The skills of becoming relaxed when necessary and remaining relaxed whenever possible can be transformative, and can make a measurable difference in health. This is because living in a state of chronic stress--remaining physiologically stressed over long periods of time, without triggering your body's relaxation response--can impact your health in a variety of negative ways. Learning to become relaxed readily and easily can bring a healthier and more enjoyable life.
Fortunately, there are several simple ways to become relaxed quickly and easily. They each bring their own unique benefits, so it's good to know a variety of techniques that you can use to become relaxed in a pinch. Here are some of my top recommendations:
Breathing ExercisesBreathing exercises are a terrific way to become relaxed quickly and easily--they can be done by just about anyone, anywhere and at any time. Slowing your breathing, breathing from your diaphragm, and even using breathing visualization are ways to use breathing exercises to relax your body and your mind. Here's a simple breathing exercise to get you started.
MeditationMeditation is a very old, proven strategy for becoming and remaining more relaxed. Popular in the east for centuries, it's enjoyed a huge rise in popularity in the West in recent years as researchers have found proven benefits in scientific studies. (Read about the benefits of meditation here.) Meditation isn't difficult, but it does take practice. Fortunately, regular practice can help you to feel relaxed during and after each session and, over time, can actually help you to be less reactive to new stress you face. Here's a basic meditation to try.
PMRProgressive Muscle Relaxation, or PMR, is one of my oft-used methods of getting relaxed quickly. The technique involves tensing and relaxing muscles systematically from head to toe (or from toe to head), thereby releasing tension and ushering in the relaxation response. With practice, this technique allows for total-body relaxation in a matter of seconds. And it's easy! Here's more information on Progressive Muscle Relaxation to better acquaint you with this lesser-known but very effective method of becoming quickly relaxed.
VisualizationsBecause the body reacts physically to imagery created by the mind, visualizations are an effective form of getting relaxed, and are as simple and fun as daydreaming. There are many, many different visualizations you can try to get more relaxed and reverse your body's stress response. You can visualize yourself in a relaxing location, visualize a positive result from a stressing scenario, or, more simply, just visualize tension and stress leaving your body with each breath! Here's a nice breathing visualization to get you started.
Have A Good LaughLaughter is a wonderful, natural way to release tension in your body and get your mind in a better place so your stressors don't seem so...stressful. If you have the time, I heartily recommend seeing a nice, funny movie, or reading a funny book to get a little laughter into your day. But if you don't have the time in the schedule for that, simply maintaining a sense of humor throughout your regular day can help quite a bit in the way of keeping you relaxed. Read more about the benefits of laughter, and see these strategies for maintaining a sense of humor, and you'll have a great new tool for stress relief, if you don't use it already.
Change Your PerspectiveMuch of what stresses you comes not from your stressors/link] themselves, but from your response to them. More specifically, your interpretation of your stressors, as well as your approach to dealing with them, can make the events themselves feel much more (or less) stressful. Happily, you can choose different thoughts, even if you can't choose different life circumstances. And there are a few 'tricks' for gaining a better perspective for remaining relaxed under trying conditions: first, you can adopt the thinking style of optimists by interpreting certain facets of a situation in a way that brings hope and eliminates self-doubt. You can also adopt the view that you may have more power in a situation than you realize (called having an internal locus of control, which is also known to eliminate feelings of stress), and then looking for new solutions. Finally, be sure that you're not already sabotaging yourself with overly negative thinking, and read over these common distorted thinking patterns, or cognitive distortions--do any sound familiar? If so, you can become aware of them and eliminate this type of thinking.
Ongoing Practice Works Wonders!
Whatever strategies you use, practice them and use them often, and you can maintain a much more relaxed lifestyle. Your stress management efforts will be most effective if you continue to learn about stress and practice stress relief techniques regularly. These stress management resources can help you to find ongoing information and support to help you to manage stress in your life from now on.