Our greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought above the other. ~Williams James
These days, we are all busy. Our days are filled with endless to do lists, both at work and at home. Being so busy, we tend to fall into the mindset that undertaking the next thing on our to-do list takes precedence over relaxing.
But it’s harder to take care of all the things we HAVE to do or for connecting with important people in our lives — if we don’t first take care of ourselves. When we take time out to relax and unwind, we will have more energy, patience and a better outlook to tackle everything we need to do.
Below are a few relaxation techniques that can help reduce stress, increase focus and calm our bodies and minds.
Focusing our awareness on our breath is an exceptional way in which to calm our minds and emotions, allowing us to relax. Our breathing frequently reflects our emotions. When we are stressed, angry or anxious, we tend to do shallow breathing, which perpetuates these emotional states. By bringing awareness to and altering our breathing, we can shift both our attention and mood.
2. Guided Imagery
Our imaginations can be an incredibly powerful source in relieving both stress and pain. Since our brains often can’t tell if we are imagining something versus actually experiencing it, using guided imagery can help us:
- Sleep better
- Diminish panic, anxiety and fear
- Help us manage chronic conditions
- Speed healing
- Reduce pain and the need for pain medications
- Change bad habits and maintain new, healthy ones
Meditation, even a few minutes a day, can help calm and center us, preparing us for the day ahead. It is also a great way to unwind and relax in the evening, putting us in a better mood. YouTube is a great resource for both guided imagery and meditation videos.
4. Practice Muscle Relaxation
Most of us carry stress in our muscles. This tension in our shoulders, neck and other areas begin to feel normal, especially when we aren’t aware we are holding stress there. Practicing muscle relaxation helps us differentiate between how it feels when our muscles are tense versus when they are in a relaxed state. Muscle relaxation techniques work on the concept that what relaxes our muscles also helps relax our minds.
5. Tai Chi and Yoga
Tai chi and yoga are traditional exercises that combine movement and meditation. They are ideal for promoting relaxation, improved posture, balance, coordination, and flexibility. They also provide a boost to our health and quality of life. All of these equate to allowing us to better handle stress.
6. Go Outside
Much of our lives are spent indoors: in offices, homes, cars, classrooms. When we are stressed, spending time in nature can provide a calming influence. Whether that means taking a walk during our lunch hour, drinking our coffee or tea in our backyard, taking the dog for a walk around the block or going for a hike on the weekend, getting outside is a great way to minimize stress. It is also the perfect opportunity to practice our deep breathing and even squeeze in 5 minutes of mindful meditation.
May your day be filled with gratitude and good things.