Stress is a part of everyday life. A little bit of it can keep you active and alert, helping you perform better, but long term stress can have a detrimental effect on your health. Although you cannot control all the stressors in your life, you can manage them effectively by changing the way you respond to them. Effective stress management techniques usually involve relaxation of the body and conditioning of the mind. Here are some powerful relaxation techniques you can follow to calm your body and reduce your general anxiety.
How to Relieve Stress Using Relaxation Techniques
1. Deep Breathing
Breathing exercises are highly effective relaxation techniques for reducing stress, anxiety, muscle tension, and panic attacks. They can be learned in a matter of minutes and in some cases the benefits are instantaneous. Regularly practicing these exercises will help you cope with stress more effectively in the long run.
Before you begin any breathing exercise, first observe how you normally breathe. Put your right hand on your abdomen and your left hand on your chest. Notice which hand moves when you breathe normally. If your right hand moves less than you left hand, you are shallow breathing.
Now practice to breathe diaphragmatically. Learning to breathe diaphragmatically is an easy stress relief exercise that you can use when you feel the symptoms of stress coming on.
- Lie on your back, place one hand on the abdomen and the other one on the chest.
- Now exhale and inhale.
- You will notice that your abdomen now rises and falls with each breath.
- Alternately, exhale forcefully to push all the air out of your lungs.
- Press your hand on your abdomen while you exhale and then inhale deeply. The hand on your abdomen will rise back up.
- Rinse and repeat this exercise until you are comfortable with it.
Practice this breathing for 10-15 minutes at a time, at least twice a day. Gradually you can extend this to 20 minutes and can deepen your breath even more. Take long slow breaths, focus on the sound of your breathing and you’ll find yourself becoming more and more relaxed.
2. Muscle Relaxation
Your body becomes aware of your stress long before your conscious mind does because it is usually focused on the outside world. Muscle relaxation techniques help your mind pay attention to the inner signs in your body and is one of the ways to relieve stress before it takes control of you. To do this:
- First focus on your outside environment. Look around you and tell yourself that you are aware of the computer on your desk, painting on the wall, carpet on the floor and so on.
- Once you become aware of your external environment, turn your attention to your body and focus on the sensations you feel. You may feel warm, cramps in your legs, pressure on your butt, tension in your neck and so on.
- Alternate between these two awareness levels whenever you find some free time on your hands.
- When you start to become more aware of your inner self, close your eyes and focus on the various parts of your body starting from the legs. When you discover a tense area, stress on it some more, so you become aware of the muscles that are hurting.
- Now lie on your back on the floor or on the bed and get comfortable. Pull your feel up and rest it flat on the floor. Close your eyes, breathe in and out, focus on your breathing and on other parts of your body. You will start to become aware of parts of your body that are causing discomfort. Focus on this discomfort and you will start to notice a change in the tension. Continue doing this for 5 to 10 minutes and let your body take over.
3. Progressive Relaxation
Progressive relaxation techniques help in identifying and providing stress relief for muscles that are chronically tense. It can be done lying down or sitting in a chair.
- Go to a quite place where you wont be disturbed. Sit comfortably and take slow, deep breaths.
- As your body relaxes, clench your fists as tightly as you can and bend them at the wrist. Feel the tension in your fists and forearms.
- Now relax and feel the looseness in your forearms. Don’t relax gradually. Do it at once so your arms feel limp.
- Repeat this exercise one more time.
- Now bend your elbows and tighten your biceps. Tense them as hard as you can and feel the tautness.
- Then let your hands drop and notice the feel the change of tension.
- Continue to do this for the rest of the body. You can tense and relax your ankles, calves, chest, buttocks, thighs, stomach and so on.
- Continue to breathe deeply and slowly until your entire body is comfortably loose and relaxed.
- Repeat each procedure at least once.
This stress relief technique may initially take a few weeks to master, but once you do so, you can use a shorter version to get quicker relief.
The mind has a hard time focusing on one thought. There is always a myriad of thoughts flowing in and out. That’s where meditation comes into play. This relaxation technique attempts to focus your attention on one thought at a time. Its hard to master but the benefits are enormous. There are many different types of meditation. Try one that works best for you.
- Mantra meditation: Think of a word you want to focus on. Sit in a comfortable posture and take deep breaths. Chant the mantra to yourself. When your thought strays, note it and then bring your attention back to the word again.
- Sitting meditation: In this relaxation technique you focus on the gentle rise and fall of your breath. When your mind wanders, you being the attention back to the breathing.
- Breath count meditation: This relaxation technique involves counting the rhythm of your breathing as you sit in a relaxed position.
As you meditate, you may feel a myriad of emotions such as anger, resentment, pain, or fear. Allow yourself to experience the emotions and let it go. Then get back to the object of your focus. Over time, you will be able to turn off the noise and focus on one thought and start living in the present.