relieve stress and anxiety

How to relieve anxiety and stress in the Lake District

What better way to relieve anxiety and stress than in the beautiful Lake District. Whether it is wining and dining, adventurous activities, countryside walks or gaining an insight into its history.

It can all be found within the majestic setting of the Lake District National Park. Fresh air, magnificent views and a different pace to the city lifestyle (some would say much slower) are the perfect tonic to de-stressing and re-acquainting yourself with family, friends and your own personal values.

So, to help de-stress, reduce anxiety and depression, take a walk with Mother Nature at your side. It might help to improve your memory. Step outside and find a new way to ease the stresses of time and pressure from the typical day to day.

If don't have the time to read this great article, you can listen instead.

What you can do to relieve anxiety and stress

Part of coping and finding ways to relieve anxiety and stress is to realise and accept you are being affected. 

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a long persistent feeling of worry, fear or nervousness. Lots of people feel anxious and are affected at times, especially when confronted with stressful events and changes to their lifestyle. You might feel it as a shot of adrenaline that pulsates out uncontrollably to all parts of your body. Not everyone experiences anxiety disorders in the same way, nor will they experience the same symptoms.

Anxiety could become an issue when:

  • The feelings of anxiousness don’t go away
  • The feelings of worry are disproportionate to the problem
  • You go out of your way to avoid situations which cause you to feel anxious
  • You constantly feel distressed and unable to control these feelings
  • You regularly experience symptoms of anxiety such as panic attacks
  • Enjoying your life in the way you want to becomes increasingly difficult

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. It is also the word when you feel overwhelmed and finding it difficult to cope.

Let’s face it; anxiety and stress is a part of everyday living. The everyday clutter of life interferes, restricting us from relaxing and finding contentment. The key is to find a way to manage our lives accordingly. Whether that is through relaxation or adventurous activities, it boils down to what works for you. I guess if you are reading this article, mental health issues may have affected your life. It may be you, a friend or colleague. It’s important to note that left unchecked it could lead to depression.

Mental health problems affect about 1 in 10 children and young people (according to https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/) and 1 in 5 adults are suffering with symptoms. Some may think that closing the door and hiding away is a solution. In fact, it is likely to make things worse.


When you combine both disorders, then it becomes increasingly difficult to climb out of the situation (rut). These symptoms are often treated with medication, once you find the strength and courage to seek out help. In reality there is often a downside to some medicines, which are the side effects. For others, long-term medication is the only solution. It becomes a balancing act to find out what works. On the other hand, for others and it is dependent on the severity of the condition, they prefer to seek more natural treatments.

Note: Over a long time, stress can be hard to deal with and bad for your health. If left unchecked, it could lead to anxiety or depression and health problems.

It’s also worth remembering stress is a normal part of life. It’s worth keeping a diary to track what triggers your stress levels. That way, you might be able to identify simple changes you can make.

“Don’t get too depressed the solution is coming.”

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So what’s the difference between anxiety and stress?

Anxiety and stress may have similar symptoms making it difficult to spot the difference.

Stress can be considered short term, a response to an event or situation.

Anxiety can be caused by stress and can be considered long-term with feelings that take a long time to resolve.

The key is to take note about how you feel, listen to physical and emotional tell-tale signs.

The tell-tale signs

1.  Emotional signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling upset and tearful
  • Feeling scared, panicked or worried
  • Feeling constantly irritable
  • Becoming angry and having a ‘short fuse’
  • Feeling alone or hopeless
  • Not interested in life
  • No sense of humour

2.  Physical signs and symptoms include:

  • Being aware of your heart beating fast (palpitations)
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches, odd pains, feeling dizzy or sick
  • Trouble sleeping, disturbed nights and waking early
  • Poor appetite or comfort eating
  • Knotty feelings in the stomach
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Tiredness and exhaustion
  • Feeling sweaty
  • Constant need to visit the toilet

