In a world full of stressors, it can be hard to be calm at any given time. By taking some time out to relax, it allows your body to be physically restored and your mind mentally alert. Practicing one or more accessible relaxation techniques can give us improved control over our actions and responses.
If you have dealt with long-term stress, it is possible your body is vulnerable to future stressors. Progressive muscle relaxation, visual imagery, deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, yoga and tai chi. One method is not necessarily better than another and there is no one-size fits all solution. It will take some while to explore what relaxation technique works for you, so don’t be afraid if one doesn’t work for you.
You can use relaxation techniques as regularly as you need them. We will go through some below. Make some time in your day to try some out, don’t think of it as a hard task needing completion, but rather, time for yourself. You can use these exercises when you’re feeling stressed, busy or worried.
To begin, find somewhere quiet and comfortable where you won’t be interrupted, if possible and make sure your surroundings are the right temperature – it can be hard to relax if you’re too hot or cold.
For your body
When you’re stressed, your body may be tight and tense. This exercise helps you notice tension in your body and relax your muscles.
- Lie down or sit with your back straight and your feet on the floor. Close your eyes or focus on a spot in the distance. Start by clenching your toes as much as you can for a few seconds then releasing them. Notice the difference between the two feelings.
- Match this to your breathing. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to keep your shoulders down and relaxed, and place your hand on your stomach – it should rise as you breathe in and fall as you breathe out. Count as you breathe – start by counting to 4 as you breathe in, 4 as you breathe out, then work out what’s comfortable for you.
- Tense your muscles as you take a deep breath in, and relax as you breathe out. Move up your body, clenching and relaxing each muscle. Take time to notice any parts of your body that feel tense, tight or tired.
- You can repeat if you still feel tense. Take a moment to relax, then slowly and gently begin to move. When you feel ready, you can stand up slowly.
Learning to breathe more deeply can make you feel a lot calmer and increase your sense of wellbeing. Alternatively – instead of tensing your muscles, try placing something warm on each part of your body in turn.
Colour, creativity and movement can help you feel relaxed by distracting you from worrying thoughts, giving you an outlet and focus for your emotions and stimulating your senses. Making art is an amazing outlet to let go of unwanted energy.
It’s easy to begin – make sure you are sitting comfortably with your feet firmly on the floor, your back straight and your shoulders relaxed.
- Take your paper and crayon, and draw a circle that fills most of the page – don’t worry if it’s a bit wonky.
- Now keep drawing. You could keep going over the circle, or fill it with a pattern, but try not to let your crayon leave the page. Don’t worry about creating a finished picture, just keep going.
- Take time to focus on what you’re drawing. Focusing on these sensations can help you quieten your mind, like meditation.
- Once you have done this for a few minutes, try using a different colour or pattern.
Alternatively – if you’re focusing too much on getting the pattern right, try using your other hand. If you find it hard to get started, try using a colouring book.
Relaxation doesn’t have to take up lots of your time – just stepping away from something stressful for a few minutes or taking time away from your normal routines and thoughts can give you enough space and distance to feel calmer. Listen to some music, it can relax you, connect you to your emotions and distract you from worrying thoughts and even if you can’t physically get away, your imagination can transport you to somewhere you feel calm. Everyone relaxes in different ways, don’t be afraid to find what suits you best.
For more information visit Mind UK.