Image © Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium via Facebook

Places to alleviate stress

Nick Chen

The run up to Christmas can be stressful with all the shopping, late nights (hangovers) and other other social engagements. That's why we thought we'd give you some suggestions of places to alleviate your stress...

London is stressful. The tube map works as a Rorschach test that reminds people of their manic lives. As working hours increase, so does stress levels and the cost of living. For many, a week comprises of two parts: the weekend, and time spent waiting for the weekend. But it’s possible to create mini-breaks during your busy schedule, especially for when the pressure becomes unbearable. It’s worth remembering that stress can be a serious illness if it reaches dangerous levels. Considering how many Londoners resort to cigarettes and alcohol as short-term measures, here are some more practical, healthier methods.

River bus
The daily commute is an obvious cause of stress – calculate the hours you spend in a week, multiply that by 52, add the delays, and weep. However, TFL also operates a river bus service from morning to evening, seven days a week. Obviously the routes only run across the Thames, so complete practicality depends upon your destinations.

But the river bus has a number of advantages. The windows hold a view of London and various sights (including natural light), which become more soothing as you bobble past. The seats are far comfier than the Tube, and it’s less crowded so you can actually use one during rush hour. Many of the routes have on-board services such as refreshments, Wi-Fi and toilets, and the boats even accept Oyster cards. At least, this mode of transport should appeal to anyone who sits in the office staring at a screen, wishing he or she was drifting away on a boat. 

The various routes can be found here.

Cat cafe
If refreshing kitten videos is how you cope with office stress, then here’s some good news. Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is set to be London’s first cat cafe. For those unfamiliar with the term, cat cafes are pretty much what they sound like: establishments that sell coffee and tea, with the added attraction of cats walking around everywhere. If that sounds like a dilapidated building overrun by four-legged animals, you’d be wrong. They’re actually very successful in other parts of the world and particularly Japan, where many of the population are pet-less.

Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is still in the process of being built and is yet to reveal an address, other than it’ll open in Shoreditch within a few months. The venture began by raising £100,000 through online crowdfunding – the internet is obviously a supporter of the animal, but suggests Londoners are desperate for somewhere with the soothing presence of cats. As a location, it’ll probably make business meetings less stressful – unless if the other person strokes a kitten like a Bond villain. (And if you’re wondering, the name is a reference to Dinah, the cat from Alice in Wonderland.)

White-collar boxing
Sometimes a stress ball isn’t enough, yet a punching bag isn’t appropriate for an office. “White-collar boxing” is designed for employees to take out their frustrations in the boxing ring. White Collar Boxing is an appropriately named establishment for men and women of all professions (the collar doesn’t matter) to learn the sport. Training sessions take into account most participants are more familiar with Excel spreadsheets than sparring, and coaching is done accordingly.
The end goal is that participants will eventually take part in special “white collar boxing” competition nights in front of a live audience. There’s the option to choose your own walk-on music, which makes it sound like a combination of stress release and wish-fulfilment – with your colleagues cheering you on at the ringside. It’s a world away from the 9-5 process of passive-aggressive emails.

The Training Factory, 47-49 Tanner Street, SE1 3PL

Yogalates and hot yoga
Yogalates is for those who wish to try yoga and pilates, but can’t fit both into a busy schedule – which applies to most of us. The amalgamated practice takes place at the cleverly named Yotopia, a yoga centre in Covent Garden. The health benefits are obvious, given how the activities strengthen breathing and flexibility. It also relaxes the muscles, especially if you’re usually sat upright at a desk.  Classes (some are just yoga or pilates) run all week from morning to evening, usually lasting for 60-75 minutes, meaning they slip in easily before work, after work, or during an extended lunchtime.
Yotopia also has a separate studio that runs hot yoga, whereby the exercises take place in a room heated at 35°C. The warmth increases white blood cell production (which helps kill viruses), and the extra sweat releases toxins from the body. More importantly, yoga is supposed to make the mind focus – with this temperature, you’ll forget you’re in London and all the stresses that come with it.

Yotopia, 13 Mercer Street, St Martin’s Courtyard, WC2H 9QJ

Meditation with Inner Spaces
Meditation can sometimes be too associated with spirituality. It can be a way to clear your mind that’s less tiring than yogalates. Finding a quiet spot in London is difficult, especially to prevent mantras and silences from the sounds of passing cars or builders singing along to the radio. However, Inner Spaces is just the spot, and runs several classes in Covent Garden and Moorgate, with an emphasis on relaxing the mind. It also helps that every course is free (although you can donate money, to avoid any guilt-related stress).
Meditation sessions are split into subsets such as “creative”, “evening” and “practical”. They are short and run regularly; for example, “Creative Meditation” classes run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1:00-1:30pm. Inner Spaces also has a Quiet Room at its Covent Garden branch, where visitors can browse the instructional library or meditate in a calm area designed for relaxation. The courses are designed to teach how to practice at home, so it might be possible to meditate in the office – especially if there’s a large stationery cupboard.

Inner Space (Covent Garden), 36 Shorts Gardens, Covent Garden, WC2H 9AB / Inner Space (The City), Templeton House 33-34, Chiswell Street, EC1Y 4SB

Flotation tank
While yoga increases awareness of the senses, you might want to try the opposite. Floatworks offers the sensory deprivation experience (at an understandably steeper but reasonable price). Each tank is a private space for individuals to naturally float on water, made possible by Epsom salt that increases the density. (You can ponder the science when you’re lying in it.) Wearing as little as you desire, the water is heated to skin temperature, making it difficult to tell which parts of the body are in and out of water – thus a floating sensation.
Participants can opt for ear plugs and complete darkness during sessions, which last an hour. Floatworks lists a number of benefits, including mental clarity, deepened meditation and stress relief. Even if you don’t feel the benefits, the experience is worth trying just for fun – it’s more exotic than a bathtub, and will provide an excuse to not pick up a phone or check emails.

Floatworks, 1 Thrale Street, SE1 9HW

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