Stress takes a major toll on each of us. It cuts into the time we have to spend with our families, with the energy we are able to devote to our jobs, and with the way we ultimately feel about ourselves. It runs down our immune systems and even plays a role in unhealthy weight gain. It may not be possible to remove all of the stress from our activities, but it is possible to deal with it more effectively. By learning some simple relaxation techniques we have the power to minimize the negative effects.
Relaxation techniques are about more than simply taking a few minutes for yourself, although that is an important part of why they are so effective. Over the course of time, implementing relaxation techniques into your daily life can affect your physical health and your emotional well being. From lowering your blood pressure to increasing the endorphins rushing around in your brain, utilizing these relaxation techniques can truly make a difference in how you feel and interact with the world around you.
According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the best benefits of relaxation include:
- Slowing your heart rateLowering blood pressureSlowing your breathing rateIncreasing blood flow to major musclesReducing muscle tension and chronic painImproving concentrationReducing anger and frustrationBoosting confidence to handle problems
Visualization. There is a power to visualization that is often overlooked. By taking the time to mentally see your goals come to life, you are more likely to see them in your real life, too. To properly utilize the tool of visualization, it’s a good idea to find a quiet place where you can sit or lie back and close your eyes. Take a moment to even out your breathing and then visualize yourself in a nice, relaxing atmosphere. Add in as many details as you can in order to help your brain believe that it’s really gone on a little vacation. If you are imagining yourself on a beach, for example, smell the salt air, feel the sand between your toes, and listen to the waves lapping at the shore. Spending just a few minutes a day in this state can help you feel more relaxed overall.Progressive Relaxation. This exercise only takes a few minutes, but the effects of it can be felt for quite a while afterward. Start by lying down somewhere quiet and allow yourself to focus on your toes.Tense your toes and hold them that way for five seconds. Relax those muscles and feel the difference. Next, you want to focus on tensing your lower legs. Hold that for another five seconds before letting go and feeling the relaxation flooding the area. Work your way up the body, tensing and releasing major muscle groups as you go. By the time you reach the top of your head, you should feel relaxed and refreshed.Meditation. The act of meditating has been shown to offer all of the benefits listed above. Some people are intimidated by meditation, feeling that they just don’t “get” it. In reality, meditation does take some practice, but it doesn’t have to be nearly as complicated as many folks fear. There are numerous approaches you can take, but most of them are centered around the idea of spending some quiet time alone. Beginners may find it helpful to sit in a darkened room while looking at a candle’s flame. Become aware of your breathing, making sure that each breath reaches all the way down into the diaphragm. Allow your attention to be focused on the dancing flame, while ignoring all other thoughts.Massage. While most of these suggestions require you to be completely self-reliant, massage brings a professional into the equation…a professional who is trained in the art of helping you relax. Massage works to warm and loosen the muscles of the body and also improves the flow of endorphins in the brain. You can either got to a spa or clinic, or you can hire a massage therapist to come to your home. He or she will usually dim the lights and play soothing music while working. A massage will likely cost a little money, but it is an “extravagance” that most people agree was worthwhile.Yoga. The practice of yoga combines several relaxation techniques all into one health-benefiting packages. First of all, yoga is exercise, which is good physically and emotionally. Another important aspect is the emphasis yoga puts on breathing. As you may have gathered from all of these exercises, controlled breathing is incredibly important in relaxation. In order to make sure that your yoga regimen is relaxing and not too taxing, it is important to realistically assess your own fitness level and choose a class or instructor that is right for you.Modern life has caused our fight or flight response to get out of control. Thousands of years ago, this reflex worked to keep humans from getting eaten by wild animals. It still comes in helpful if you accidentally step off the curb into traffic, but most of the time, modern man isn’t in such perilous situations. Still, the reflex is at work, often responding with dramatic physiological reactions (adrenaline surges, for example) in situations that aren’t actually life-threatening.
While we certainly cannot avoid all of the stress of daily life, we can use these relaxation techniques to help deal with what the world has to throw at us. By taking the time to focus on ourselves, to control our breathing, and to improve blood and oxygen flow throughout the body, we can help our bodies to get back into balance.