Small amounts of stress are healthy and can help you get stuff done. But high levels of stress can have a serious impact on your mental and physical health so it’s important that you find ways to manage this.

People find different things relaxing so we’ve constructed a list of our fave chilling out tips and urge you to give them a try to see which ones work for you!

It took us a bloody long time but we did it, we really did it. Here are 101 different things you can do to chill out and reduce stress.

TAKE NOTES …

1. Watch something funny. Laughter really is the best medicine. It relieves physical tension, reduces stress and increases immunity…so watch your fave comedy and laugh your way to tranquility.

2. Body Clench. This relaxation exercise may make you look a bit constipated but give it a go! Starting with your toes, go up through your body, gradually clenching each of your muscles right through to the tiny ones in your face, keep your whole body clenched, hold and then release to let go of all the tension. Feels good, right?

3. Try the Naam Yoga Hand Trick. Using your fingertips, apply pressure to the space between the knuckles of your index and middle fingers. This creates a sense of immediate relaxation by activating a nerve that loosens the area around your heart (don’t worry, it’s not as life-threatening as it sounds).

4. Stop multitasking. No wonder we’re all mega-stressed when we’re replying to text messages, whilst watching TV and speaking on the phone simultaneously! Not only is multitasking totally inefficient, but it’s also linked to the increased production of stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) that can send your body into panic mode! So chill out and take things one step at a time.

5. Get a Colouring Book. They’ve exploded in popularity over recent months and for good reason – colouring in helps you chill out because it’s very difficult to focus on other things when you’re doing it.

6. Have a banana. When we’re stressed out our blood pressure tends to rise but the potassium found in bananas can help to regulate this. Stress can also leave us feeling depleted but bananas give you a replenishing energy boost that will get you swinging from the trees again!

7. Organize ‘worry time’. Worry (worryingly)can counter productively occur at any point in the day and release stress hormones into the body that can cause anxiety and lower our immune systems. So schedule a 15 minute worry window in your day, where you can write down your worries and work through them. You can use Ditch the Label’s stress reprogrammer to help.

8. Do some baking. The smell of baking can make people feel calm and comforted. Many people find baking stress relieving and adding decorative touches to your creation can give you a sense of pride, enhance how you’re feeling and therefore boost your self-esteem…so what better excuse to eat cake?

9. Cook up a face-mask. Yep, that’s right, we are suggesting you mix up half an avocado, a teaspoon of honey, 2 tablespoons of hot water and smear it all over your face so that you vaguely resemble the Wicked Witch of the West. Relax for 10 to look and feel rejuvenated.

10. Stay silly. Don’t leave playtime at the primary school gates. Studies have consistently highlighted the importance of play for helping manage stress throughout our lives. Goofing around is good for us so bring out the lego, pull ugly faces and dance in the rain shamelessly!

11. Keep calm and kiss. Kissing increases levels of the love hormone, which relaxes us whilst decreasing the stress hormone. It’s been shown that kissing can lower anxiety in a similar way to meditation as well as generally improving your mood through an increase of serotonin and endorphins in the brain…so love really does conquer all!

12. Stay inside and listen to the rain. Want a good excuse to stay in your PJ’s? White noise may make you wanna tear your hair out when it’s blaring out the TV, but this sound of nature shares similar wavelengths to the frequencies produced by white noise and actually has relaxing effects on the brain. So curl up with a hot choc and let your brainwaves do the work.

13. Watch a nature documentary. Not only are David Attenborough’s dulcet tones particularly soothing, nature documentaries can also sprinkle our minds with mood-lifting wanderlust and highlight the sheer scale of life which can in turn help us gain perspective of our own lives.

14. Meditate. Create a little zen den in your room where you can meditate (e.g. light candles and incense, play calming music). Reaching a meditative state takes practice but there are some great tips for beginners online. Meditation can help ease anxiety and improve concentration, so peace out.

15. Breathe ‘Pranayama’ style. This yoga method requires you to breathe through one nostril at a time (inhale through the left by blocking the right, exhale through the right by blocking the left, repeat for 3 minutes) to relieve stress. Weird but wonderful!

16. A spoonful of honey. Mother nature’s delicious treat has compounds that reduce inflammation in the brain which can help improve a low mood. Bee happy… (sorry, couldn’t resist).

17. Turn up the music and dance. Combining music and dance can help build self-esteem, lift your mood and reduce anxiety. Dancing may also help express emotions and experiences that are difficult to communicate in words alone…so go dance like no one’s watching!

18. Watch a tearjerker. So you’re only on the first scene of ‘Up’ and you’re already in floods…don’t panic! The teary-eyed may experience a slight dip in their mood following the film but not long after you’ll notice your mood improve considerably from its original state and crying is an excellent way to relieve stress too so get the tissues out!

19. Try self-hypnosis. Forget dangling pendants and special powers, self-hypnosis can really work! There’s loads of mp3’s you can download online to help reprogram your subconscious to relieve stress and anxiety so have a listen.

20. Doodle. You may associate doodling with being bored in class but doing it in your spare time can be a great way to relax. When we’re stressed we can get caught in our thoughts but by doodling you’re engaging the creative upper right side of your brain which will give you the space you need to calm down and find a fresh perspective.

21. Play games. Board games, cards and even online/video games (in moderation!) can be a really effective way of relaxing. Fun games can trigger the release of endorphins and can help shift your attention away from stress. Interacting with friends and families through games can help ease stressful dynamics too. Looks like I’ll be playing Call of Duty forever then…

22. Have a hug. Hugging increases serotonin levels which are linked to happiness and releases oxytocin which lowers stress hormones like cortisol. How lovely.

23. Have a massage exchange. Most of us don’t have 50 quid lying around to splash out on a professional massage, so relieve tension the frugal way and exchange massages with a friend. For example, try massaging the muscle under the thumb to relieve tension in the hands (you’ll look just like a pro!) There are loads of tips online so you, your mate and your bank balance can enjoy the benefits of relaxation!

24. Drink hot water. Learn from the tradition of Chinese healing and drink a cup of good ol’, clean hot water. Ok, so it may not be as delicious as a hot chocolate but it will cleanse your system of toxins that have accumulated in the body and may be causing tension. You could try adding some lemon for flavour, vitamin C and its mood enhancing properties (e.g. reducing anxiety).

