Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Easy Ways to Relax and Combat Stress

Relaxation is important and being able to let go of the stress of everyday life and recharge is what can make the difference between striving and thriving! This is especially important as we head into the busiest time of year for most people - the Christmas season. If you're already feeling stressed out, it's particularly important for you to get a handle on that mental strain now before you feel completely overwhelmed and start looking for cave to hibernate in!

There are many different ways the body can relax and which one you choose will depend on the amount of time you have, what you are comfortable with and what you enjoy. Read on for some great relaxation methods.

1. Relax Your Muscles

One great way of relaxing the body is using progressive muscle relaxation. This is easy to do:

  • While sitting quietly and comfortably, close your eyes and slowly breathe in and out.
  • Bend your right hand back at the wrist, briefly hold it and relax.
  • Do the same with the left wrist.
  • Form fists with your hands, hold them and feel the tension spreading up towards the elbow before relaxing.
  • Bend both arms up at the elbows and raise your hands towards your shoulders, tightening the biceps.
  • Hold and then relax.
  • To relax the face, first raise your eyebrows as high as you can, hold and relax.
  • For the eyes, squeeze your eyelids shut, holding and then relaxing.
  • For the jaw, just bite down, hold and relax.
  • To relax the neck, bend your head forward, feeling the tension at the back of the neck and then relax.
  • Raise your shoulders, hold them, drop them and relax.
  • To relax the chest, you will need to take a deep breath and hold it while trying to touch your shoulder blades together by pulling your arms back.
  • To relax the stomach, just pull it in, hold and relax.
  • Relax the back by arching away from the chair and holding it for a bit before relaxing.
  • The next step is to place your feet flat on the floor and press down to feel tension, holding it and then relaxing.
  • For the thighs, raise first the right leg and hold it for a little before relaxing.
  • Do the same for the left.
  • To relax the feet, bend the toes up and then relax.
  • Provided you have stayed calm and still, your body will continue to relax and your mind will follow. Think of pleasant places and things so that your mind does not wander back to more mundane thoughts and worries.

2. Play Music

Music is actually one of the most common ways for people to relax and de-stress themselves. There are specific types of music that are geared towards relaxation but all types of music are capable of helping you to relax. By listening to music that you enjoy, the sound receptors trigger the brain to release dopamine, which is associated with elevated mood and pleasure.

3. Reduce Stimulation

Too much stimulation can actually cause stress to the body and make it difficult for it to relax. This could be caffeine from tea, coffee or soft drinks, loud noises, sudden movements and so on. Cutting these out of your lifestyle and replacing them with healthy alternatives such as softer sounds, slower movements, and healthier water, herbal tea, and juices can keep your body on a quieter, more even keel.

4. Breathe Deeply - Batty's fav!

Deep breathing is actually one of the most important things that we can do to help our bodies to relax. By focusing on your breathing, your mind automatically starts to quieten. Deep breathing also helps you to get more oxygen into your body and expel more waste products, so you start to feel more invigorated. The extra oxygen also helps to reduce stress and makes you feel better.

5. Meditate

Meditation is extremely beneficial to the body, with relaxation being just one of the benefits. There are different types of meditation to choose from but in general, meditation is about calming and taming the mind, so that you are no longer thinking about stresses, anxieties and worries. It is about quieting the mind and dissolving stress. Meditation can be done anywhere whenever you have a few spare moments.

6. Do Gentle Exercise

Exercise not only helps with your physical fitness, it can also help you to relax as well. For exercise to be beneficial for relaxing, you don’t need to go on a long run or do be vigorous. Gentle exercise such as walking, swimming or cycling will help to release the body’s feel good chemicals called endorphins, reducing stress and leaving you on a natural high.

7. Look at your Lifestyle

Your lifestyle can actually have a significant effect on how stressed you are. If you are always going out to your next appointment or obligation, only grabbing takeaways when you have a few spare moments, and so on, your body becomes run down and finds it harder to deal with stress. Try having a few nights to yourself a week, where you can sit down and not have to be anywhere or answer to anyone. If you can’t manage a whole night, try to fit in an hour or two just to yourself. Eating a healthy diet filled with fresh vegetables, fruits, balanced proteins, and healthy carbohydrates can also be of tremendous benefit, strengthening the body and supporting the mind.

8. Think Positively

It may sound simplistic but thinking positively can make a huge difference to how stressed you feel and how relaxed you are overall. Negative emotions and thoughts can cause stress to build up in the muscles and make you feel on edge mentally. Thinking that you can instead of you can’t makes a whole lot of difference. You will feel better able to cope with the pressures of everyday life and your mood will be a lot lighter and happier. Another advantage of positive thinking is that putting out good things in the universe will tend to net you good things in return.

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