Relaxation Techniques to Eliminate Stress You can effectively deal with stress by activating your body’s natural relaxation response. Techniques such as deep breathing, visualization, meditation and yoga can help.
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For most of us, relaxation means lying on the couch and watching TV at the end of a stressful day. But it does little to reduce the harmful effects of stress. Rather, you need to activate the natural functions of your body
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, a state of deep relaxation that prevents stress, slows your breathing and heart rate, lowers blood pressure and balances your body and mind. You can do this by practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, rhythmic exercises, yoga, or tai chi.
While you can choose to pay for something like a professional massage or acupuncture, most relaxation techniques can be done on your own or with the help of free audio downloads or an inexpensive smartphone app. However, it is important to remember that there is no one relaxation technique that suits everyone. We are all different. The right technique is one that resonates with you, aligns with your lifestyle and can focus your mind to create a relaxing response. This means that finding the technique (or techniques) that works best for you may take some trial and error. Once you’ve done that, regular exercise can help reduce everyday stress and anxiety, improve your sleep, boost your energy and mood, and improve your overall health and well-being.
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Relaxation Techniques For Stress Relief
Focusing on the whole, clear breathing, deep breathing is a simple but effective relaxation technique. It’s easy to learn, can be practiced almost anywhere, and provides a quick way to get your stress levels under control. Deep breathing is also the basis of many other relaxation practices and can be combined with other relaxation elements such as aromatherapy and music. While apps and audio downloads can guide you through the process, all you need is a few minutes and a place to sit quietly or stretch.
If you have trouble breathing from your belly while sitting, try lying down. Place a small book on your stomach and breathe so that the book rises as you inhale and falls as you exhale.
Progressive muscle relaxation is a two-step process in which different muscle groups of the body are systematically tensed and relaxed. Regular practice gives you an intimate sense of what tension—and complete relaxation—feels like in different parts of your body. This can help you react at the first signs of muscle tension. And when your body rests, so does your mind.
Talk to your doctor first if you have a history of muscle spasms, back problems, or other serious injuries that may be aggravated by muscle tension.
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Start with your feet and work your way to your face, trying to tense only the muscles that are targeted.
This is a type of meditation that focuses your attention on different parts of your body. As with progressive muscle relaxation, you start with your feet and work your way up. But instead of tensing and relaxing the muscles, you just focus on how that part of your body feels, without dividing the sensations into “good” or “bad”.
Visualization or guided imagery is a variation of traditional meditation where you imagine a scene where you feel calm, free to be freed from all worry and anxiety. Choose whatever setting is most comfortable for you, whether it’s a tropical beach, a favorite childhood spot, or a peaceful forest retreat.
You can do the visualization exercises on your own or with an app or audio download that guides you through the pictures. You can also visualize in silence or use listening aids, such as soothing music or a sound machine or recording that is relevant to your chosen setting: the sound of ocean waves, if you have chosen a beach, for example .
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Close your eyes and imagine your peaceful place. Imagine it as clearly as possible: everything you see, hear, smell, taste and feel. Just “seeing” it as an image in your mind is not enough. Visualization works best if you include as much sensory detail as possible. For example, if you imagine a dock on a quiet lake:
Enjoy letting your worries drift away as you slowly find your peaceful place. When you’re done, gently open your eyes and come back to the present moment. Don’t worry if you’re ever out of place or lose your location during an visualization session. It is normal. You may feel a tingling sensation in your limbs, muscle twitching or yawning. Again, these are common answers.
You probably already know how much a professional massage at a spa or health club can help reduce stress, reduce pain, and relieve muscle tension. You may not know that you can experience some of the same benefits at home or at work by practicing massage yourself or by exchanging massages with a loved one.
Try taking a few minutes for a massage at your desk between tasks, on the couch at the end of a busy day, or in bed to relax. To increase relaxation, you can use aromatic oils, scented lotions, or accompany the message to yourself with mindfulness or deep breathing techniques.
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The combination of strokes relieves muscle tension well. Try moving lightly with the sides of your hands or tapping with your fingers or hands. Use your thumb to squeeze the muscle knot. Stretch your muscles and try long, light, smooth strokes. You can apply these strokes to any part of your body that is within easy reach. Try it on your neck and head during a short session like this:
Mindfulness has become increasingly popular in recent years, garnering headlines and endorsements from celebrities, business leaders and psychologists. So what is the mind? Instead of worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, mindfulness shifts your focus to what’s happening right now, allowing you to be fully engaged in the present moment.
Mindfulness meditation has long been used to reduce stress, anxiety, depression and other negative emotions. Some of these practices bring you into the present moment by focusing your attention on a repetitive action, such as breathing or repeating certain words. Other forms of mindfulness meditation encourage you to observe and then release inner thoughts or feelings. Mindfulness can also be applied to activities such as walking, exercising or eating.
Using mindfulness to focus on the present moment may seem simple, but it takes practice to reap the full benefits. When you begin to practice, you will find that your attention keeps returning to your worries or regrets. But do not despair. Every time you bring your attention back to the present moment, you reinforce a new mental habit that can help you stop worrying about the past or stressing about the future. Using an app or audio download can also help you focus, especially when you’re just starting out.
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The idea of exercise may not seem particularly relaxing, but rhythmic exercise that moves you repeatedly can create a relaxation response. Example:
While rhythmic exercise alone helps relieve stress, adding a mindfulness component can benefit you even more.
As with meditation, mindfulness practice requires being fully engaged in the present moment and focusing on how your body feels in the moment, rather than on daily worries or concerns. Instead of watching TV during your workout, focus on the sensations in your muscles and how your breathing complements your movements.
For example, if you walk or run, pay attention to the feeling of your feet touching the ground, the rhythm of your breathing, and the feeling of the wind against your face. If you’re doing resistance training, focus on coordinating your breathing with your movements and pay attention to how your body feels as you lift and lower the weight. And when your mind wanders to other thoughts, gently bring your attention back to your breathing and movements.
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Yoga involves a series of both moving and stationary poses combined with deep breathing. In addition to reducing anxiety and stress, yoga can also improve flexibility, strength, balance and endurance. Since yoga can cause injuries if practiced incorrectly, it’s best to take a group class, hire a private instructor, or at least follow the instructions in a video. Once you’ve learned the basics, you can train alone or with others to customize your workout as you see fit.
Although almost all yoga classes end in relaxed poses, classes that emphasize slow, steady movements, deep breathing, and gentle stretching are best.
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