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Calm under pressure

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Hypnos’ resident sleep expert , Natalie Pennicotte-Collier, offers her latest insights on helping families to keep calm together.

For many, Spring is the start of new beginnings. A time when the weather warms up and we can bask in the sunshine with friends and family. However, it’s also a time of year that can be extremely stressful for some.

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Exam season and a time that can be fraught with stress, worry and anxiety. So how can families keep calm when faced with this pressure and support one another through it?

The key is practising mindfulness and learning new techniques that can help us to get a better quality of sleep to ensure we all remain connected and calm. Below are some of my top tips that can help families bond during this busy period.


Mindful strategies during exam season – change your state of mind to help you sleep better

Sleep should be the most natural thing in the world but for many of us it can be hard to get a good night's rest when we’re worried and anxious about our performance at work, sitting a test or even how our children are feeling and coping on a day-to-day basis. It’s important to remember that getting enough sleep means we are more receptive to ideas, creative and retain more information, but we can also cope with stress much better.

But all this means that as our lives and circumstances change, we may need to try new techniques to sleep well and to help us in supporting our loved ones. With this in mind, trying to carve out an extra 30 minutes of sleep or rest at night and in the morning can really help.

To do this I’ve created a meditation exclusively for Hypnos that you and the family can listen to it below:


Try making time just before bed to listen to this in order to help your mind and body relax and drift off into a more peaceful and stress free slumber. Or if you’d prefer, listen to it in the morning upon waking to put you in the right frame of mind for the day ahead.

Listening to something calming such as this on a daily basis will help it to become part of your mindful routine, instilling calmer emotions and aiding slumber.

Communicate your needs and feelings

Most of us have been guilty at one time or another of not being clear about what we really need or want in the moment and this can be even more difficult if you’re a family under pressure. Combat this and cement family bonds by sitting down together on something comfy - the bed or a chair - and facing each other in a circle or side-by-side. Now just simply hold each other’s gaze and use the moment to really connect eye-to-eye, Try to hold this for 10 seconds. Whilst this might feel a little challenging at first it’s a great way to connect with one another – inducing smiles and perhaps even laughter which paves the way for better and more positive communication.

Next, ask each other how you are and how you really feel? What can you do to help support each other? This form of mindful listening can really help to ease anxious feelings, creating greater understanding, compassion, and connection with the people in our lives.

In the moment, take a mindful pause

When things start to feel overwhelming and negative or stress-based thoughts start to creep into your head, take a moment to do a ‘mindful pause’.

To do this simply close your eyes and simply become aware of your posture and breathe deeply. What do you notice with your eyes shut? Perhaps the shapes and light patterns on the inside of your eyelids? Use this process to take yourself out of a busy mind and into a mode that lets you just be.

The act of doing this helps you to think about something else, something that’s not negative or anxiety inducing. It’s a nice and easy technique to use in a moment where you need a quick breather and to gain a fresh perspective.

Take 10 for zen

During especially busy times when we need to bring our A-game it’s important to make time for yourself. Do this by taking 5 or 10 minutes out of your day to meditate and practise some mindful breathing. You can either do this on your own or together as a family – there is no right or wrong way to do it.

Start by seating yourself somewhere comfortable. Loosely place your hands on the backs of your legs so that your palms are facing upwards to the sky. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Breathe in and out, in and out. Notice the pauses in your breath as you do so. Notice how it makes your body feel as you inhale and exhale slowly and deeply. The sounds your body makes as you do so. Repeat this until your time is up or you feel more rested and tranquil.

This exercise is all about noticing the rhythm of your breathing patterns and in breathing deeply so that you can activate the parasympathetic nervous system to release calming hormones in to the body.

Name it to tame it

Whilst mindful techniques can help in combating stress, so too can positive thinking and psychology.

In times of intense pressure, humour can be a welcome step change and a great way of taking the fear out of a situation. So, if you’re going through an anxious time, try re-naming the feeling or period of stress with a human name, a comedy nickname or even an alter ego code word. It’s helpful for all the family to identify that this stress will pass and isn’t something to be feared. In fact, it can help us to grow and shape how we tackle things in the future.

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