It’s easy to get stressed these days. Too much work, poor health, poor sleep, childcare, money worries… no wonder a study in 2021 found that one in 14 UK adults feel stressed every day.
And with the Covid pandemic dragging on, climate change and the cost of living spiralling, millions of us are feeling anxious about the future.
So what can we do about it?
Well, a wellness practice, developed in the 1960s by psychiatrist and neurologist Professor Alfonso Caycedo, could help reduce your daily stress significantly.
Caycedo was interested in how Zen Bhuddists, the Dalai Lama and yogis used visualisation, movement and meditation to influence consciousness.
After years of rigorous research, he developed sophrology to help treat psychiatric patients.
What is sophrology?
‘Sophrology is a practice for mental and physical wellbeing based on exercises for the mind and body,’ Dominique Antiglio, a sophrologist who qualified with Caycedo, and founder of BeSophro, tells Metro.co.uk. ‘It involves relaxation, breathing, visualisation and movement, and the whole method is designed to empower you to help you deal with all aspects of daily life.’
French-speaking countries have been using sophrology for over 50 years to empower and support everyone from women giving birth to the Swiss national ski team.
It’s used to alleviate chronic pain, help insomniacs sleep, patients to manage cancer treatment, and corporate teams to visualise success.
So how can you apply it to cope with stress?
Daily sophrology practice will increase your resilience
‘You just need to take five to ten minutes in your day to do a sophrology exercise,’ explains Dominique. ‘It could be before you start work at your desk, when you’re waiting for the kids to come out of school, on your commute.
‘Use that time to listen to a guided sophrology practice. There’s plenty on YouTube or on my website, BeSophro. You can do it standing or sitting so it’s very accessible.’
A 2020 study showed that practising sophrology daily for four weeks significantly reduced high anxiety in patients.
Developing a daily habit will not only reduce your stress, but build your resilience over time to cope with stressful situations when they arise.
‘And don’t beat yourself up if you don’t do it daily.’ says Dominique. ‘We’re all human and we just have to slowly learn and feel the benefits so the exercises become something you want to do.
‘You have to do it once or twice without knowing what it can do before you realise gosh, if I do that, I’m much more calm with my loved ones when I go home because I had those five minutes.
‘And you’ll notice it changes the quality of your presence and reactions, too.’
Address stress when it happens
A lot of us start to listen to our bodies only when we’re reaching a mental or physical breakdown.
‘People think it’s normal to be stressed and don’t think “Oh, I’m feeling stressed, maybe I have to look after myself”,’ says Dominique. ‘Even holding your breath creates stress.’
By becoming conscious of what is triggering your daily stress, you can practice sophrology to address it there and then so it doesn’t manifest as mental burnout, pain, illness or insomnia further down the line.
‘If you intervene when you have those small moments of stress and you take a breath, do a visualisation or movement to process that tension, then you will finish your day less wired and agitated,’ adds Dominique.
Set healthy boundaries
A lot of stress is triggered by the expectations others put on us. But practising sophrology helps you understand your body and mind better, and ultimately know your boundaries. And that in turn builds confidence.
‘You’ll be able to let go of the guilt and think I’m going to trust myself and see what happens if I say no,’ says Dominique.
Sometimes the anticipation of a stressful event – such as an interview, a difficult conversation or a competition- can be stressful in itself. The night before, visualise what a positive outcome would feel like. Then repeat that the next day just before your event.
‘Sophrology is really a tool to help you rewire your brain so that you start to believe more in yourself, have confidence about the future and be able to manifest your best self in the moment,’ Dominique tells us.
‘By visualising and releasing tension in the body, you’re learning to manage your stress in advance.
‘And because you repeat the exercise on the day, you’re much more able to perform well than if you didn’t prepare.
‘Your brain has already seen the situation many times, it’s used to that level of stress already and therefore it’s possible to manage and overcome it.’
And even if you don’t succeed, the resilience, confidence and hope you’ve built up through sophrology can help you move onto the next thing.
Deepen your practice
If you have a life situation that is generating a lot of stress and self-guided sophrology isn’t enough, you could reach out to a qualified sophrologist.
‘Sometimes you need an accountant to help with your taxes. Working with a sophrologist to improve how you cope with stress and feel empowered is the same.’ says Dominique.
‘Ultimately we have a choice. We can sprint through life stressed. Or we can pause daily and say what’s happening here, how can I take care of myself?’
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