3.  Other behavioural signs and symptoms include:

  • Skin picking
  • Nail-biting
  • Frequent bad temper and lack of patience
  • Struggle to make decisions
  • Find it difficult to concentrate
  • Forget things
  • Withdraw from relationships
  • Smoke or drink more than usual

4.  Other symptoms to consider:

  • Stuck in a loop and not achieving your goals
  • Continually have headaches, back pain and other anxiety-related issues
  • High blood pressure
  • Mood swings and longing for something you can’t put your finger on
  • Brain fog

Depending on how many of these signs and symptoms you agree to, could be a good indicator of how stressed  or anxious you are.

How to relieve anxiety and stress

moments in time, an hour glass representing time on a shore line

passing steps in time

Finding Time to Relax

Learning to relax is an excellent coping strategy to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and overcome stress. Once you find a way that suits you, you will find it makes a difference. It will become more comfortable each time. Your energy levels and mood swings will improve. However, relaxation is not just a matter of finding a quiet place and concentrating on your breathing. For some, it will be in the form of physical exercise or extreme sport.


It is well-documented, and studies show, that being outdoors in the fresh air, coupled with exercise, can help release (happy chemicals) endorphins and tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that can be converted into several important molecules, including serotonin and melatonin, which are natural mood busters. Putting aside your gadgets in a setting that is peaceful and calm, is definitely a must. So kick open the door to help improve your emotional well-being.

A visit to the beautiful countryside of the Lake District, Cumbria is a MUST.

Read on for a taste of what is available.

The beautiful Lake District

A fantastic panoramic view of Derwent Water and its fells, including Cat Bells and Maiden Moor with Causey Pike off to the right of the picture.

An atmospheric Derwent Water with Cat Bells in the background

Since 2017 the Lake District has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, this is just a reflection of what the Lake District has to offer. Stunning views can be found from many places within the District, whether it is from the top of a fell – the Lake District boasts having the highest mountain in England (Scafell Pike) or from the forests of Whinlatter and Grizedale or to the many coastal views such as St Bees. It also boasts many hidden gems - if you know where to look!

Walking Stress Away

Red Tarn shore line with Stridding Edge in the background. A great place to relax during a walk

Relaxing by the lapping waters of Red Tarn

Walking can be a superb way to blow away the cobwebs, think and reflect. It has the added health benefit of recharging your batteries while increasing/maintaining a level of fitness. There are many well-known walks such as Old Man of Coniston and Sharp Edge.


In the Ullswater valley from Glenridding, you can tackle the infamous Striding Edge. The route leads you to Helvellyn, where you can enjoy 360 degree panoramic views. If the summit is not your thing, then taking in the beautiful scenery with Red Tarn at the foot is a great alternative option. Here you can while away your time and de-stress, listening to the lapping water in an impressive amphitheatre.

Walking can be a superb way to blow away the cobwebs, think and reflect. It has the added health benefit of recharging your batteries while increasing/maintaining a level of fitness. There are many well-known walks such as Old Man of Coniston and Sharp Edge.


In the Ullswater valley from Glenridding, you can tackle the infamous Striding Edge. The route leads you to Helvellyn, where you can enjoy 360 degree panoramic views. If the summit is not your thing, then taking in the beautiful scenery with Red Tarn at the foot is a great alternative option. Here you can while away your time and de-stress, listening to the lapping water in an impressive amphitheatre.

Red Tarn shore line with Stridding Edge in the background. A great place to relax during a walk

Relaxing by the lapping waters of Red Tarn

An Alfred Wainwright far Eastern Fells book cover illustration

The prominent author Alfred Wainwright wrote his pictorial guides for many famous routes and summits in the Lake District. However, there are many more walks that are less well-known but equally stunning. Furthermore, to decrease any anxiety of driving long distances, once in the Lake District, you don’t have to travel far to find some stunning scenery.

