheer scale of the activity in Japanese schools, workplaces and even public parks is on a whole other level! Known as Rajio Taisou, or ‘radio physical exercises’, the exercises have been broadcast over radio every morning in Japan since 1928! The calisthenics routine is suitable for both the young and old, and it’s designed to put your limbs through their full range of motion and promote blood flow, reducing muscular tension. With everyone giving it a go together each morning, it’s also said to help build a sense of community.
How you can give it a go: You can find an English version of the routine, complete with charming piano accompaniment, on YouTube.
Country of origin: Finland
This one dates all the way back to the Middle Ages! There are quite a few different types of sauna out there: smoke, steam, electrically heated and wood burning to name a few. However, the one most people are familiar with is a room heated by a stove with a chimney that takes the smoke out of the room. A pile of rocks is placed on top of the stove and in some saunas, water may be poured over these hot stones to evaporate into steam and increase humidity in the room (usually this can’t be done in your local gym sauna though, so be sure to read the safety information first!). Temperatures can range from around 40°C in high-humidity saunas to an incredible 100°C+ in saunas with low humidity (otherwise the steam in the air would scald your skin).
Using a sauna is believed to have a variety of health effects including boosting the immune system, controlling the appetite and improving performance in endurance sports – not to mention it promotes social interaction if you do it in a group. Just make sure you stay hydrated after all that heat!
How you can give it a go: Local gyms and sporting complexes usually have these facilities available for you to use. However, if taking a trip to an actual sauna facility isn’t convenient, you can replicate some of the benefits of sauna at home pretty easily with a kettle, a bowl and a towel. Inhaling steam is a common remedy for colds and sinus pressure, plus it will put your body at rest while your breathe deeply – check out this guide to learn how to do it safely.
Country of origin: Thailand
Though it’s common to associate ‘Cat Cafés’ with Japan due to their widespread presence there today (not to mention hedgehogs, bunnies and owls, oh my!) the first Cat Café opened its doors in Taipei, Thailand, in 1998. While these cafés do serve coffee, tea and other treats just like any other café, the main attraction is a fleet of feline friends to watch and play with. The concept surged in popularity, particularly in Asia, where many apartment complexes forbid pets of any kind. In fact, it’s been scientifically proven that spending time with a gentle, friendly pet can lower your blood pressure, decrease anxiety and elevate feelings of calmness.
How you can give it a go: Luckily for us, Australia has one of the highest levels of pet ownership in the world with over 62% of the population counting a four-legged friend as part of their family. While a smattering of Cat Cafés have opened up in capital cities including Perth, Sydney and Melbourne, it’s probably easier to organise a catch-up with a friend or family member who has a pet so you can score some cuddles.
Country of origin: India
Pranayama is a Sanskrit word that can be alternatively translated as “breath control”. It’s one of many yoga disciplines originating in ancient India. Pranayama may vary depending on the specific type of yoga or meditation being practiced, but the general idea is to deliberately alter your rate of breathing to achieve states of calm or energisation. Several researchers have reported that pranayama techniques were beneficial in treating a range of stress-related disorders such as acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress.
How you can give it a go: If you’re going to combine breathing techniques with yoga poses, it’s best to do it under the guidance of an experienced teacher. However, anyone can practice breathing exercises at home with the help of a simple guide like this one.
Country of origin: Scandinavian region
Surprise! Bet you didn’t expect to find this on the list, did you? Believe it or not, scientific studies have found that despite its angry sound, listening to Death Metal music has a number of therapeutic benefits. One study conducted by the University of Queensland found that listening to all forms of “extreme” music inspired calmness in the listeners, not anger. It may not be for everyone but when it works, it works!
How you can give it a go: Thanks to the widespread availability of music online, having a listen can be as easy as searching “death metal” on YouTube, although keep in mind that you’re pretty likely to encounter some NSFW (Not Safe For Work) lyrics. We asked around the office for their recommendations and surprisingly we were spoiled for choice! The list includes Morbid Angel, Rattenfanger, Dark Tranquility, In Flames, Gojira, At the Gates, Necrophagist, Arch Enemy, Behemoth, Nile, Vital Remains, Opeth, Amon Amarth, Sanzu and Deicide.
Country of origin: China
While the practice of foot baths isn’t as common today as it used to be, followers of traditional Chinese medicine still swear by regular foot baths as a way to promote blood circulation and resolve a number of other remedies, depending on the herbs or oils added to the bath water. Ideally, foot soaks are done every day before bed in roughly 40°C water, lasting about 20 minutes or until the user breaks into a sweat. A little sweating is taken as a good sign that energy channels have been unblocked.
How you can give it a go: While you may be able to buy a proper foot spa from your local shops, there’s nothing stopping you from just running some warm water into a bath or a large container and then sitting back for a good soak. Add a drop or two of essential oils such as lavender or orange for some extra soothing aromatherapy!
Country of origin: Sweden
Fika is a Swedish word which means “to have coffee” but fika isn’t just a coffee break; it’s an opportunity to slow down and have a chat over coffee, tea or juice accompanied by cakes or other sweet, baked goods (cinnamon rolls are a popular choice). The Aussies phrase ‘smoko’ may be more familiar to us but Swedish fika is regularly practiced in all kinds of workplaces. In fact, two fika breaks are mandatory in most workplaces! In comparison to grabbing some fuel on the go, fika represents a true break and a chance to unwind, not to mention that an opportunity to have a casual chat can help build positive relationships with others and boost self esteem.
How you can give it a go: This one’s a no-brainer – call up a mate, head to your local coffee shop (or grab some goodies from the shops) and sit down for a while to catch up.
What’s your go-to way to relax and unwind from the stress of the day? Share it with us in the comments.
If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, Lifeline offers 24/7 phone counselling and crisis support. Call 13 11 14 to talk about your stress and find better ways of dealing with it.