The aim is to learn how to develop a relaxation response, as opposed to a stress response. When experiencing a stress response, the body triggers chemicals that prepares you to “fight or flee” in the interests of self preservation. Stress responses are perfectly normal in real threatening situations, but when constantly activated due to chronic stress, they can become physically damaging, cause illness, and sap your energy.
By learning and practicing relaxation techniques, you will discover how to bring your mind and body back into equilibrium by reducing harmful stress hormones, lowering your blood pressure, slowing your heart rate, and relaxing your muscles.
Stress experts suggest setting aside 10-20 minutes daily for relaxation practice. If you are experiencing a constant stress overload in your life, between 30 minutes and an hour a day of relaxation therapy is recommended.
Here are some stress-relieving relaxation techniques that can be particularly useful, especially when dealing with stress.
1. Deep breathing exercises
The essence of deep breathing relaxation is to breathe from the abdomen. Draw as much air into your lungs as possible. By drawing deep breaths from the diaphragm, as opposed to shallow breaths from the upper chest, you will inhale far more oxygen, making you feel less tense and anxious.
2. Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique in which you tense and relax different muscles in the body. Progressive muscle relaxation counteracts the muscular tension that usually accompanies stress. As your body relaxes, your mind will begin to relax.
Meditation is a proven stress reliever that will help reduce anxiety, depression, and negative thoughts. Meditation helps you focus on being in the present moment, as opposed to feeling anxious about the future or the past. Meditation also strengthens the emotions associated with joy and wellbeing, weakening feelings of negativity.
Visualization is a variation of traditional meditation. As a relaxation technique, visualization involves imagining a landscape in which you feel completely at peace, and able to let go of tension and anxiety. Choose a locale that you find peaceful and calming, for example, a tropical beach or a quiet clearing in a forest. Close your eyes and imagine your relaxing place. Let your problems drift away. Image the scene as vividly as possible, using all your senses – sights, sounds, smells, feelings. Visualization works best when you include as much sensory information as possible. For example, image a gentle fresh breeze on your face, the damp softness of moss underfoot, the sound of birds overhead, and branches swaying in the breeze.
Yoga is a first-rate stress relieving technique. Practiced together with deep breathing, the benefits of yoga offer a natural offset to stress, strengthening the relaxation response. Yoga techniques that emphasize slow, steady movements and mild stretching are best for relaxation.