25. Support someone else. Moving your attention outside yourself can help take the pressure of stressors in your own life and supporting others can also give you valuable insight for how to redress your issues. Seeing the impact you make in that person’s life will also boost your self-esteem which in turn, can help de-stress.

26. Visit a free museum or gallery. Cultural centers provide a safe haven of positive distraction, reduce tension and inspire our creativity too. Often, you can get free entry or reduced rates so check out what’s available in your area.

27. Watch cute animals on YouTube. Oh, the power of cute! Watching our furry friends doing their thing can help reduce your stress levels and lift your mood. Aww!

28. Go Stargazing. Laying down and watching a starry night is not only awesome but it increases your brain’s alpha waves which rapidly enables you to relax. Cool, huh?

29. Light some incense. Scents like Sandalwood and Sage can help calm anxieties and aid relaxation (and make your room smell wonderful!)

30. Squeeze a stress ball. Using a stress ball can help alleviate tension by promoting muscle relaxation and providing a general sense of release.

31. Keeping a diary. Venting all those thoughts and emotions onto paper can make your feelings and problems seem less intimidating. Writing can be both insightful and therapeutic so get those words down on paper!

32. Chew gum. Chewing gum for a few minutes can help release anxiety, improve your mood and you’ll never have to worry about bad breath again!

33. Drink green tea. Feeling all worked up? Green tea is a source of the chemicals which can help relieve anger.

34. Call an old friend. Feeling out of control? Speaking to an old friend can be really grounding. Social connected-ness can reduce stress levels and no doubt the nostalgia will get you smiling and laughing too!

35. Snuggle up with a pet. Cuddling your pet can help reduce anxiety through the release of oxytocin in your brain, ease feelings of social rejection and make you feel cared for which can help boost your self esteem. The cutest therapy going!

36. Sniff those flowers. Did you know that certain smells can change our mood? Floral scents can lift your mental state and make you feel less anxious…so go stick your nose in your neighbours rhododendron bush!

37. Stretch it out. Stretching has been linked to relaxation and stress relief as well as a greater sense of wellbeing. It’s also incredibly satisfying.

38. Organise your space. Mess can really start to clutter up your mind so clean your room and reorganize your desk. Tidy room, tidy mind (sorry, we said it).

39. Take a walk in nature. Not only will walking trigger the release of endorphins which can reduce stress hormones, but being out in nature can boost serotonin levels which can also contribute to an improved sense of well-being.

40. Wash dishes. Ok, so I get that you’ve probably spent half your life avoiding this task but you’ll be surprised at how therapeutic it is. Not only will mindfully washing the dishes relax you, but you’ll please your other household members too and feel a sense of self-esteem boosting accomplishment. Concentrate on letting your mind and body experience the task with serene awareness (e.g. focusing on the smell of the soap, the feel of the dishes and the warmth of the water).

41. Visualization. Your mind is a powerful tool. Whether you use it to visualize success, visit a happy place, or embark on an imaginary journey, the technique can help alleviate anxiety and sadness so go get creative in your head!

42. Sleep well. Whilst stress can interfere with sleeping, sleeping can also relieve stress. So use some of our chilling out tips to help you relax before bed and follow our Ditch the Label Sleep Guide so you can ensure that you’re spending a third of your life in bedtime bliss…zzz…

43. Cook your fave dish. Nourishing yourself with a good meal can help boost your sense of self-worth. Cooking can be a relaxing and rewarding process and hopefully you’ll feel accomplished instead of poisoned by the end!

44. Write a card for someone you care about. Whoever it is I can assure you that they’ll appreciate a card letting them know you’re thinking of them. Random acts of kindness like this have beneficial effects for both you and the person at the receiving end. You can feel good about making someone else feel great and performing these acts has been linked to helping socially anxious people feel more positive.

45. Light some candles. Candlelight is known for its calming effects and (even better) scented candles have aroma-therapeutic properties which can improve well-being. Watching the flame of a candle can also be a great starting point for meditation. So sit back and enjoy the glow!

46. Take a nap. Don’t feel guilty, naps aren’t just for those over the age of 65! The afternoon power nap can effectively reduce stress, improve your mood and increase alertness, so we give you full permission to climb back into bed!

47. Countdown from ten. Caught in chaos? Take a couple of minutes out of your day to mindfully countdown from ten and back up again. Continue this process until you feel calm enough to resume your day.

48. Wake up and smell the coffee. Finally, a saying that makes literal sense! Smelling coffee actually reduces stress hormones, so we suggest you have a good whiff of a decaf variety over breakfast.

49. Enjoy being in a water. Paddle down to your local swimming pool and let the water do its magic. Exercise releases feel-good chemicals that can help improve our mental health and swimming is a peaceful way of achieving this. Moving in water has relaxing effects on the body as it allows oxygen to flow to your muscles which consequently regulates your breathing.

50. Give your temples a good ol’ massage. Learn from the great art of acupuncture and give those temples a gentle knead with your index and middle fingertips. Massaging your temples helps relax the other muscles in your body as well as soothing your headache symptoms (bonus!).

51. Feed the birds. Enjoy the company birds can bring and track all the different species you can view from your doorstep. Ok, so I know it’s not exactly a night out with your mates but give it a try!…being around nature has a range of positive effects on our mental health (such as reducing anxiety) and you’ll be able to see the happiness you’ve bought to these cute little creatures.

52. Have a sleepover. Whilst some social situations can be stressful, a sleepover with your best mate can be a great way to chill out. Spending time with someone you trust in a relaxed environment can do wonders for your well-being and we’re sure you’ll be laughing all night long too!

53. Hum the tune of your fave song. Feeling anxious? Humming can dramatically slow down your heart rate and ground you. It also has a relaxing effect on your face, neck and shoulder muscles. Humming your fave tune will lift your mood and ensure you don’t get some other irritating song stuck in your head!

54. Open the windows. Not only does fresh air promote well-being and relax you, but getting more oxygen to the brain improves concentration and gives you the energy boost you need without the same sugar comedown of a chocolate bar (damn).

