Did you know that April is Stress Awareness month? With health care professionals and experts all over the country raising awareness about the causes and cures for stress, we thought we’d add our own contribution and share some techniques to help you deal with stress. But also, to invite you to join us and de-stress in the way we know best – by putting your feet up and having a cream tea with Brigit’s Bakery.
Imagine slicing out a chunk from your otherwise chaotic day to take a silent, conscious, relaxing moment – maybe by yourself or with a loved one. Close your eyes and picture yourself eating delicious finger sandwiches and out-of-this-world cakes, away from the hubbub and noise. In a minute, you’ll be enjoying freshly-baked scones with whipped cream and jam and leisurely sipping delicious tea or coffee. Or maybe (why not), a glass of champagne?
Doesn’t this whole scenario just sound blissfully refreshing and relaxing? Bet you’re wondering why you didn’t go ahead and decide to gift your mind this piece of peace (and cake) before!
All our buses and Brigit’s Bakery Covent Garden will run a special Easter themed afternoon tea from 19 April to 27 April 2019 with Easter chocolates and decorations. Is this not the perfect cream tea treat for you to reduce stress?
In all seriousness, in a world that’s always moving so fast, let’s just take a moment to pause and reflect on how we can treat ourselves in ways that can be more productive, healthier, and nourishing for our body, mind, and soul. Because maybe (just maybe) we can just acknowledge and accept that this continuous cycle of outrunning everything and everyone (sometimes even ourselves!) may not be all that great for our health!
What is stress?
Stress is a hormonal response from the body to both internal and external factors and situations. When we perceive a thought or a situation or a thought as ‘stressful’, our brain sends a signal straight to our kidneys, which produce stress hormones that we’re all too familiar with – cortisol and adrenaline.
The thing is – stress isn’t negative in itself. It’s a natural response mechanism that’s built into us. It’s there to protect us from danger, and it’s been there since the time when danger meant a tiger or a bear chasing you. The great news here is that we no longer step out of our front door (or the opening of our cave!) and find a predator waiting for us on the other side. But the not-so-good news is that we’ve created such busy lives for ourselves that these days our stress response is triggered by a million other scenarios. From being late from work to worrying about how we’re going to pay the next water bill.
And unfortunately, once stress hormones have flooded our systems, it takes a while for our bodies to restore the normal state of affairs. Problem is, before our body’s had a chance to re-absorb all those stress hormones, we’ve probably gone and got stressed again. Without even realising it, we put our poor kidneys under an enormous amount of pressure and risk entering the danger zone of being chronically stressed. Now, that isn’t a good look for your body.
April is Stress Awareness Month
During Stress Awareness Month, which has taken place in the UK every year in April since 1992, various initiatives take place to encourage people to talk about stress and understand what we can do to help.
So let’s talk about stress:
- When do you feel the most stressed?
- What actions or conditions trigger this feeling for you?
Unexpected and unplanned situations, fear, and exhaustion, for example, can take a toll on our bodies and our minds. When your body is flooded with cortisol and adrenaline, if you tune in and pay attention, you’ll notice the signs. Your breathing becomes irregular, and you may even find yourself panting. Your senses are heightened, your heart speeds up, your blood vessels narrow, and blood is pumped to your limbs – you’re quite literally ready to ‘fight or flight’. Remember that tiger? Except there’s probably no tiger here – you’re probably just sat in a traffic jam and realised you’ll be late for that interview. Or you’re sat at your desk worried you won’t be able to finish that report that’s due in an hour after all.
Stress is different for everyone, and no problem is too small. If you are feeling like circumstances have exhausted your emotions or energies, it is time to do something about it. Unfortunately, in a world that never stops, it’s hard to pause long enough to even notice we’re stressed. And that’s precisely why bringing awareness to how stress works and how it manifests is so important.
So here are some techniques we can all use to help alleviate that stress.
Deep breathing exercises
The first (and best) thing you can do when you find yourself in a stressful situation and in ‘fight or flight’ mode is to remember to breathe. Yes, breathe. In from your nose and out from your mouth. Deep breathing is one of the easiest and most accessible ways to lower stress in the body – we can do it anytime and anywhere, right? And do you know why it works? Because breathing deeply sends a message to our brains to calm down and relax.
Here’s a super-simple and effective technique. It’s called the 4-7-8 technique, and it works wonders when you find yourself in a stressful situation.
- Breathe in to the count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth to a count of eight.
But don’t just use deep breathing as a last resort! Get into the habit of taking a moment (at least a few times a day) to take some deep breaths and relax. You’ll find this of great help, as you physically can’t be in a state of stress and relaxation at the same time. Do this regularly, and you’ll give yourself a better chance to think straight, make better decisions, and to respond to situations rather than react to them.