Stepping Stones

Just a few minutes from the M6 is Shap, the “Stepping Stones to the Lakes”. From Shap, there are walks, taking in stunning waterfalls and lower level summits. Shap itself is a destination point for the Coast-to-Coast walk. A stone’s throw from Shap is Haweswater Reservoir. From here you can walk up Kidsty Pike onto High Street, and look down over the Ullswater valley and lake. Again if summiting is not your objective, then a stroll along the reservoir is a fantastic option.

A road sign stating welcome to Shap, the stepping stones to the Lakes and Fells


Learn a little history about the “Old Corpse Road” and take a short walk up. At a vantage point, you will be able to look back over the water; this is a well-photographed scene. Bring along your camera to snap stunning photos to remind you of your time or show your friends.

Who knows there might be a budding photographer in you?

Taking up photography as a hobby can be another way to alleviate stress and depression.

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 Having an outdoor hobby will help with your emotional well-being. Taking time to appreciate the outdoors is a beautiful way of spending more time in nature.

a photographer looking through his camera overlooking a dead calm lake

A budding photographer

To add extra value to your relaxing time, you can stay at New Ing Lodge or Abbey Croft and all on the edge of the stunning Lake District. Shap doesn’t boast about being the “The Stepping Stones To The Lakes” it is! Don’t bother to cook, nip along to the award-winning Shap Chippy, dine in or eat out; the choice is yours.

Worried about not knowing where to go, or finding your way around?

Contact Mountain Rat Adventures for a guided care free day.

an illustration of how the mind can feel and see something differently

What does the mind see?

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Your Brain And Nature


Research in a growing scientific field called eco-therapy has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.

It’s not clear exactly why outdoor excursions have such a positive mental effect. Yet, in a 2015 study, researchers compared the brain activity of healthy people after they walked for 90 minutes in either a natural setting or an urban one. They found that those who did a nature walk had lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that is active during rumination — defined as repetitive thoughts that focus on negative emotions.

Enjoy A Little Bit Of Retail Therapy

Walking can also be combined with a little retail therapy and the legendary ‘tea and cake.’ Cumbria is not only acclaimed for its breath-taking scenery but also its vast array of fine, quality foods. Ranging from the traditional Cumberland sausage to Cartmel’s sticky toffee pudding to Kendal Mint Cake.

A plate of traditional full english breakfast

A tasty full english breakfast

There is a lot to be said for retail therapy. Assuming your anxiety and stress isn’t related to finance, then this may be for you. Keswick and Ambleside are two towns who can equally well cater for the adventurer in need of gear and nourishment. George Fisher in Keswick, established since 1957, is well renowned for both its quality clothing and equipment. Its mezzanine floor tea shop ‘Abrahams’ will serve up a lovely lunch or just tea and wonderful cakes. There are many teapot cafes, as I like to call them, which will serve numerous satisfying delicious cakes and beverages.

scone, jam and cream with a slice of butter on a plate

cream or jam first

One way to relax while in the Lakes would be to sample these county products: food definitely tastes better in the open air! This could be a combined event of a low-level walk around the waters of Grasmere and Rydal, wiling away the cobwebs, re-energising yourself and then returning for a well-earned treat, such as the world-famous Grasmere gingerbread. While tasting the famous gingerbread, take a trip to Dove Cottage - where Wordsworth wrote his famous poem.

a plate of chips and a burger on a bun

Chips and burger

Calmer Waters

a person is skipping stones across a mountain lake, the water is very calm.

Skipping stones across a lake

If you prefer to de-stress at a more sedate pace, why not take to the Lakes via the Steamers. Both Ullswater and Windermere offer an array of trips on steamers, such as round the lake cruise or day passenger. You could feel the breeze in your face, the warmth on your arms and relax on deck – some steamers even have a bar facility! Use the steamers to help navigate your way to a nearby beach and take time to skim stones.

Staying in the Ullswater Valley, the Ullswater Steamers have five boats, Lady of the Lake and Western Belle are probably most well-known. The latest pier that was built allows greater access to the National Trust waterfall: Aira Force.