55. Play team sports. Whilst any exercise works wonders, team sports may be better for your mental health than exercising alone as they promote a sense of connection and can reduce social anxiety. Quidditch anyone?

56. Be nice to yourself. Criticising yourself again? Take some time to practice self-love, whether that means starting the day repeating positive affirmations about yourself or nourishing your body with the nutrition you need. Remember ditching negative self-talk really will relieve a lot of stress. Check out some of our tips on building your self esteem.

57. Have a bath. Taking a dip in a hot bath will relax your muscles, enabling you to unwind both physically and mentally which can help prepare you for a good night sleep too. A good soak can also be a great way to reduce daily anxiety…unleash the rubber ducks!

58. Get up earlier. Sorry guys. Whilst I wish early starts weren’t the reality, setting your alarm clock even just 15 minutes earlier could reduce your stress levels by eliminating that morning rush. Waking up earlier also provides you with some valuable time to relax with yourself and prepare for the day ahead…so wake up sleepy heads! (Yawn).

59. Avoid negativity. Don’t let other people’s negativity shoot your adrenaline levels through the roof. It’s important not to judge someone for being negative, try to support them but make sure you separate your identity and emotions from it. If their negativity is aimed at you, it looks like their engaging in bullying behaviour so read our advice on how to talk to someone who’s bullying you.

60. Have a picnic. Outdoor activities like this promote our mental and physical well-being. Going on a picnic with your friends or family can help reduce the stress we associate with school, work and home whilst providing a bonding experience that can alleviate feelings of social isolation. Jam sandwich anyone?

61. Buy a plant. Not only does filling your room with flowers look pretty and purify the air, but being around plants can help people feel more relaxed and actually reduce your likelihood of developing stress related depression.

62. Get knitting. Get creative using your motor skills to make repetitive motions that relieve stress. Give your brain a much needed break and if your thoughts get distracted, return to the movement. Start designing your own knitwear and you’ll never have to worry about being caught in the same outfit as someone else (bonus)!

63. Relax your jaw. Release the tension you’re carrying in your jaw by opening it wide for a half a minute, breathing through your nose and gently closing it. Great practice for the dentist too 😀

64. Reflect on the day’s achievements. Don’t get stressed about what you should be doing, feel great about what you have done instead. We’re not expecting you to have climbed Mount Everest, you could have just given a friend some good advice. The reflection process can help boost your self esteem and ease anxiety as you’ll see how great you are already!

65. Munch some crunch. It’s important not to use food as a stress reducer as this can lead to unhealthy eating habits. But when you do reach for a snack, try some carrot sticks or a handful of almonds as this will help relieve stress by working your jaw muscles as well as giving you a nutritious boost. Gnaw away!

66. Deep breaths. When we’re feeling anxious our breathing changes and this ‘overbreathing’ can actually produce more anxiety. But deep breathing will encourage your mind and body to slow down and return to normal. So next time you feel yourself getting anxious, have a quick break and take a deep diaphragmatic breath in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold it for 2 and exhale slowly through the mouth for 4 (wait a few seconds and then repeat). Panic over!

67. Decompress your stress. Invest in a 3-pack of flannels, soak them in warm water and place one on each of your shoulders and your neck, then close your eyes and relax those muscles. Ta da!

68. Turn off ALL electronic devices. Technology can be wonderful but interconnectedness comes at a price…laptops, phones and tablets all subtly increase our stress levels making us feel constantly ‘wired’. They can also disrupt your sleep which will only contribute to stress so make sure you switch them off an hour or two before bed. Oh the conflicting joys of the 21st century!

69. Browse books. Go to your local library and spend some time browsing their book selection in the peace and quiet. Sit back, relax and get lost in the good book you’ve found. New research suggests that reading even for just six minutes can reduce your stress levels by two thirds!

70. Clear your closet. Having a closet full of clothes you never wear just creates clutter and adds to the stress bucket. So make a day of it, auction off your unwanted clothes and donate the proceeds to Ditch the Label! Thanks.

71. Study a new topic. I know it sounds counterproductive considering the stress studying causes, but study a topic you don’t do at school, like gender across cultures, or survival skills…we would all feel more relaxed if we knew how to survive on a desert island.

72. Mix up your route. Commuting through traffic jams could be sending your stress levels haywire unnecessarily. Try riding your bike to school or college instead for a calm and collected arrival. Or if you walk everywhere, try taking different routes to ensure your usual zombie walk stays within Shaun of the Dead.

73. Take a break from social media. Whilst interconnectedness and the opportunities of social media offer us so much, using it too often can have adverse effects. It can lower your self esteem, take you away from the moment and bring drama into your life. All of these factors massively contribute to stress so take a break!

74. Have a good cry. Bottling up your emotions can lead you down a dangerous path and suppressing those tears actually increases your stress levels so make sure you let it all out and you’ll be surprised by the relief it brings. Get the violins out!

75. Write a gratitude list. Unsurprisingly, stressful events can leave us feeling negative and as if we’re lacking in some way. But having a greater sense of appreciation for the people and things in your life can really help you gain perspective, feel more positive and enable you to better handle stress. So try writing down 5 things you’re thankful for.

76. Try herbal remedies. Mother nature scores again! Next time you’re feeling stressed try sipping on some chamomile tea, full of anti-anxiety components, or drip some lavender oil on your pillow at night to help relax you for a peaceful night’s sleep.

78. Don’t procrastinate. We’ve all been there…one minute you’re revising, the next minute you’re checking out the photos of your friends’ mutual friends’ friend on facebook (wow, that even sounds as stressful as it is), but all procrastination does is put things off and stops you achieving your goals which only generates more stress!

79. Lower your standards. Setting ridiculously high standards for yourself generates anxiety by putting pressure on you to perform and it can make you particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of emotional stress. Nobody’s perfect so try loving and accepting yourself as the great individual you are.

80. Get a hobby. Pursuing a new hobby is a fun way to break away from life’s demands, as well as allowing you to build your self esteem, forge new friendships and express yourself, which all contribute to the reduction of stress. Why not give photography a go or try out a free yoga class in your area…do whatever interests YOU!

