Relax, It’s not that hard!
In a previous blog we discussed the benefits exercise can have on reducing stress levels and promoting a sense of wellness. Today’s blog will focus more on the use of specific stress-reducing relaxation techniques. In particular, those that require no equipment and can be done virtually anywhere! (except maybe while driving).
A major emphasis of relaxation techniques is learning to listen to your body and learn what tension feels like versus a calm feeling. Often life is so hectic that we become less in tune with our body’s responses and in doing so, are unable to cope with increasing levels of stress adequately.
Considering the answers to these questions can provide insight into the best option for stress reduction in your life!
- How do you respond in stressful situations?
- Do you become angry and act out or withdrawn?
- Do you prefer to be alone or with people?
- Would an active setting be more relaxing or a soothing environment?
The goals of any relaxation technique are to produce a feeling of serenity, decrease heart rate and slow breathing. This can improve sleep habits, ability to focus on tasks, reduce pain and promote emotional stability.
Let’s talk about some techniques…
Deep Breathing: sitting comfortably, draw repeated deep breaths into your body and imagine the breath reaching all the way to your toes. As you exhale, push the air out of your abdomen (it may be helpful to place your hand over your stomach, it should move as you inhale and exhale) in a slow, controlled fashion.
Progressive Relaxation: this is a tension-relaxation technique for the whole body. Beginning either from your toes and working towards your head or vice versa, begin by tensing the muscles in a body part (ie: right foot) and holding for 5-10 seconds. Slowly relax and rest for 30 seconds. Next move to the lower leg and tense the right calf muscles for 5-10 seconds and then relax and rest for 30 seconds. Continue this pattern until you have contracted and relaxed each area of the body. Practice deep breathing throughout.
Visualization: Escape for a few moments to a place you associate as relaxing and/or comforting, or have memories of happiness and contentment. Using deep breathing, engage each of your senses in the visualization. If you are on a beach, can you smell the salt air? Can you hear the waves crash and roll? Imagine digging your feet into the sand, feel the rays of sunshine warm your skin. Visualize the rhythmic ebb and flow of the water.
Like beginning any exercise program, it will take time to become used to how your body responds and refine your skills and techniques. Practice daily for up to 30 minutes, whether in increments or in one whole session. Ultimately a life that has less stress or healthy ways for coping with stress will be more healthy and well.
If you have any other relaxation techniques that you’ve found particularly successful, please don’t hesitate to share!