One of the 5 Ullswater steamers the Western Belle is steaming its way along the Ullswater Lake

Western Belle on the Ullswater Lake

If that doesn’t float your boat, then why not become your own captain for the day. Hire and skipper your own boat and explore the lake. Take the opportunity to switch off the motor and drift for a while; this will surely wash away some of the blues and improve your mood. If you like fishing, then take this as another opportunity to help cast away the blues. You never know, you might even catch a tiddler. You will then have a story to tell your friends, about what an epic it was.

Nature, A Force For Good

Another way to view the Lake District and admire some of what it has to offer is to visit places within the National Trust. The National Trust seeks to ‘protect and care for special places so people and nature can thrive for generations to come.’(National Trust website) What greater way to unwind and admire what Mother Nature offers, than a stroll through several National Trust sites?

The main waterfall of Aira Force, tumbling below its stone bridge

Aria Force waterfalls Ullswater

A favourite of mine and for many is Aira Force waterfall. Situated close to the shore of Ullswater, the water cascades down over 65ft. It is a truly amazing sight, with the added bonus of water splashes to make you feel connected. What better way is there to help improve your mental mood. It is a great place to explore the extraordinary within the ordinary.


There is a circular waterfall walk, where you can admire the many waterfalls from different vantage points. “Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the red squirrels”. It also has the added bonus of a National Trust tearoom offering delightful views over Ullswater and of course good food. You can also take advantage of the restroom. Park or ride, walk and enjoy majestic sights, eat and find relief - what more could you ask for in a day?

While in the vicinity of Ullswater, there are many other sights to behold and places to visit. These could be encapsulated while walking the Ullswater Way. This walk was established after the storms of 2015 and officially opened in 2016. It circumnavigates the lake and takes in many breath-taking views. Twenty miles in total, the Ullswater way is divided into 6 strolls, ranging between 3 and 7 miles. These can be completed through walking or a mixture of walking, buses and steamers!

A picture of a leaflet that illustrates the Ullswater way and surrounding business's

Take on the Ullswater way - click the image for PDF version

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Mountain Rat Adventures

If you are feeling energetic, challenge yourself to complete the walk in one day; mind you it is a challenge so be prepared."

Start or finish the Ullswater Way from Pooley Bridge; you can view the new bridge that has replaced the stone bridge that washed away in the 2015 floods. Now not that I am advocating alcohol as a solution, but take a visit to Chestnut House in Pooley Bridge, and sample their plethora of Gins and fine Cumbrian Ales. To provide an alternative pleasure, Granny Dowbekins Tearooms overlooks the bridge and the River Eamont. They specialise in home-made cakes and scones, and traditional British breakfasts.

Sleeping under the stars

camping out under the clear night sky with the stars

camping out under the stars

Living with anxiety and stress disrupts sleep patterns. Long-term disruptions can lead to serious health problems, including insomnia, drug and alcohol abuse.

There is research showing a connection between camping and the outdoors, how this relates to the amount of natural daylight we receive, and the effect it has on our body’s natural circadian rhythms (our 24-hour biological cycle).

Working in factories and offices can severely disrupt your body’s natural rhythm, so finding a way to overcome and relieve anxiety and stress naturally is increasingly essential. Sleeping under the stars is a fantastic experience.

With most cities and towns suffering light pollution, it is increasingly difficult to see the clear night sky, let alone sleep under the stars!

The Lake District enables you to access remote blackspot areas -ideal for seeing stars/star gazing. Along with the remoteness, comes the peace and quiet that can be difficult to achieve at home.

Combining hiking with wild camping is a unique experience: the combination of fresh air and exercise will lead to a good night’s sleep.

a photo of a group of people sitting on a mountain top looking towards the setting sun

Mountain Sunset

The Sleeping Insomniac "I have seen self-acclaimed insomniacs fall asleep at night gazing at the stars. Whether this is due to the silience, fresh air or exercise who can say. But the fact remains true."