81. Watch the sunrise (or set). Ok, so perhaps getting up at the crack of dawn to watch a sunrise is a little bit ambitious, but watching a sunset on a clear summer’s evening is both breathtaking and incredibly relaxing. So let go of your worries and let yourself get immersed in the colors. It’s true that the best things in life are free.

82. Ask for help. Everyone needs a helping hand sometimes. Trying to cope with everything on your own just exacerbates stress. Whether you open up to a trusted friend, family member or us here at Ditch, a problem shared is a problem halved!

83. Eat stress free. Incorporate stress-busting foods into your diet like avocados, oily fish, whole wheat varieties and oatmeal. Please Sir, can I have some more?

84. Enjoy simplicity. Living life in the fast lane? Rushing around is not only stressful, we forget about the simple things that bring us happiness too so learn to stop and notice life’s little pleasures like laughing with your friends or enjoying the feeling of sun on your skin. Mindfulness can significantly reduce anxiety so relax and enjoy the moment!

85. Strike a (yoga) pose. There’s loads of yoga poses you can try at home that can help reduce anxiety. Have a go at the child’s pose by sitting on your knees and bending forwards so that your face is resting on the floor, keeping your arms by your sides. This comforting pose, helps us turn inside for a while and slow down our racing minds.

86. Stop judging. With so many things to worry about, don’t let worrying about what other people do with their time be one of them. Sitting around gossiping about others and criticising them isn’t gonna make anyone happy. Try supporting them instead. If you often find yourself judging others it’s likely that you’ve been giving yourself a hard time too so ditch the criticism and you’ll not only feel better about yourself but you’ll have a lot more time to relax too!

87. Spend a day at the beach. Beautiful views, the soothing sounds of water and a Mr.Whippy in the rain…what’s not to like? Whether you go in a group or roll solo, the beach is a relaxing break away from everyday stresses and the negative ions you soak up will have positive effects on your body and mind back in reality too.

88. Nurture yourself through words. Read whatever inspires you; poems, positive affirmations and empowering quotes….let the words ground you, calm your mind and regenerate you.

89. Avoid Caffeine. That comforting cup of coffee may not be so kind to your nerves. Whilst giving you a temporary boost, caffeine injects adrenaline into your system and increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol. A cup of coffee can brew trouble for anxiety sufferers so try an equally heart-warming decaf alternative instead.

90. Learn to forgive. Everyone makes mistakes, that’s how we learn. Bullying yourself, mulling over petty grievances and begrudging others is only gonna hurt you so start forgiving yourself and other people and you’ll find there’s a lot less to stress about!

91. Say no sometimes. Being a ‘yes’ person isn’t easy. People pleasers listen up!…saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean you’re selfish or rude. Practicing saying ‘no’ will help simplify your life and give you the valuable time you need to relax with yourself.

92. Get some sun. Vitamin D (which our bodies absorb through exposure to the sun) can play an important role in your mental health but by the time it gets to those long winter months many of us are lacking in it. Keep calm and soak up all the sun you can and if you’re running low, top up with vitamin D rich foods like oily fish and eggs.

93. Listen to calming music. Oh, the power of music! Research suggests that chilled out tunes slow down our pulses, lower blood pressure and decrease stress hormones. So plug in and relax or if no one’s listening sing/shout along to release even more tension!

94. Stand tall. Did you know good posture can actually make you feel more in control and less anxious? Power poses of confidence can actually decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol, so stand proud and your mood will follow.

95. Drink more water. Even slight dehydration can lower our moods and it can increase levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Dehydration can also cause your body to stop functioning properly which can result in anxiety too…so get sipping!

96. Do a puzzle. Feeling all keyed up? Try and crack a sudoku, a crossword or piece together a puzzle to unwind and get your mind into a state of relaxation.

97. Take your brain on holiday. As much as we’d all love to be sunbathing in the Caribbean right now, most of us our constrained to mind wandering instead. But daydreaming can help you solve stressful problems, relax you and inspire creativity. So get lost in your thoughts and see where your mind takes you!

98. Spend less. Advertisers capitalise on the notion that buyers ruthlessly spend in response to stress and low self-esteem. Remember that having lots of things just adds to stress and won’t solve negative feelings so next time you’re about to part with your cash take a step back and ask “why do I want this?” and “do I really need this?”

99. Do your nails. There are loads of tips online for giving yourself the ultimate DIY mani and pedi. Spend some time looking after number one, feel relaxed and get creative with nail art too!

100. Listen to an audiobook. Being read a story is ridiculously relaxing and a comforting way to wind down before bed. It’s much less effort than reading and there’s a huge choice of podcasts online so do check those out.

101. Make your room your safe haven. Your bedroom should be your sanctuary for peaceful relaxation so make it that way! Get some candles, declutter your space and why not make a personalised noticeboard of quotes that inspire you, pictures, photographs…

Remember. You may be in a particularly stressful period at the moment and feel overpowered but remember it WILL PASS.

It’s likely that the negative feelings you’re experiencing are to do with your body responding naturally to stress. So stay calm, and relieve your stress using these tips.

But, if those feelings become overwhelming and make you feel out of control, do see your GP, speak to a trusted adult or talk to Ditch the Label. There’s great support available for you and remember that nobody deserves to suffer in silence.

Mental health… we all have it.

Did you know that as a result of bullying, 44% had felt depressed and 41% felt socially anxious? The relationship between bullying and mental health is clear, but societally we tend to talk more about looking after our physical health as opposed to looking after our mental health, too.

In this piece, we are going to look at some really simple things that you can do to maintain positive mental health. In doing these things regular and often, you’ll be able to reduce stress levels and the chances of developing a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety.

Before we start though, if you suspect you are suffering from a mental health ailment and haven’t already spoken about it, we recommend you talk to your doctor, a family member or somebody from a charity like Mind.

Firstly, it’s important to know that we all have mental health, just in the same way as physical health. We’re taught from an early age by the movies we watch and media to consume to be afraid of mental health, but it really isn’t anything to ever be afraid of.

Think about how often you see an advert for products that are designed to boost your physical health – yoghurt, juices, gym membership, the list is endless. Now compare that to things that are promoted to boost your mental health. There’s no comparison.

