Now & Zen: Easy Relaxation Techniques

People are busier than ever in today’s fast and furious lifestyle. This constant stress can have a negative impact on your health, contributing to ailments like insomnia, emotional overeating and high blood pressure. Unless you’re lucky enough to be able to escape to a tropical island at the drop of a hat, learning how to deal with stress in a positive way is more important than ever.

When you're stressed, it’s common to try to get through it by drinking alcohol, eating sweets, or smoking, but these are only temporary measures that do more harm than good. Instead of reaching for chocolate the next time you feel your shoulders creeping up to your ears with tension, try one (or all!) of the following relaxation techniques:

Deep breathing, an easy and convenient way to relax, it is the core of many other relaxation techniques. You can practice deep breathing anywhere. Simply take ten deep breaths, lifting your chest to fill your lungs completely and then exhaling all the way. Each breath will relax your body a little bit more and you will feel the tension seep out of your muscles. 

Progressive muscular relaxation (PMR) helps release muscle tension. Your muscles tighten as one of the first signs of stress and can become a real pain in the neck (or lower back). But this pain doesn't have to be a way of life. PRM is simple yet effective at reducing pain and enhancing relaxation. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Start by tightening a group of muscles, such as your fists, as much as possible. Hold this tension for a few seconds and then relax the muscles. Once your muscles are relaxed, consciously soften them even further in order to be as relaxed as possible.

Once you have mastered tensing and relaxing your fists, you can move on to other muscles groups and then to your entire body. Apply the same technique, starting at your feet, and working upward. It takes just 10 to 20 minutes to completely relax your entire body. To get the most relaxation possible, try combining PMR with deep breathing.

Mental imagery, or the picture in your mind's eye, can help you regroup and relax. Picture an idyllic and peaceful scene, such as a meadow or a beach, and use all of your senses. Do you smell jasmine in the air? Can you hear the birds singing and feel the light breeze on your skin? Your body can’t tell the difference between a thought and a real event, so bring your peaceful scene to mind the next time you’re feeling anxious. This "mini vacation" will help you feel refreshed, as if you’d really visited to a tropical paradise.

You can also visualize the stress flowing out of your body or running off your back like water. This imagery is particularly useful at work if you don’t have much privacy. Instead of grabbing another cup of coffee the next time your boss changes a deadline on you, picture the stress flowing peacefully out of your body from your head to your toes and start smiling.

Meditation is the conscious act of focusing on one thought, object, or word. This deliberate focus occupies your mind and diverts your attention away from the problems that are causing you stress. Many people who meditate claim that it helps boost their creativity and ability to solve problems by allowing subconscious thoughts to arise to conscious awareness. But meditation isn’t far out or mystical. Like deep breathing, you can do it anywhere and without specialized training.

Sit comfortably, close your eyes and relax your body, concentrating on breathing rhythmically. Feel your breath and focus on each breath you take. Thoughts will come to mind, but just let them pass without giving them any attention. You can also focus your attention on a phrase, such as a positive affirmation, an object, such as a candle flame, or a comforting word like "calm." Try clearing your mind for 10 minutes in the morning and again before you go to sleep, gradually increasing the amount of time you meditate each day.

Relaxing music and sounds can help you clear your mind after a busy day. Whether you listen to music, podcasts or use an app, you can find a source that will help you fall asleep easier, meditate, beat stress, and more. Many apps offer music, nature sounds, or guided meditations.

While most people can handle short-term stress with few difficulties, ongoing stress can suck the joy out of life. By dealing with problems in a positive way, you will be able to maintain your healthy lifestyle even when life is throwing you curveballs. Who needs chocolate when peace of mind is just one thought away?
Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints

Member Comments

Great article! Thanks! Report
Thanks! Report
Thanks, good article. Soothing music does it for me! Report
Thanks Report
Good article. I also use essential oils to relax, Chamomile and lavender are my favorite. Report
Thank you for the great tips! Report
I like inhaling essential lavender oil & keep a bottle at my desk. It is quick 'cuz my office is crazy busy. It is important to take 10 - 15 breaks. Taking a walk is good, sometimes I would go into a small unused conference room, lie on the carpet with lights off, just stretch & deep breathe. Taking long walks by the ocean on weekends is so helpful. Hubby doesn't always like or get it, I need alone time, to write or just think. A vacation for a couple days somewhere else is good, & longer trips away to recharge essential. That break in routine whether someplace new or familiar & fun is healing.
Report
It is important to be able to relax. I do it by reading. Report
I know all these stress management techniques, but I don't incorporate them into my daily schedule. That's my new goal! Report
Good article. Report
MUSICNUT
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
EVIE4NOW
Way too much stress the last couple of months. Thanks for this article. Report
This article held some GOOD reminders for me, I have a new GOAL for the month of October, PRACTICE BREATHING!! Thanks Spark People. Report
thanks. Report
Great article! Report


 

About The Author

Leanne Beattie
Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.