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If the thought of wild camping fills you with dread, then you can stay at one of the many campsites. Glamping seems to be the best compromise, and hobbit cabins are more accessible. Now if you are like me, and the thought of staying on a busy, noisy site fills you with dread and brings out the heart flurries, then 

an image of a glamping cabin

Glamping

‘The Quiet Site’ would be a great choice. If you combine, the low-level walk - Ullswater Way - a steamer trip and a night under the stars at the Quiet site, that will surely be a way to decrease anxiety and lower stress naturally. So leave the smartphones at home and snuggle under the stars to help improve your sleep.

Poetry In Motion

It is on the banks of Ullswater that Wordsworth was inspired to write his famous poem ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ (often referred to as Daffodils). It was on a walk with his sister-Dorothy Wordsworth - that the siblings spotted a vast amount of wild daffodils near Glencoyne Bay, on the most westerly side of Ullswater. The wild daffodils can still be viewed today - generally from February through to May - and you never know, while there you may gain your own inspiration.

Wordsworth daffodils, a picture of the scene that inspired William Wordsworth to write his poem.

A host of golden daffodils

Dorothy Wordsworths’ famous journal entry: “I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake...’. 

"I can imagine sitting down on the shoreline, with the breeze passing me by, 

waves gently lapping the shore with time just floating on by."

Don’t Get Into A Sticky Situation

a jar of orange marmalade and peeled oranges

Orange marmalade

Just down the road, you will find the historic Dalemain Estate – a haven of tranquillity. It is more than just a mansion; it offers a wealth of historical knowledge, stunning woodland and award-winning marmalade.

Since 2005 Dalemain has been the host of the world-famous Marmalade Festival, due to their success there is now a similar Japanese Marmalade Festival! Paddington Bear would find this place heaven, and I am sure he would get himself into a sticky mess. Indulging in tastes of the many marmalades is sure to help improve physical tension and reduce your worries.

Beatrix Potter left an incredible Legacy.

Beatrix died in 1943, leaving fifteen farms and over four thousand acres of land to the National Trust.

In accordance with her wishes, Hill Top Farm was kept exactly as it had been when she lived in it, and receives thousands of visitors every year.

No trip to the Lake District would be complete without the mention of Beatrix Potter and the famous Peter Rabbit – so famous now that he has made his way to the movies. While relaxing with your family in the Lakes, you can take a step back in time and walk in the footsteps of Beatrix Potter.

Beatrix found the Lake District to be a place of inspiration, writing some of her most famous tales here. Through the National Trust, you can visit Beatrix Potter’s country retreat, ‘Hilltop’, you can also visit Near Sawry and see if you can spy some of the inspirations for her tales. Her life story is fantastic too.

Relieve Anxiety And Stress With Mindfulness

Mindfulness in the wild

If you truly wish to escape and calm your body and mind, you could try yoga or meditation. This practice is proving to be very beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety. It is becoming more and more popular to take yoga and meditation outside into wild places. 


Mindfulness and well-being programs are truly proving to help in treatments for stress, anxiety and depression. Meditation will help with breathing. This is especially useful in stressful situations, where stepping back and taking a deep breath is an excellent coping mechanism.

 There are many yoga teachers in the Lake District, and it has the added benefit of access to some breath-taking spots to try mindful yoga.

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Lee Wilson

" From my own experience, mindfulness has helped me in the treatment of CPS (Chronic Pain Syndrome). Certainly, from the point of view, where extra pain is brought about by stress, and I now know anxiety. To add to my mindfulness experience; cold water has had its part to play in this treatment and still has today."

There is an interesting article about cold water treatment for pain here on the BBC

Adventure To Combat Stress

Adventure is good for the soul

The Lake District is also renowned for its adventurous activities. For some, a challenging, adventurous activity is THE way to de-stress and reduce the risk of depression. It provides a combination of breath-taking scenery and exhilarating adventure. It is a way of connecting with their inner-self, through adrenaline and high energy.