We want to show you some really simple, and mostly free things that you can do to enhance your mental health.

1) Combat Stress

Stress is an evolutionary thing – we’re programmed to get stressed for a short period of time to help get ourselves out of a dangerous situation. Back in the olden days, stress was used to encourage a fight or flight response from people if they were being chased by a predator. Now, in the present day – stress is all around us, but it isn’t good or healthy to feel stressed over long periods of time so it is super important to develop your own ways of coping with stress. We’ve developed a really simple to use tool, called Stress Reprogramming, to help you combat stress. Click here to use it.

2) Watch What You Eat

It really is true. You are what you eat. If you’re eating microwave meals all the time, you’re going to feel pretty pants about yourself. Where possible, up your intake of fresh fruit, veg and grains and reduce the amount of unhealthy processed foods in your diet and refined sugars. Switch the fizzy drinks for water and herbal teas and limit yourself to occasional treats. Not only does this improve your physical health, but it will improve your mental health too. Our food affects the ways in which we feel about ourselves, so fill your body with good quality ingredients.

3) Learn to Be Alone

How many times a day do you check, YouTube, Facebook or Instagram? How many texts a day do you think you send? It’s pretty much constant, right? Sometimes it’s good to just be alone and to get rid of all that stimuli. Sometimes you need to be alone. Not to be lonely, but to enjoy your free time being yourself.

4) Exercise More

When you work out, it releases endorphins. By working out, we don’t mean you have to spend hours in the gym. It could be a jog around the block or a walk through the woods. Anything that gets your body moving. If you’re a stranger to exercise, start small and work your way up. Some people prefer to be alone, others prefer to work out with a buddy. Find what works for you and stick to it.

abby-lee-miller-dance-moms-yes-face

5) Meditate

Right now, your brain is processing thousands of different stimuli every second, without you even being conscious of most of it. Our brains aren’t really built for the 21st century. Sure, they can help us escape a predator in the middle of a jungle, but they can get overwhelmed sometimes with the number of stimuli being processed. Meditation is all about silencing your inner voice, enabling you to tap into your subconscious. It is estimated that people first started to meditate in the 3rd century. We recommend meditating several times a week. If you’re a beginner, there are loads of guided meditations to try on YouTube. Give it a try and approach it with an open mind. Hate to also break it to you, but your body won’t physically float and you don’t have to sit cross-legged making humming sounds.

6) Find Something You Love

Different things work for different people. Find the things that you love by trying new experiences and creating positive habits. When you’re doing something you enjoy, your mental health benefits and your stress levels decrease. We find the most happiness when we are in the ‘flow’ of doing something we are passionate about. Your something could be anything from playing the guitar, baking or going to a theme park. It’s good to have exciting things to look forward to, especially if you’re going through a stressful time such as exam season or a breakup.

7) Talk About It

Finally, we can’t emphasise enough the importance of talking. When you’re going through a tough time, the issues often appear bigger inside your head than they actually are. It can be so helpful to speak to someone about the stuff that is stressing you out or making you unhappy. It simplifies it and also gives people an opportunity to advise you on something.

There you have it, 7 really simple and straight-forward ways to maintain positive mental health.

*If you are having suicidal thoughts/considering suicide please seek help immediately: There are a number of helplines that you can contact 24-7/365.

  • In the UK, call the Samaritans on 116 123. 
  • In the USA, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Anger can be a useful emotion because it tells us when something is unfair or unjust.

We’re often told to hide our anger or to squash it down, but no emotion is a bad one, and we can’t turn them off.

Instead, we should see anger as motivation to try and address the unfairness we’re experiencing – but we need to do it in a productive way. So how do we deal with anger?

Although we all experience anger differently, it tends to follow the same general path. We start off calm, but then something triggers a feeling of anger in us and we become bothered. If we aren’t able to deal with that, it can escalate to anger and eventually can result in a pretty dramatic eruption.

So, to avoid an eruption, here’s how you can reprogramme your anger into something positive.

angry teenager, sitting on a dock, how to deal with anger

Reprogramming Your Anger

1. Recognise your trigger and how you’re feeling

Ask yourself questions

  • Am I angry or is it a different feeling?
  • What has caused it?

Then check your body for

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweaty palms
  • Hot face
  • Clenched jaw

Check your mind for

  • Irritation
  • Erratic thoughts
  • Clouded thinking

Then check your behaviour

  • Are you acting as you would if you were calm?

2. Pause the escalation for a moment so you can reassess

  • Control your breathing 
  • Count to ten
  • Go for a walk
  • Put it in perspective: “will this matter tomorrow? next week? next year?”
angry cat, ditch the label

Want to find out more about why we get angry? Read this.

3. Change course by reacting to the problem in a different way

Slow it down

Give yourself and the other person time to explain your views. Pause the conversation if you need to.

Write it as a letter

Write a letter or email explaining how you feel

Focus on ‘I’

Change it from ‘you’ focused to ‘I’ focused. Instead of ‘You don’t care about me’, say ‘I miss spending time with you’

Let it go

Accept that sometimes things won’t change

4. Channel your excess energy into something that benefits you

  • Exercise
  • Write a journal
  • Get creative
  • Sing
  • Dance
  • Draw
  • Take it out on a cushion
  • Write a letter to your MP
  • Organise an assembly at school
  • Campaign for change
  • Run a fundraiser

For help and support, talk to our online community here.

Feeling sad is something that happens to all of us. Your football team loses, you fall out with a friend, or something much worse happens, and it can feel like a smile is a distant memory. But what is sadness, and what actually happens to us when we feel sad? 

What does serotonin do? 

So this tricky little neurotransmitter in our brains is what is responsible for us feeling sad, called serotonin. A neurotransmitter essentially carries signals around our brain that controls how we feel. So, serotonin’s job is to deliver emotions and carry messages about our mood, and it’s often labelled as the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter. It also transmits signals which help wounds to heal, and which help our digestive system to function normally.

We all have an evolutionary response to stuff that happens with us, to fight, flight or freeze. Serotonin is responsible for the freeze response in humans.

So, this is why we get depression? 

