You could say the past few months have been a bit stressful for me. What with selling our house, losing the sale, being pregnant, having a toddler who’s dropping a nap, and attempting potty training…. life has been a bit hard some days. I know there are lots of people out there with bigger things to worry about. But when I’m stressed I sleep badly, I eat far too much chocolate and cake, and I get ratty. Whilst I’ve written before about how I’ve struggled with anxiety, I’ve never really written about how to manage stress. Whilst for me, exercise plays a part, as does talking to my mum and friends, I also try to do some relaxation. I have in the past used a CD for deep muscle relaxation. So I was delighted to be asked to review the Thrive app, which helps to manage stress and anxiety.
Thrive: Feel Stress Free
So the catchline for Thrive is to “feel stress free”. The app uses tried and tested techniques to manage the stress of a hectic life. Every time you use the app it firstly asks you your current mood. You can swipe on a scale from sunshine to a dark cloud.
It then delves deeper and asks you a series of questions about why you feel that way. You select the answer which is closest to how you’ve been feeling over the last week. The answers to your questions help the app give you suggestions of a more positive way to look at things. This is cognitive behavioural therapy at it’s best, and it works. So when you put in what’s worrying you such as “struggling to look after family” it brings up options for you to select with an alternative way to look at it, such as “I’ve coped before” or “things rarely turn out as bad as I think they will”. The app then chooses one of these and says well done, let’s think of it this way!
Proven techniques for how to manage stress
At the end of the mood tracking, the app then analyses your responses and directs you to further help if you need it. It also then suggests different coping mechanisms to help you manage your stress and/or anxiety. The methods include Calm Breathing, Meditation and Progressive Deep Muscle Relaxation.
My favourite of the techniques to use is the Calm Breathing. As some of you know, I did hypnobirthing when I was pregnant with Miss Belle (and will be doing it again this time). In essence you learn calm breathing techniques to keep you as relaxed as possible during labour. It’s the same concept as the relaxation part of a yoga class, where one could be known to have fallen asleep (but definitely not snore!) at the end of the class. It’s powerful stuff. Since using this app, sometimes I use the technique in the middle of the night when I can’t get back to sleep. And it works! Before I know it I’ve gone back to sleep. Definitely more useful than counting sheep!
Likewise the Progressive Deep Muscle Relaxation works well. You tense up bits of your body then let go. As you unclench, the tension goes, and you relax. The Meditation section I found the hardest and is where I need to practice some more. Every time I tried it my mind would drift off thinking about things I had to do, so I know I need to give this more time. But now I have the app, I most definitely will be.
The Zen Garden is the only part of the app which I haven’t tested. This section of the app is all about being creative and allowing you to be distracted, in a good way. There is a blank canvas to build a tranquil garden on the beach. In essence it’s about letting you design your own peaceful paradise to take your mind off of things around you, when you need to.
I can honestly say I’d recommend this app as a way of managing stress and anxiety. The techniques used are all evidenced based, there is information of where to seek further advice and support and the functionality is really good. Nice and easy to use, nice calming music and the woman’s voice is super soft. The only thing like all these apps is you have the make yourself open it up and use it. It’s easy to let a week slip by and think you’ve not used it!
My other tips for helping restore calm
As I mentioned I also champion a couple of other methods of managing stress. Again these are easy to do but require your own will to do them.
It’s not rocket science and it’s well documented that exercise is great for mental health. So when I’m feeling frazzled, a brisk walk or a swim does me the world of good. Yoga and Pilates are my friends too, but I am all about the endorphins from a bit of cardio.
Switch off the devices!
I don’t know if it’s because I’m now a blogger so I’m constantly trying to be present on every social media platform, but some days I feel glued to my phone. And not only am I unable to switch the actual phone off, I can’t seem to be able to switch off my mind either. I struggle to concentrate on one task at a time. We now all seem to consume multiple media at once. How many times have you sat watching TV with the iPad or iPhone in your hand too? It means nothing gets your full attention and even something like watching TV, which should be relaxing, isn’t. So, some nights, I force myself to put my phone face down under the coffee table with the sound off, so I can focus on just chilling out in front of the TV. Especially if it’s something complicated!
Talk, talk, talk!
Finally, as I love to talk, I’m always a fan of sharing a problem. Usually I feel a lot better after offloading my worries on a friend or my mum or dad.
I have always been and will always be, a massage person. I used to go for them regularly for my aching back muscles but they are fantastic for relaxation too. Now I’m opting for reflexology in pregnancy which has helped me sleep well, as well as improve my back. I love nothing more than a spa day! Obviously this is a pricier option and not always something everyone can do regularly. But a mini pamper, a good book in a hot bath with some candles always works too.
So, these are my tips for managing stress, I hope they help you. If you’re interested in the Thrive app, you can give it a go at a monthly fee of £5.99, or if you want it for the year it works out cheaper at £3.99 a month. Check out more about it on the Thrive website.
Do you have anything else that helps you to cope with stress and anxiety? I would add eating chocolate, but I’m pretty sure there’s a mixed message about health in there! But a little of what you fancy every now and again can’t hurt, right?!