Today we almost can’t avoid stress, but there are ways to control it as it can lead to certain mental and physical health problems. Very good way to manage stress are relaxation techniques, but most people don’t understand the great benefits from regular practice of these techniques, so they don’t include them in their daily plan.
These techniques are slowing down the breathing and heart rate, raising blood flow to major muscles, lowering blood pressure, lowering the stress hormones’ activity, easing muscle tension, improving the mood and concentration, and reducing fatigue, frustration, and anger.
The way they work is raising your awareness of the body, and refocusing your mind on something calming. This in turn will eliminate the stressful thoughts from your mind. Not only that relaxation techniques will eliminate your stress, but they will also improve your overall health.
Besides these techniques, you should incorporate other positive methods if you like to reduce your stress. Such are positive thinking, exercising, managing your time well, getting enough sleep as well as help from your closest ones, and consuming the right food.
We present you ten simple relaxation techniques to lower your stress levels.
Guided imagery, or imagery techniques and visualization, are great way to reduce stress. They involve systematic practice of developing a detailed mental image in your head of some peaceful and attractive environment or setting. In this way, your mind will be distracted from the stressful thoughts, and focused on something much more pleasant.
The guided visualization influences many cognitive process in our brain, like attention, motor control, perception, memory, and planning. It also raises self-confidence and motivation, which are important parts when it comes to reducing stress. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice has published a 2012 study which claims that this method helps lower perceived stress, dyadic stress, as well as physical and psychological complaints.
In 2008, a Mayo Clinic Health Letter reported that guided visualization has shown to decrease the frequency of migraines, help manage stress, reduce anxiety and fear before surgery, as well as the side effects of cancer treatment.
Here’s just one way to do guided visualization:
- Sit comfortably in a quiet place with closed eyes. Take couple of slow and deep breaths to relax your body and mind. Imagine you’re in a wonderful location you’d like to see. To make the imaginary location more vivid in your mind, focus on the different sensory attributes. Keep doing this until you notice you are calmed. Then, slowly return in the reality with your mind, and then open your eyes.
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Another great stress reliever is progressive muscle relaxation. It’s consisted of 2 steps: tense your muscle, and then release that tension intentionally. In 2014, the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research has published a study which shows that this technique effectively lowers the test anxiety among nursing students.
The IOSR Journal of Nursing and Health has published another study in 2015 which claims that using this technique in the treatment of chronic low back pain patients helps lower their pain and stress, and improve their overall well-being. Usually, practitioners of progressive muscle relaxation begin at the feet and continue up to the face.
- Start by sitting comfortably. Take a few deep breaths to relax, and then focus your attention to one of your feet. For several seconds, think on the way it feels. Then, tense the muscles in that foot and squeeze as much as you can handle. Hold in that position for 10 seconds, and then relax the foot. While being relaxed, breathe slowly and deeply for half a minute. Then, repeat the same thing with the other foot. Continue doing this with the muscles in your legs, buttocks, stomach, back, arms, neck, and face.
Yoga simply radiates peace and calmness throughout the body and mind. It includes both, stationary and moving poses to help relax your body and calm your mind.
A simple but very effective pose for providing complete relaxation and lowering stress from all muscles is The Corpse Pose, or Savasana. This pose also relieves headaches, improves sleep, and relieves mild depression. In 2011, the International Journal of Yoga has published a study which says that regular yoga practice improves the life quality and encourages a balanced mental state. It can also improve your fitness and overall health. In fact, yoga helps reduce the risk of chronic diseases like high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Lie down on your back and spread your legs slightly apart. Place your arms by your sides with palms faced upwards. Take slow, deep breaths from your diaphragm (abdominal area), and close your eyes. Try to relax all of your muscles, and be in this position for 5-15 minutes. Other yoga poses to induce relaxation are Child’s Pose (Balasana), Legs Up The Wall (Viparita Karani), Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana), and Downward Facing Dog (Ardho Mukha Svanasana).
4. Tai Chi
Another effective technique for reducing stress is tai chi. It involves self-paced series of slow, flowing movements which make you relax, concentrate, and be aware of the vital energy circulating throughout your body. This will calm your mind and lower your stress. The focus during practicing tai chi is set on breathing and being aware of the present. It is a low-impact exercise so it’s excellent for older people who otherwise don’t prefer exercise.
The Psychiatric Clinics of North America has published a 2013 study according to which this technique might be effective in lowering anxiety, depression, mood disturbances, and stress. The best way to learn tai chi is in a class, or with a private tai chi instructor.
5. Relaxing Music
You might have heard already, but listening to slow and soothing music has a tremendous impact on the mind and body. It lowers the stress hormone levels and absorbs your complete attention. In this way, it distract your mind from the stressful thoughts, helping you to explore your feelings and emotions. There’s a certain music that causes relaxation, thus being ideal for meditation.
The New York Academy of Sciences has released a study back in 2003, which shows that music is a potent method to evoke happier and more positive disposition in many people. In 2013, PLOS ONE published another study which shows that music has positive influence on the psychobiological stress system. So, listening to music before a standardized stressor can decrease the psychological and endocrine stress response.
Imperial College London has released a new (2016) study which claims that attending a concert can affect the activity of the endocrine system and down-regulate the stress. This study proved the same thing as 22 past studies, and that’s that listening to music in a hospital, laboratory, or other controlled setting can lower cortisol levels (1). So, the next time you feel stressed out, grab a set of headphones and play your favorite music.