There is a definite link between low serotonin levels and sadness and depression. But having less serotonin doesn’t always mean you get depression. The brains of teenagers typically have a little less serotonin than adults, which means it’s harder to process emotions, and which is probably why we all feel a bit crap when we’re teenagers. 

Why do we want to increase it? 

Even though it might seem like we don’t have a huge amount of control over what goes in our brains at times, increasing serotonin levels is important if we have a deficiency given its link to depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. Doing things to naturally boost serotonin will boost our general mood and having good levels of serotonin also means we literally heal from wounds faster, so it’s basically a super power. 

It’s important to know though that being sad, or feeling the effects of depression, is not a sign of weakness. If you need to talk to someone, reach out to our community here for free confidential support and advice. 

How do we do it then? 

  • Exercise every day – it boosts serotonin in your brain and some studies have demonstrated that exercise is at least equally effective at increasing available serotonin as serotonin-enhancing medications
  • Get your gut healthy – Much of the serotonin in your body is produced in your gut 
  • Watch what you eat – Foods high in simple carbohydrates, such as pasta, potatoes, bread, pastries, pretzels, and popcorn, typically increase insulin levels and allow more tryptophan (the natural amino acid building block for serotonin) to enter the brain, where the brain cells can convert it to serotonin. 
  • Light – some research suggests that serotonin tends to be lower after winter and higher in summer and fall. Serotonin’s known impact on mood helps support a link between this finding and the occurrence of seasonal affective disorder and mental health concerns linked to the seasons.

Want to know more? Here’s some things you should definitely be reading right now!

Change can suck, right? Sometimes it feels like you are just getting into the swing of life, finding your rhythm and your tribe, and then something comes around that could change everything forever. We know that that feeling can be pretty scary, and that change is not something that everyone can deal with easily. That’s why we have put together a super quick guide to getting comfortable with it. 

1) Remember that change is natural

OK, so maybe this isn’t exactly what you want to hear, but change is always going to happen. It is a natural, normal and unavoidable part of being a human. We grow, we learn, we move around the planet. All of those things make staying in one place without changing pretty much impossible. Knowing that resisting change is fighting a losing battle might not seem particularly helpful right now, but coming to terms with that is a huge step towards looking at change as something positive. 

2) Think how far you’ve come already

The fact that you are where you are right now has come about through change, and it must be a pretty good place if you want to stay there. A good way to understand that change is part of life, and that it can lead to good things, is to map out your life so far. Think about where you were a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago. Chances are in that time, there has been a lot of changes in your life that didn’t end up so bad, loads that probably made your life pretty epic, if only for a while. 

3) Allow yourself to be not ok for a bit…  

If you need to freak out about it, give yourself the space and time to do so. Why not try setting a time limit on yourself, and say you are allowed to let your mind run away with itself about the change that’s coming for no more than 30 minutes. Then, afterwards, sit down and start to rationalise. This way, you give yourself the space to feel what you need to feel about it, but it doesn’t get out of hand. 

4) …Then face it head on 

You might have had your mini freak out about the changes that are coming, but now is the time to understand it and face it head on. Take a moment to calm down, clear your mind and ground yourself by trying to control your breathing. 

Sitting upright in a chair, place both feet flat on the floor and arm resting comfortably by your side or on your knees. Close your eyes, and let out a long breath. Then, feeling your chest rise, breathe in for five seconds through your nose. Hold it for one, and let it out for another four. Repeat this until you feel your thoughts begin to slow and you feel calmer.  

Now, have a think about the changes that are coming and keep breathing in slowly and deeply. Now you’ve had this chance to freak out and process it, try to carry on with your day as normal. There is no reason to have to deal with it straight away, or all at once. In fact, processing it a little at a time might help you understand it, and that it doesn’t necessarily have to be the scariest thing in the world. 

5) Change your thoughts

If you are still feeling anxious about changes that are around the corner, have a think about the possible outcomes of it, and how these might make your life better. So, if what is making your brain run wild is the prospect of moving out of home to go to uni, try thinking logically about it in a positive way. So;

‘I am worried about leaving my family’ could be ‘I get a chance to explore a new city’

‘I don’t want to leave my boyfriend/girlfriend/partner’ could be ‘I will get to meet lots of new people and it might make the relationship stronger’

‘I don’t know if I can handle the workload’ could be ‘I will be challenged, and I will be proud of what I do because of this’

We know that change can be unsettling. If you feel like you need to talk about what is going with you, you can reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here, and we will listen to you. 

What actually makes us happy? There are lots of things we think will make us happy, but that kind of happiness doesn’t seem to last very long most of the time. One of the reasons for this, is a brain feature called the Hedonic Treadmill. The Hedonic Treadmill is when we feel happy or sad for a time, but then return to feeling normal. So, even though we think earning lots of money and buying things will make us happy, we can’t buy happiness, and increasing happiness doesn’t necessarily come from working hard. 

For example, when you get a new phone it can make you feel really good. But it doesn’t take long before we get used to it, and eventually just take it for granted.

There are several hormones that are responsible for happiness, and these are endorphins, which are increased with exercise, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. 

Luckily, it’s easy to increase our general sense of happiness, by doing a few simple things…

5 Tricks to Being Happier

  1. Having meaningful connections to the people and the world around you
  2. Learning new things, and always challenging yourself to improve
  3. Living an active lifestyle and keeping physically active
  4. Taking notice of the good things going on in your life by keeping a gratitude journal at the end of every day
  5. Giving time, money and attention to other people

Happiness is a tricky thing, but doing these things every day, you will start to see your general feelings of happiness increase. 

Feel like you need to increase your self-esteem? Read this.

Do you feel like you need to feel happier? Maybe talk to someone? You can reach out to our support community here for confidential help and advice.

Everything you need to know about social anxiety

We live in an age of anxiety. With a combination of countless disasters in the news whilst being bombarded by constant ads, it comes as no surprise that the number of people in the UK being diagnosed with anxiety is at an all-time high.

In ordinary, everyday situations it is reasonable and some might even say good to be anxious, it can after all help us perform better. Even feelings of fear have a purpose, they are designed to help us survive scary situations we might encounter.