If this sounds a great way to de-stress then the Lake District has much to offer. Ranging from a stroll to hiking, scrambling to climbing and ghyll scrambling to canoeing, there is something for everyone! There are so many activities to list in the Lake District National Park, not least what could be considered the more extreme sports of caving, downhill mountain biking and canyoning. There is an excellent article on canyoning and how to relieve stress here.

Taking up an adventure activity will significantly enhance your fitness. By combining some of your recreational time with the great outdoors, you will gain physical fitness.

Taking on Outdoor Adventures Helps You Feel Fulfilled

If you want to succeed at work, you need to live a life outside of it. It does sound pretty counterintuitive, but having an outdoor hobby can help you work better. One study found that hobbies provide instant stress relief to overwhelmed individuals. Another study noted that those who engage in creative hobbies are more creative and innovative at work. Hobbies like hiking and biking that allow you to be active outdoors combine the benefits of spending time in nature with the increased stamina and confidence of active pursuits.

If you have the feeling that water has been at the forefront of this article, you would not be far wrong. There are plenty of ways to immerse yourself and get wet but unfortunately, not everywhere has the places or environment. Another excellent reason to visit the Lake District – it’s not called the LAKE District for nothing! Ghyll scrambling and canyoning are far more extreme sports than walking. They allow you to disappear and explore an environment you would not usually visit. Our primal feeling of exploration is in our DNA from years of evolution.

Stonethwaite Beck on a moody day with dark clouds in the background

Stonethwaite Beck

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Beautiful Places, Off the Beaten Track

One of the greatest reasons to take up canyoning apart from the thrill or the adrenaline rush, is discovery; discovering beautiful places in the world that most will not see. Originally discovered by our ancestors trekking downstream, or hiking to their next place of settlement, these caverns served as resting places for our fellow man.

"When you release your primal inner-self and explore, the adventure has more meaning. This can help you find your way in life. Having to respond to stressful situations will seem less daunting, when you know deep inside that you can tackle the unknown. So when I say adventure is good for the soul, I mean it literally."

All Change Is Not Bad

It is not unheard of that for some people; once they have experienced the outdoor lifestyle, they have made huge career changes. On a personal note, I made the career change after a traumatic time in my life. I was clinging on to the last rung of the ladder looking for a way out. Since my career change, I have never looked back. Yes, I have made changes along the way in what I do, but they remain firmly planted in the outdoor environment, even though the roof to my office leaks more often than not.

Conclusion

What is enough time in the outdoors? This will vary from person to person. If you are stressing about how you can incorporate your daily physical exercises, STOP! Take your regular exercises outside and combine them. Take a walk in hills or around a beautiful waterfall, Mother Nature is a great natural resource for helping to reduce anxiety and stress. Will it be a cure for anxiety and stress? There is no easy answer, but it will help you manage your stress.

If you are struggling to sleep, then a night under the stars will give you that all important break.

While we might not fully understand how the outdoor phenomenon works, it is undeniable, the improvements it can have on your health. There is an undeniable wealth of evidence in regards to the health benefits of being outdoors.

“How you choose to spend your time with Mother Nature (the great outdoors) will absolutely affect your mental health, emotional well-being and physical state in a beneficial way.

 

Without a shadow of a doubt, the benefits of connecting to nature are truly positive and well journaled”

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If you are looking for a more natural treatment to help cope with stress and anxiety, try some of the suggestions in this article.

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There is plenty of evidence that getting outside will help focus your mind and help you relax. Let’s face it, if spending time stuck behind screens and gadgets or even in the office is not working for you, then

what do you have to lose?

What you can do next


Look after yourself 

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If you are finding it difficult and anxiety & stress is affecting your daily life or causing you distress, call NHS 111 or talk to your GP. 

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