Many people consider begging-out in front of the TV their form of stress management. But as stress management goes, the couch potato routine is not the best choice. There are relaxation techniques that work far better. Some can be used right away, in the midst of any stressful situation. Others can be used later to reduce the lingering effects of stress. When faced with the demands and responsibilities of life, illnesses, or stressful situations, try any of these relaxation techniques – in any order and in any combination – to both physical and mental health.
Relaxation Techniques that Can Be Used Right Away
1. Deep Breathing. This technique regulates the breathing and requires at least a minimal level of concentration on something other than the stressor. Deep breathing should be continued for several minutes until a feeling of being focused begins to manifest itself.
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This relaxation technique requires the person to concentrate on tensing and relaxing each muscle group starting from the head and working downward to the toes. It can be repeated as many times as necessary or desired.
3. Visualization. Visualization requires the formation of mental images that carry the person away to a peaceful location or situation that is calming to the mind and spirit. This can be performed for as long as needed and repeated as necessary. It allows one to become centered, focused and calm quickly.
4. Tokens of Relaxation. Keep tokens of relaxation around the home and work environment. These can be anything from seashells or small, smooth rocks that can be held in the hand or handeld in the pocket, to toys that can be played with from time to time (e.g. slinky, marbles, hand exercising ball), to visual (pictures, glassware), auditory (music), or smell (aromatherapy) items that relax the senses and calm the nerves because of their pleasant connections to or memories of places and people.
5. Allow Others to Have Their Own Opinions. Everyone has an opinion about what should be done in a given situation. Allow them to have their say – and thank them for their helpful information – and then do what needs to be done according to one’s own gut feelings and past experience. The other person feels heard and the person receiving the “help” has information to store away for future reference.
Relaxation Techniques that Can Be Used Later
1. Hypnosis. This relaxation technique usually requires another person to perform the hypnosis, however, there are some self-hypnosis techniques that are also quite helpful. It takes some time to perform and may require a location that is isolated and quiet.
2. Meditation. Meditation also takes some time to perform and works best in an quiet, peaceful, isolated location.
3. Massage. Some massage techniques can be performed on oneself – foot and leg massages, for instance. Usually it works best to visit a licensed massage therapist, or to exchange massages with a significant other. Helping each other relax through massage has the added benefit of bringing the two people closer together.
4. Tai Chi or Yoga. These controlled exercises work the muscles and improve both the circulation and the respiratory system. Moreover, because the person performing the exercises is focusing on the movements rather than the situations that caused the stress, the mind is also permitted to relax.
5. Drink Hot Tea. This takes a little time to sip because of the warm temperature. In addition, tea raises cortical levels. Cortical is a naturally calming hormone that produces a calming effect in the body and on the mind.
6. Love the One You’re With. There is more than one form of love: the romantic love shared with a significant other or partner, the love between siblings or between parent and child, the love between friends, and the love one feels for others in the world at large. Performing acts of love and kindness for those around us has a naturally calming effect and helps us feel good about ourselves.
7. Time Out. This relaxation technique could include any of the following: taking a nap (even a 5 minute nap is good), taking a 15 minute walk at lunch time, taking a day off, leaving work early once in a while, taking a vacation, taking a retreat (one day, a week, a month), or simply taking oneself out to dinner or to a matinee movie.
Stress Management Benefits
Relaxation techniques for stress management provide many benefits
– They lower the heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure.
– They increase blood flow to the muscles and vital organs.
– They reduce pain and muscle tension.
– They improve concentration, confidence, and coping skills.
– They reduce anger and frustration levels.
– They improve the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
As with any exercise, whether physical, mental, or spiritual, relaxation techniques take a little practice. These techniques will make practitioners more aware of their body’s reaction to stress as well as the situations that cause the stress to begin with. Once aware of these things, the relaxation techniques become more effective over time. The techniques may make the person a bit self-conscious or uncomfortable at first, but as the relaxation and stress relief improves, those sensations will pass.