Back in the “good old days”, this made us quicker to respond to the threat of being eaten alive; forcing us to run, hide or for those who are a bit more courageous, throw a stone… (and then leg it!)

This response is known as the ‘fight-or-flight’ response which causes the heart to speed up, hyperventilation (getting more oxygen) and increased blood flow to the muscles.

Zoella on social anxiety

We all get a bit nervous if we have to speak in front of a large group of people, right? Or if we have to meet someone for the first time? This is totally normal.

There are countless ordinary situations such as this that cause people who suffer from social anxiety to get cripplingly anxious and experience the fight-or-flight response which can be really disabling to their everyday lives. Social anxiety, simply put, is the fear of social situations.

Living with social anxiety can be frustrating and as with many things, change doesn’t happen overnight. You might feel like your mind has an ability to instantly jump a million steps into the worst-case scenario! Some of the signs of social anxiety are:

  • Finding yourself worrying about other people’s reactions
  • Experiencing extreme nervousness and anxiousness when taking part in social situations
  • Feeling really insecure about everything you say and do in social situations
  • Feeling paranoid
  • Feeling overly judged
  • Avoiding social situations all-together
  • Experiencing physical effects on your body during social situations such as sweating, increased heart rate, or rapid breathing.
  • Avoiding eye contact

If you think you might have social anxiety, we would always recommend seeking a professional diagnosis from your GP.

Most importantly, remember that however isolated you might feel you are far from alone – social anxiety is the most common type of anxiety in the UK.

7 tips for overcoming social anxiety

1. Share

Hiding or suppressing anxiety actually produces more anxiety. The most useful step is to share your experience with friends and family, or even talk about them online to us or someone else that you trust. Many people often feel ashamed of their anxiety and can be incredibly reluctant to share it.

The media often leads people to believe that mental illness is a weakness, which makes people less likely to admit to themselves and others what they are going through. We all have mental health and it is reported that up to 1 in 3 of us, will at some point experience a mental health illness and it’s okay to talk about it.

2. Breathe

Your body is powerful. Learning the warning signs of when your anxiety flares up is important to help you take action; for some, this could be your body feeling tense and your mind feeling chaotic. Your body and especially your lungs can help.

Breathing exercises can help you control your anxiety. Having a steady breath has a direct impact on your heart rate and, in turn, your thoughts. Your heart will slow down as your breath does and as your breathing and your heart rate slow down your mind and thoughts will too.

3. Thinking isn’t reality

As much as it feels like anxiety controls you, anxiety isn’t reality and you control your own reality. It’s important to remember that social anxiety feeds on thoughts that emphasise danger and negativity. Symptoms such as a fast heartbeat and sweating emerge from this kind of thinking.

Luckily thinking is a habit and can, of course, be changed. The cure isn’t just positive thinking but realistic thinking. Try and examine your anxious thoughts such as ‘I am going to say something stupid’ they are often exaggerations of reality. Then try and produce thoughts that criticise and correct them.

4. Shift your attention

Anxiety has a way of grabbing your attention and turning it inward upon yourself, making you not only self-critical but suddenly noticing how your heartbeat has rapidly increased without your permission, meanwhile, you then suddenly feel yourself getting hotter, red in the face… sweaty… it feels like a domino effect that cannot be interrupted.

But instead, try and focus your attention on what it is you may be doing, so if you are speaking to someone try and pay close attention to what they are saying rather than worrying about what the right thing is to say next.

5. Face your fears

Avoiding social situations, yes will make you feel better at that particular moment. But remember this is only a short-term solution which prevents you from learning how to cope and will make you avoid social situations in the future more. As out of reach as it might seem, facing your fears in small steps you will allow you to work towards the more challenging situations and will give you coping skills.

If meeting new people makes you feel anxious you can begin by going to a party with a friend. You can then take the following step of introducing yourself to a new person. Remember, saying no will give you the same result each time. Saying yes, however frightening, means you’re taking a chance and living your life.

6. Stop trying to be perfect

It’s easy to forget that no one is perfect when we live in a world that aspires to achieve perfection. It’s also easy to forget that not everyone will like us nor does everyone need to.

Ask yourself do YOU like everyone (slim chances)? It’s also often forgotten that it’s okay to make mistakes as it makes us human.

7. Play the Rejection Game

The purpose of the game is to gain some sort of rejection through a series of different challenges. The purpose of the game is to encourage you to see rejection differently and to face your fears whilst maintaining a certain element of control over the situation.

Beginner challenges

  • Ask somebody you don’t usually speak to at school for the time
  • Put your hand up in class to answer a question
  • Give somebody a compliment
  • Strike up a conversation with somebody outside of your friendship circle

Intermediate challenges

  • Ask for a discount at the checkout
  • Ask somebody to take a photo of you
  • Ask your strictest teacher for an extension on your homework, even if you don’t need one
  • Reach out to an old friend and ask if you can make up
  • Ask to go to the front of a queue
  • Fundraise for a charity (*cough* we’re a charity *cough*) and ask people you know to sponsor you

Expert challenges

  • Go to a restaurant and ask for a tour of the kitchen
  • Request a refill on a meal you’ve just eaten
  • Dance in public.

Don’t forget that there is always support available – whether you decide to access it online or offline. Please get in touch if you have any questions or would like to speak to somebody about social anxiety and/or bullying. Join our community to start a conversation about anxiety with others who have similar experiences…

More:

Why do we get angry? 

Take a moment to think about a time when you were really angry.

What was happening in your body? Maybe your face felt hot? Or your palms started sweating?

When we feel an emotion, it’s not just happening in our head – our whole body experiences it.

Our mind is constantly in communication with our body. Together, they are sharing information about whether we are safe, or in danger. If our mind senses a threat, it can start a stress response which you may have heard of…

It’s called Fight, Flight or Freeze.

As soon as our brain sense threat, it floods us with hormones to make us do one of three things:

  1. Fight the danger
  2. Flee (run away from) the danger
  3. Freeze on the spot, so we don’t draw attention to ourselves

If our brain decides we need to fight the threat, our heart rate increases and our blood pressure rises. This ensures that our muscles have a good blood supply.

Our muscles tense, our face flushes, and we speak more loudly – a way to intimidate the danger and alert it to the fact that we’re ready to fight.

