Relax. Just take a deep breath. Clear your mind of all negativity — let go of any stress. There, now don’t you feel better? If only relaxing were as simple as following these words. As most of us know however, relaxing is often much easier said than done.
It’s no secret we live in an increasingly stressful world and being able to relax often seems like a pipe dream. But the truth is, relaxing — truly relaxing your mind and your body, is achievable.
We’ve all heard the stress-reduction remedy of “take a deep breath, hold it for a moment, they exhale deeply.” Breathing exercises do work, but there are also other effective techniques that can take relaxing beyond “take a deep breath.”
Being relaxed physically and mentally can help ease stress, relieve anxiety, cure sleeplessness and to some degree, perhaps even help with melancholia.
There are many different ways to relax and these techniques may help to calm you down and make you feel more at peace, so try to find the one(s) that work best for you:
Relaxing the mind
- Stare up at the ceiling and count backwards from 60. Some experts maintain that gazing upward stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to lowers blood pressure and slows the pace of breathing.
- Use your imagination. Ever imagine yourself floating on a big, fluffy white cloud, staring up into the heavens? Using guided imagery is an effective mediation that enables you to daydream, but with purpose — lying on that big cloud, imagine what you see, hear, smell — guide those images to soothing, peaceful images.
- Take slow, deep breaths. Breathing exercises do work so when you try the “take a deep breath” technique, consciously calm yourself and picture something that brings you joy, while at the same time, relaxing your body. Read more here.
- Soak in a warm bath. We shouldn’t under-estimate the value of a nice, long soak in a warm tub. These days, many people turn their bathroom into a mini-spa, soaking in the bath with scented soap and playing soothing music — works like a charm for many.
- Listen to soothing music. When you need to unwind, soft, soothing music usually helps. Avoid loud music — too loud and heavy and it will do anything but relax you.
- Practice mindful meditation. Mindful meditation means focusing your attention on the present — the things that are happening now. What do you hear at the moment? Is your breathing slow or fast? Is your mind trying to race to events in the past or the future? With mindful mediation, its not necessarily about trying to change anything, but instead, should be used to become acutely aware of how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking at the very moment.
- Write it out. Thought journals are very therapeutic, so consider keeping a journal of your feelings. You can also keep a ‘worry notebook,’ in which your write out what is worrying you and why, and then leave it there — once you’ve written it down, leave it and go back to it when you’re more relaxed. Sometimes you find that after a day what was worrying you, wasn’t worth all the stress.
- Get rid of junk. Junk = stress for a lot of people. Cleaning your house can be therapeutic because you can see the results — a de-cluttered. Having a comfortable living space is important to most people, so if you need to blow off steam, consider a de-clutter project or some re-arranging of furniture and knick-knacks to give your living space a fresh feel.
- Try ASMR.
Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a term used for an experience characterized by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine. It has been compared with auditory-tactile synesthesia. ASMR signifies the subjective experience of “low-grade euphoria” characterized by “a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin”. It is most commonly triggered by specific acoustic, visual and digital media stimuli, and less commonly by intentional attentional control.
Certain voices and sounds automatically relax me and I’ve found some great ASMR ‘voices’ on Youtube — just listening to them lulls me into a complete state of relaxation. Check it out!
Relaxing the body
- Try yoga. You can either learn how to do it at home, or take a yoga class.
- Give progressive muscle relaxation a try. This involves tensing and relaxing each muscle group — as you release the tension by relaxing the particular muscle group, you feel instant relief. It also helps you to get to sleep easier.
- Take a walk in the park or woods or engage in some other form of physical activity. If going to the gym is your thing, do it. If it’s a swim, head out to the pool or lake.
- Get a massage. Not everyone has the time to go and get a professional massage, so if you don’t, get a close friend or family member to give you a nice, long back rub.
- Avoid alcohol. People believe that a stiff drink will relax them – and to a degree, it may. But it can also make you tired and even a bit depressed the next day (alcohol is a depressant). So, how about a warm glass of milk, or herbal tea?
True relaxation means calming the mind and/or body. In this hectic world, finding ways and time to relax is essential. As always, if stress is too much for us, we should speak to our Doctor or seek the help of another qualified professional.