a hand lighting a candle in a calming scene

Feeling stressed? Try these small steps to bring comfort and calm amid the hustle of daily life.

Between a relentlessly depressing news cycle and the energy crisis – not to mention that nagging sensation of, “I should be doing more” – life these days can feel like it’s lurching from one stress to the next. And that makes it all the more pertinent to find glimmers of calm on the horizon. 

If you’ve been feeling overloaded recently, you might want to try a few simple rituals to keep the pressure at bay. While small everyday acts like getting out in nature, or kneading a loaf of bread, might not seem like much in the moment, over time, they’ll create a soothing cadence. Slowly but surely, small steps can combine to create larger change in the form of a relaxed, more resilient mindset. 

Below, I’ve pulled together a few of my favourite daily moments that represent a little calm amid the storm. If you can find a spare moment, try one or two of these to get back on an even keel. 

a breakfast table scene with artisan objects

    1. Light a candle

      I'm doing this more than usual as a way to mark a moment. Not just at mealtimes, but also while reading to my son, or when we move into a new room for a change of scenery. I'll light a candle while my partner and I chat over a glass of wine in the evening, and, of course, always at bath time!

    2. Make more of breakfast

      The start of a new day brings a new energy for us all, and I've been harnessing this by making the most out of breakfast times together as a family – especially at weekends, when we have more time. We'll sit together, lay the table and use a teapot. We'll have our usual cereal, but toast or croissants as well. For me, it also takes the pressure off having a family supper every evening, so if a TV dinner creeps in every now and again, I'm OK with that.

    3. Get out in nature

      The moment we as a family head out the door and into the fresh air, the whole experience – listening to the birds, soaking up some sunshine – is so beneficial. Getting outside is a balm for the mind and body, so if you’re feeling overwrought, try taking a walk. Just 10 minutes in the woods, or your local park, can make all the difference.

    4. Find your rhythm

      By this I don't mean a strict structure, but a loose cycle to your day. For us, this brings anchoring moments in the day that we're all aware will happen at a rough time. This could be a coffee break at 11am or even a daily meditation; whatever helps to root your schedule within a series of comfort-giving rituals.

    5. Channel your rest & digest response

      In stressful times, our bodies are all too familiar with the primal fight-or-flight response; and yet we all have the ability to uncover its answering antidote; rest and digest. Deep breathing can be a great way of channelling this deep-rooted recall. Breath in through your nose for four beats, hold for four, then breath out through your mouth for eight (whooshing sound optional!). Repeat several times, and your body can’t help but start to relax – especially if you focus on lengthening the time of each breath.

    6. Use your hands

      There's something about putting your phone down and using your hands to create that feels incredibly reassuring. Whether it be kneading bread, pulling the weeds up, sewing, knitting, drawing or journaling, find a project where you can focus on your hands to get out of your head and into an action. 

a rustic sofa with cushions and a side table with candles and flowers

  1. Celebrate the small things

    Is a seedling popping up? Did you try a new recipe? Master a skill? Did you get through the day in one piece? In hectic times, small things are big things; they’re worth recognising and celebrating.

  2. Have a proper cup of coffee

    Or tea, or hot chocolate, or whatever it is – sit down at the table or out in the garden, have a biscuit, read a magazine or listen to a podcast. We usually have coffee on the go, so taking 20 minutes to savour the process can feel like a treat. Try savouring the moment.

  3. Tap into your meridian system

    Traditional Chinese medicine follows that there are certain paired points around your body through which vital energy (or “qi”) flows. And various ancient practices and alternative therapies are used to stimulate this life source. You can release pent-up tension in a similar vein at home by applying gentle pressure in a circular motion to meridian points on your hands, face or feet. Add in scented oil or light a candle or two for added relaxation.

  4. Listen to a calming podcast

    From free music and meditation podcasts on the BBC to Insight Timer’s brilliant series of guided meditations (also free), you don’t have to search far to find pools of calm and serenity online. Putting just five or 10 minutes aside every morning or evening to tune into these sessions can help pave the way to a more peaceful state of mind. 

  5. Call one of your oldest friends

    The best friends in life are those who know you inside out, including all your insecurities, guilts and dreams. And so nothing in the world compares to a long phone catch-up with one of “your” people to put the world to rights. It’s one of those things where, even if you don’t have the energy for it at the beginning, you’ll always feel better by the end. 

  6. Be gentle on yourself

    There is nothing more stress-inducing than feeling guilty or inadequate. Let the little things slide, be kind to yourself and things will feel calmer.

September 20, 2022 — Alice Paling
Tags: Body & soul