Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress On-the-Spot
If your hectic lifestyle has got you down, experts say relaxation techniques can bring you back into balance -- some in five minutes or less. Is it any wonder that you can't find a minute for relaxation? In fact, if you're like most women, you may have even forgotten how to relax.
Here are some on-the-spot techniques you can use -- any time and almost anywhere -- to reduce the tension in your life.
If you're thinking meditation means twisting your body into an uncomfortable position and uttering "oohs" and "omms" for an hour, guess again. Any repetitive action can be a source of meditation. This includes walking, swimming, painting, gardening -- any activity that helps keep your attention calmly in the present moment.
When you catch yourself thinking about your job, your relationship or your lifelong to-do list, experts say to simply let the thought escape, and bring your mind back the repetition of the activity. Try it for just 5 to 10 minutes a day and watch stress levels drop.
Picture Yourself Relaxed
Is your mind too talkative to meditate? Try creating a peaceful visualization, or "dreamscape." To start, simply visualize anything that keeps your thoughts away from current tensions. It could be a favorite vacation spot, a Caribbean island, sailing in the Atlantic -- or something "touchable," like the feel of your favorite silk robe or cozy sweater.
The idea is to take your mind off your stress, and replace it with an image that evokes a sense of calm. The more realistic your daydream -- in terms of colors, sights, sounds; even touch and feel -- the more relaxation you'll experience.
Feeling stressed evokes tense, shallow breathing, while calm is associated with relaxed breathing. So to turn tension into relaxation, it will change the way you breathe.
Try this: Let out a big sigh, dropping your chest, and exhaling through gently pursed lips. Now imagine your low belly, or center, as a deep, powerful place. Feel your breath coming and going as your mind stays focused there. Inhale, feeling your entire belly, sides and lower back expand. Exhale, sighing again as you drop your chest and feeling your belly, back and sides’ contract. Repeat 10 times, relaxing more fully each time.
Be Conscious- In the present moment.
“Mindfulness is the here-and-now approach to living that makes daily life richer and more meaningful,” the NOW is the foundation for the rest of your life.
It’s approaching life like a child, without passing judgment on what occurs. Mindfulness means focusing on one activity at a time, so forget multi-tasking! Staying in the present-tense can help promote relaxation and provide a buffer against anxiety and depression.
Practice it by focusing on your immediate surroundings. If you're outdoors, enjoy the shape and colors of flowers, hear a bird’s call or consider a tree. In the mall, look at the details of a dress in the window, examine a piece of jewelry and focus on how it's made, or window-shop for furniture, checking out every detail of pattern and style. As long as you can keep your mind focused on something in the present, stress will take a back seat.
Drink Hot Tea
If you’re a coffee-guzzler, consider going green. Coffee raises levels of the notorious stress hormone, cortisol, while green tea offers health and beauty.
Chamomile tea is a traditional favorite for calming the mind and reducing stress. And black tea may be a stress-fighter, too, researchers from University College London report. Participants who drank regular black tea displayed lower levels of cortisol, and reported feeling calmer during six weeks of stressful situations than those who drank a placebo with the same amount of caffeine.
Show Some Love
Induce the relaxation response by cuddling your pet, giving an unexpected hug to a friend or family member, snuggling with your spouse, or talking to a friend about the good things in your lives. When you do, you'll be reducing your stress levels. Studies have also shown that physical contact -- like petting your dog or cat -- may actually help lower blood pressure and decrease stress hormones.
When your muscles are tense and you’ve no time to visit a pro, try these simple self-massage techniques;
• Place both hands on your shoulders and neck.
• Squeeze with your fingers and palms.
• Rub vigorously, keeping shoulders relaxed.
• Wrap one hand around the other forearm.
• Squeeze the muscles with thumb and fingers.
• Move up and down from your elbow to fingertips and back again.
• Repeat with other arm.
Adults need time-outs, too. So when you sense your temper is about to erupt, I suggest finding a place to sit or lie down and put the stressful situation on hold. Take a few deep breaths and concentrate on releasing tension and calming your heartbeat. Quiet your mind and remember: Time is always on your side, so relax. The stress can wait. Action is much more powerful when it comes from presence.
Take an Attitude Break
Thirty seconds is enough time to shift your heart’s rhythm from stressed to relax? The way to do that: Engage your heart and your mind in positive thinking. Start by envisioning anything that triggers a positive feeling -- a vision of your child or spouse, the image of your pet, a memento from a vacation -- whatever it is, conjuring up the thought will help slow breathing, relax tense muscles and put a smile on your face. Creating a positive emotional attitude can also calm and steady your heart rhythm, contributing to feelings of relaxation and peace.
And most important, always be grateful! Count your blessing in your life. Focus on what is good.
Christine Spencer, Certified Life /Success Coach