You probably face multiple demands each day such as shouldering a huge workload, making ends meet, and taking care of your family. Add one or more chronic illnesses, and your stress can put you in the danger zone. When your life is constantly hectic, your fight-or-flight reaction is relentless. Long-term activation of your stress-response system and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can disrupt almost all of your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems including anxiety, depression, memory and concentration impairment, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep disturbances, and weight gain.
Making room for relaxation is vital. It isn’t just about peace of mind or enjoying a hobby. Relaxation is the key to good mental and physical health. Taking time to rest and chill out can help you enjoy a better quality of life, especially if you have medical conditions. Relaxation is invaluable for repairing the toll that stress and illness take on your mind and body. If your life is so overwhelming that you’ve forgotten how to unwind, the Mayo Clinic staff recommends various relaxation techniques to cope with stress related to health problems including anxiety, pain, heart disease, and cancer.
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Enjoy Many Benefits From Relaxing
Less stress-hormone activity
Improved concentration and mood
Reduced anger and frustration
Boosted confidence to handle problems
Increased blood flow to major muscles
Relief from muscle tension and chronic pain
Lower heart rate
Slower breathing rate
Decreased blood pressure
1. Experiment With Solo Relaxation Methods
These relaxation techniques involve increasing body awareness while refocusing your attention on something calming. Explore these simple approaches that you can do almost anywhere alone to de-stress your life and improve your health.
Progressive muscle relaxation: Tighten and then release each muscle group slowly to become more aware of physical sensations that differentiate muscle tension and relaxation. Begin by constricting and slackening the muscles in your toes and working your way up to your head progressively. Or start from the top and proceed downward. Tense for at least five seconds, relax for 30 seconds, and repeat.Visualization: Form mental images to take a visual journey to a peaceful, calming place or situation. Use as many senses as you can including sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. If you imagine relaxing at the beach, for instance, immerse yourself in the sound of crashing waves, the warmth of the sun on your body, and the refreshing scent of salt water. Head to a quiet spot, close your eyes, and get comfortable before practicing this guided imagery.
Autogenic relaxation: In a sitting and reclining posture, use both body awareness and visual imagery to reverse your body’s stress response and induce a deep state of relaxation. Repeat words or suggestions in your mind to unwind and reduce muscle tension. For example, imagine a peaceful setting and then focus on slowing your breathing and heart rate or feeling physical sensations such as relaxing each limb one at a time. When your body and mind are in harmony, you can recuperate from stress, anxiety, and physical exertion better.
Relaxed breathing: This technique involves deep, even-paced breathing, using your diaphragm muscle to expand your lungs. The purpose is to slow your breathing, take in more oxygen, and reduce the use of shoulder, neck, and upper chest muscles so you can breathe more efficiently. Focus all your attention on your breathing. Concentrate on feeling and listening as you inhale and exhale through your nostrils. If your mind wanders, hone in on your breathing again.
Transcendental meditation: For 20 minutes, twice a day, sit quietly with your eyes closed and silently repeat a mantra of your choice such as a word, sound, or phrase. Focus on the present moment. This simple, natural approach allows your mind to achieve inner peace while your body settles into a state of profound rest and relaxation without needing to use concentration or effort.
2. Encourage Success
Because relaxation techniques are skills, your ability to chill out will improve with practice. Be patient with yourself. Don’t let your training sessions become additional stressors. If one technique doesn’t work for you, try another until you find the best solution.
As you learn new relaxation techniques, you’ll become more aware of the physical sensations of stress including muscle tension. When you know how your stress response feels, you can make a conscious effort to intervene with a relaxation routine the moment your symptoms begin. This can prevent pressures from spiraling out of control.
To maximize the benefits, combine these relaxation techniques with other positive coping tools such as optimistic thinking, humor, problem-solving, prioritizing, exercise, adequate sleep, and reaching out to supportive family and friends.
3. Seek Outside Help
If your solo efforts don’t help you achieve the mind/body balance you desire, health care professionals including doctors, complementary and alternative medicine practitioners, and psychotherapists can teach you additional relaxation techniques. Other methods include: