Relaxation and Stress Relief — Tips and Ideas to Help You Unwind
Guest Post By Julia Barnard
Relaxation — what is it?
Relaxation is the opposite of stress. It helps reduce tension levels and reverse the symptoms associated with stress. We are also better able to cope with future stressful situations. It is well worth finding time each day to relax.
Why is it so important?
When we are relaxed, stress is reduced. Symptoms of stress disappear since it is very hard for our bodies to feel stressed and relaxed at the same time. This in itself calms us mentally. We no longer feel anxious, our thoughts have calmed and we are at ease once more.
Relaxation, stress relief and mood enhancers
Here are some ideas to help you relax and reduce stress. Remember you know yourself best, so do whatever suits you and makes you happy.
- Exercise. Experts emphasise the importance of exercise in our life. Research indicates that just 10 minutes of exercise is all that is needed to put people in a more positive mood. Exercise has been shown to enhance self-esteem and lower anxiety and depression.
- Attend a yoga class, or buy a DVD or book, which you can use at home.
- Try Tai Chi.
- Deep breathing. This is particularly helpful when faced with a potentially stressful situation. Breathe slowly in through your nose, filling your lungs as you do so, then release the air slowly out through your mouth.
- Think about a funny video. Research has shown that by just thinking about a funny video reduced stress hormones.
- Listen to a relaxation CD.
- Talk to someone — whether it is a friend, family member or counsellor.
- Get yourself a pet. A study in America had stockbrokers look after a pet. When they later encountered a situation that would normally cause stress, these stockbrokers’ blood pressure levels were half that of those who did not get to look after a pet.
- Have a massage.
- Have a bath. Use your favourite oils and for maximum relaxation light some candles.
- Read a book. This is such an easy way to escape the world for a while.
- Indulge in your favourite hobby. You could always try something new, that you know you will enjoy.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine.
- Don’t smoke.
- Take your annual leave. Give yourself regular breaks and try to slot a regular vacation into your schedule.
- Sleep well.
- Praise yourself. It’s easy to rely on others to praise our actions. However we get disappointed when this doesn’t happen. So to avoid disappointment, give yourself a pat on the back instead.
Specific relaxation strategies
These techniques are very effective in bringing about relaxation. At first, they may take a while to master, but once there, you’ll wonder how you ever coped without them.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Find a warm, comfortable room, free from interruption. Wear loose comfortable clothing. If you have a relaxation CD, use it, although it is not necessary. Follow these steps:
- Lie on your back or sit down in a comfortable position.
- Rest your arms at your sides, palms facing down.
- Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply.
- As you breathe, clench your hands into fists and squeeze them for 15 seconds. Focus on your fists only, feeling the tension in the muscles.
- Then let your hands relax. Feel the release of tension from the muscles.
- Continue in this way working through your body.
- You will want to tense and relax your face, shoulders, back, stomach, pelvis, legs, feet, and toes.
- Hold for 15 seconds and then relax your body for 30 seconds before moving on. As you relax, your body will feel like it is sinking into the ground.
- By the end your body will feel really heavy and relaxed. Lie still for a moment, enjoying this state of being.
This technique is useful if you have limited time.
- Find a space free from interruption.
- Begin by closing your eyes. Imagine yourself to be calm and relaxed.
- Breathe in slowly and calmly. As you breathe out, release all the tension within you.
- Imagine you are inhaling calm and exhaling stress, freeing it from your body.
- Continue this way until you feel your body and mind are relaxed.
Copyright Julia Barnard 2007
Julia Barnard is a professional counsellor living in Adelaide, Australia. She provides an online counselling service through her website http://www.makethechange.com.au. Julia also writes articles for the website aimed at enhancing well-being and promoting good mental health.