Staying zen

A big change you can make yourself is how you think about things and the approach you take to life. Learning to relax and to appreciate what is happening around you are two techniques that can help you stay calm and focused if things around you seem like they’re falling apart. Click on the links below to find out more. 



Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT)



Relaxation is one of the easiest self-help techniques you can learn to improve everyday wellbeing. We know it’s effective in combating stress, insomnia and anxiety. Stress can build up for any of us and building in relaxing activities such as having a bath, going shopping or reading a book can help how we feel. Not everyone is able to 'switch off' so easily. Sometime relaxation must be learnt and scheduled into a busy day.

Learning to relax

If it doesn’t come naturally planned relaxation is a skill worth learning. Mastering relaxation techniques can help you to regain a sense of calmness by reducing the physical symptoms you have when stressed (such as heart racing, blushing, tension in your shoulders) and evening out mental stresses such as anxiety, racing thoughts and feelings of panic.

Getting started

Woman on pillow asleep Flikr Copyright freeHere are three techniques you can learn to let go and relax and once you have leant them they can be done anywhere. You can download the techniques or watch the film and follow along with Shebina our instructor.

  • Breathing exercises: here are six breathing exercises you can learn. Slow steady breathing slows your heart rate, telling your body that it can relax; we do this when we’re safe and feel calm. So you can send a message to your whole body through your breathing: either it’s time to be motivated or it’s time to relax. Breathing and relaxation Worksheet and film.
  • The seven-eleven technique: by changing the timing of your in-breath and out-breath you stimulate your body’s natural relaxation response which will calm your autonomic nervous system. The seven-eleven technique Worksheet and film
  • Deep muscle relaxation: work through the different muscle groups teaching yourself to tense and then relax each one. This brings a sense of physical relaxation all over the body. Deep muscle relaxation Worksheet and film



What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a mind-body technique which we can use to bring about change in our lives. Being mindful lets us pay attention to our thoughts and feelings in a particular way so that we can understand and accept them instead of being overwhelmed by them.

Mindfulness exercises

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment, being aware of everything around you and using natural techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga. It helps us to manage our thoughts and balance our emotions. Mindfulness helps you to:

Woman on pillow asleep Flikr Copyright free

  • Live in the present moment
  • Engage fully in what you are doing rather than get lost in your thoughts and worries
  • Let’s your feelings be as they are, letting them come and go rather than trying to control them.

Anyone can learn mindfulness and you can use it at any time to de-stress. You can learn it online, from books or on a course.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)

MCBT combines mindfulness techniques with elements of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) to help break the negative thought patterns that you might have in depression. MBCT is now recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) to stop relapses in recurrent depression. You can learn MCBT over a couple of weeks on a course or you can learn it online (MHF ) or ask your therapist if you see one.

Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction uses techniques such as meditation, gentle yoga and mind-body exercises to help you cope with stress. It helps you to achieve clarity, improve problem-solving, feel energised, feel less stressed and helps to boost your concentration. Read more at MHF.

What does mindfulness help with?

We all have busy lives and can come across stressful situations on a daily basis. Having so much to do, so little time and feeling mentally or physically stressed can make us feel overwhelmed and defeated.  Mindfulness can help: concentration, attention, relationships, reduce physical feelings of stress, recurring depression, anxiety, addictions, chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia and other physical and mental health problems (mental health foundation).

Types of mindfulness

Mindfulness may be taught by different people in different ways but will all teach the person how to acknowledge and accept troubling thoughts rather than avoiding them. One type of mindfulness which is being increasingly used with problems such as OCD is Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT)

ACT is a mindfulness-based behavioural therapy which does not try and get rid of symptoms you may be experiencing. ACT does not use the term symptoms at all; any ‘symptoms’ you have are thought of as individual experiences. The aim of ACT is to create a meaningful life whilst teaching us to accept the sometimes painful or distressing experiences we have along the way. Act uses four key skills:

  • Acceptance
  • Cognitive diffusion
  • Contact with the present moment
  • Observing the self

By using these we reduce any ‘symptoms’ we had even though reducing symptoms wasn’t the goal of therapy. In ACT there is no attempt to try and reduce or get rid of experiences (anxiety, distressing memories etc) instead you learn how to stop these things bothering you as much using mindfulness techniques.


What does ACT help with?

ACT has proven effective with a diverse range of clinical conditions; depression, OCD, workplace stress, chronic pain, the stress of terminal cancer, anxiety, PTSD, anorexia, heroin abuse, marijuana abuse, and even schizophrenia (Harris, 2006)