Go out and exercise
Physical exercise is great for reducing the impact of stress. The NHS states that only 20 minutes of physical activity a week can have a positive impact on your health and wellbeing. But it’s worth upping your efforts a little as “people who exercise every day reduce their risk of anxiety and stress levels by more than 40%“. So if you don’t enjoy the gym, just head out for a walk or a run. A swim, even?
What type of exercise you pick doesn’t really matter. Anything that gets your body moving will do, especially if it’s an activity or sport you enjoy. And you get bonus points if you manage to go outdoors or immerse yourself in nature in the process. Physical exercise floods your body with ‘happy hormones’ (think endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine). These all help your body absorb those evil stress hormones. Remember that poor kidney of yours that was in need of some help?! Honestly, being in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’ isn’t great for your health in the long run. And the more active your body is, the happier your mind will be too, so it’s a win-win!
Try mindfulness meditation
Fancy sitting on a cushion with your legs crossed? If you do, that’s great – do it! If you don’t, we’re happy to share that’s not exactly what mindfulness meditation is. The term mindfulness meditation refers to the practice of paying attention to the present moment in a purposeful and non-judgemental way.
But the great thing about mindfulness is that to reap its benefits you don’t have to ‘meditate’. You can learn to be mindful in your everyday life and pay attention to your senses and your emotions as you go about your (busy) days. All you have to do is to get into the habit of finding little snippets of time to intentionally pay attention to what’s going on with your mind and your body. And the non-judgemental bit? It just means that you need to simply try and acknowledge how you feel and let it go, rather than engaging in a full-on commentary in your head as to how bad that is.
Also, mindfulness can take many shapes and forms. Think cooking, baking, reading, colouring, and staring at your children as they play (when they’re playing nicely, that is). Failing that, just sit on a bench and pay attention to the sounds around you. Being mindful doesn’t have to be complicated.
Write it down or share the load
One of the best ways to deal with stress is to ‘call it for what it is’. When you start to identify what activities, behaviours, or situations trigger your stress responses, you can start to deal with them by simply expressing how you feel. You can do that by writing stuff down in a journal or a piece of paper or by talking to someone you trust. This could a partner, a friend, a relative, or even a professional if you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know. Ever heard of the saying “a problem shared is a problem halved”? It’s a bit like that.
If the technique appeals to you, the act of writing your thoughts down has incredible power. It doesn’t just help you to identify any negative thoughts you may be having, but it often allows you to put them into perspective too. You’ll find that once you’ve written something down, all of a sudden, it’s not as bad as it was. You may not be the journal type, but give it a go – journaling is an incredible stress-management tool.
Take a break and treat yourself with an afternoon tea, B Bakery style
And last by not least, let us take care of you! Because you know what? It’s okay to need a break. It’s okay to say that we need a break. And it’s more than okay to actually take one! So take that break and indulge in a calming yet enriching tea experience with us. Seriously, give yourself a chance to revitalise – throw yourself a happy, mini party that you so totally deserve.
And if you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for someone else. Let’s take the opportunity, this Stress Awareness Month, to recognise that, sadly, we really are in the middle of a stress epidemic. So take a friend or a loved one out for an afternoon. Do something different. Something special. Just enjoy our freshly-prepared food, sip your tea or coffee, and just enjoy the conversation while we plaster a smile on your face. Because we’re good at that – we love making our customers smile. There’s nothing we want more than to allow you to sit back and relax for a few hours while we make you feel extra special.
Just pick one of our amazing cream tea experiences
When it comes to afternoon tea (with a twist), Brigit’s Bakery offers you plenty of choices:
- Join us for an Afternoon Tea Bus Tour and literally put your feet up while we serve your delicious tea and drive you around London.
- Have a picnic with a friend or loved one. The stress of your week is taking its toll, and you just want to spend a day in? No problem, we’ll deliver our cream tea to you. And if it’s a sunny day, you can always change your mind and take your picnic to the park instead of staying in!
- Experience an afternoon tea with a difference on board our unique Thames Cruise Afternoon Tea Boat – it’s a vintage, private motor yacht, and you’re going to love it. It really will feel like a well-deserved treat.
- Come and see us and have tea at our Brigit’s Bakery in Covent Garden. If you’re a fan of London, you’ll love this post about why we think Covent Garden is the perfect spot for our beautiful bakery. And if you want to take a day trip outside of London and make a weekend out of it, did you know we also have a bakery in Bath?
Check out our alternative menus
Our bus tours can fill up quickly, so plan ahead! Book now to avoid disappointment.