In prehistoric times, this gave us the best chance of escaping from serious danger, and it has been our body’s natural response for the whole of human history.

How Do I Stop Myself From Getting Angry?

Stopping ourselves from getting angry can be a pretty difficult task, especially if we feel like the situation is asking for us to respond that way. But often, we can overreact to things, or what might be small appears larger, and we can get angry for little reason. It’s then what we do when we are angry that can have big consequences for us and those around us. 

Here are some super fast top tips to calm down: 

  • Pause, and breathe
  • Go for a walk or remove yourself from the situation
  • Take it out on a cushion if you feel you have to
  • Channel your energy into something constructive – do some exercise, write in a journal, do something creative that will help you take your mind off the situation

For more, read this toolkit on how to reprogramme your anger.

Am I good enough? 

Comparing ourselves to the people around us is totally normal. It can even be helpful, because it helps us work out who we are and what we’re good at. But unfortunately, we’re surrounded by unrealistic examples of what our lives ‘should’ be like, which is especially true on social media.

Social media has invented a new way for us to compare ourselves to other people. We see people posting about the best bits of their lives and we forget that they don’t share all the bad bits too.

This can all add up and make us feel like we’re not good enough and companies take advantage of this, making lots of money selling products to make us ‘look better’, ‘be stronger’, ‘fit in’… but, ya know, always stand out and be yourself as well.

But, did you know…?

It only takes two weeks to change your self-esteem. So even if you feel like you’re not good enough compared to the people around you, there are some simple steps that you can take to build up your confidence. Before you know it, you’ll stop comparing yourself to the people around you and start to embrace the fact that you are the best person out there at being you.

8 Things That Will Make You Feel More Secure In Yourself

Use your strengths

The VIA Character Strengths are 24 strengths that all of us have in different combinations, and each of us is strongest in different areas.

No-one can be good at everything and that’s OK. So instead of focusing on where we’re weakest, we should remember all the things we are great at!

The best way to boost your self-esteem is to find ways to use your natural strengths to help the people around us. It feels really rewarding and fulfilling to be the best person we can be.

Acknowledge your thoughts

When you find yourself thinking negatively about yourself, notice it and recognise what you’re doing, and what your brain is saying. Instead of trying to ignore the thoughts – say hi to them, and realise they’re there.

Pull the brakes

When you experience negative self-talk – literally say the word STOP out loud to yourself. This interrupts the negative stream of thought.

Flip the negatives

Reframe the negative thoughts so that they focus on the positive instead.

Find the full half of the glass.

Step away from social media

Take some time away from your social feeds, and give your comparing brain a rest.

Unfollow anyone who you compare against

When/if you do go back online, make sure you’re only following people who make you feel good.

Be your own best friend

Next time your negative voices kick in, reply as if you were talking to your best friend.

Affirmations

Tell yourself positive statements which challenge your negative beliefs.

Think of three negative things that you believe about yourself and then flip them around so that they become positive statements. These flipped beliefs are called affirmations.

If you can’t think of any negative beliefs, think of three things that you want for yourself, for example “I want to get a distinction in my piano exam”, and turn them into ‘I am’ statements: “I am going to get a distinction in my piano exam.’

Every time you brush your teeth, or when you get a spare moment, silently repeat the affirmations to yourself.

Need some tips on feeling happier? Check this out

We’ve all felt stressed before. Exams, money worries, family issues, friend drama. Whatever negatively impacts your life is sure to bring with it some stress. But what actually is it? And what does it actually do to us? 

Stress is a state of emotional tension that we experience when our brain thinks that we are under threat. It developed as a very useful feature which helped us to run away from predators, and other immediate dangers. When our brain senses that it’s under threat, it instructs our body to release several hormones, including one called cortisol.

The hormone cortisol has several key roles in preparing us for danger:

  • It affects our immune system, preparing us for injury
  • Makes us hyper aware of potential threats
  • Increases glucose levels in our blood, so that we have the energy to run
  • Suppresses our digestive system, because if we’re under threat we don’t need to be worrying about eating
  • Increases our blood pressure, so that we get blood to our muscles more quickly
  • Reduces our sensitivity to pain, in case we are injured.

All of these effects are very useful in short-term emergency situations

The problem now, is that our modern society is filled with lots of things that make our brain feel threatened, or under attack. These small things can add up, making us feel stressed

We are all unique, so each of us can tolerate a different level of stress before it gets overwhelming. Some people can “fill up” more quickly than others, meaning they get stressed more easily, and that’s OK.

Whatever your capacity, whether you’re a tiny teacup or a massive mug, even the small things can add up until they overflow. This can make us feel overwhelmed and out of control.

Think you can identify what a micro-stressor is? Read our case study and spot as many as you can

The good news is there are lots of ways we can reduce our cortisol levels, and show our brains that we are not under threat. The key thing is that dealing with stress requires an active response. 

CONNECT WITH NATURE

Whether it’s cycling through the woods, sitting on the beach, or hiking in the hills – being in nature automatically soothes our brain and helps us to relax.

If you can’t get outside, even listening to nature sounds can help you to de-stress.

OPEN UP

If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, tell someone about it. You don’t have to carry stress by yourself – and sometimes just speaking about it can help us feel more in control. A problem shared is a problem halved.

SAVOUR THE MOMENT

Rather than focusing on the stressful times, we can unwind by focusing on the good moments in our lives. Next time something good happens to you, stop and really enjoy it – taking in all the details about what it feels like.

PUT IT IN PERSPECTIVE

If you find yourself feeling stressed about something, ask yourself – 

“How much will this matter tomorrow?”

“How much will this matter next week?”

“How much will this matter next year?”

WRITE A TO-DO LIST

Sometimes we can feel like we don’t have enough time in the day, and this can make us feel stressed. By writing a to-do list, or a schedule, we can allocate time to work, socialise and relax, giving us more balance and control.

THINK FLEXIBLY

Think of as many different solutions to the problem as you can, or look at it from as many points of view as you can. Challenge yourself, to see how many you can come up with.

Need help with getting into meditation? Read this

Got something on your mind? Go to our support community for free and confidential support.