Our fast-paced life can push our minds and body to the limit, at the expense of our physical and mental well-being. You might be experiencing increasing muscle tension, aches, pains and frequent health complaints. Similarly, you might also feel emotionally exhausted, decreased concentration or creativity, anxiety, low mood and fatigue. The good news is this that you can achieve a sense of calmness and reduced tension anywhere- even at the comfort of your home with a wide variety of relaxation techniques.
Practising relaxation techniques can have many benefits such as,
- Relaxation exercises improve your overall physical health; lowers heart rate, blood pressure, improves digestion, maintains sugar levels, boosts blood flow to major muscles, reduces muscle tension and chronic pain.
- Relaxation exercises also improve your mental health; lowers fatigue, reduces anxiety, anger and frustrations, boosts confidence to handle problems, improves sleep quality, brings changes in appetite and overall energy levels.
Here are 7 different types of relaxation techniques for you to practice
Deep breathing relaxation exercises
“One way to break up any kind of tension is good deep breathing”- Byron Nelson
Deep breathing is a simple yet one of the most effective relaxation techniques. Slow, deep breathing can help people calm down if they’re experiencing anxiety, stress or panic. Deep breathing has shown to greatly reduce an individual’s cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and helps in combating stress. It is easy to learn and can be practised almost anywhere and at any time of the day. You can start practising deep breathing by taking out a few minutes from your regular schedule, preferably in a quiet place where you can sit comfortably, with your back straight. Bring your focus on your breathing. As you breathe in through your nose, your chest and abdomen expand and when you breathe out through your nose, your chest and abdomen shrink. Try to inhale enough so that your chest and abdomen rises and falls. Continue breathing in and out of your nose. You can also count slowly while you’re breathing; inhale on a count of four, hold your breath on a count of four and exhale on a count of four.
Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation or PMR is a two-step process in which you focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group in the body. This helps you focus on the difference between muscle tension and relaxation. You become more aware of physical sensations in your body. PMR is not only helpful for general relaxation but gives relief to various health conditions such as headache, anxiety, mood disorders and even cancer. You can start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and then progressively moving up to your neck and head. Tense your muscles for about five seconds and then relax for 20 seconds, and repeat!
Note: Consult with your doctor first if you have a history of muscle spasms, back problems, or other serious injuries that may be aggravated by tensing muscles.
Body scan meditation
Body scan meditation involves paying attention to different parts of your body and bodily sensations in a gradual sequence starting from your toes and then moving up to your head. It’s like PMR, but instead of tensing and relaxing your muscles, you simply focus on the way each part of your body feels, without labelling or judging the sensations as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Mindfulness meditation has gained its popularity in recent years not just because of efficiency but of its long-term effect in combating stress, anxiety, depression and other negative emotions. Mindfulness is a practice where you build in your awareness on a single repetitive action, such as your breathing; also, you can apply mindfulness in activities such as walking, eating or exercising. Being mindful in the present moment and non-judgmentally- awareness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and the surrounding environment. When you start practising, you are most likely to find your focus wandering off. Don’t get disheartened- the trick over the moment you acknowledge that it has wandered bring your attention back to the activity at hand.
Visualisation or guided imagery
Visualisation or guided imagery is a variation on traditional meditation techniques where you imagine a scene in which you feel at peace and able to let go of all your tension and anxiety. To apply visualisation or guided imagery, you can choose whatever setting is most calming to you and try to incorporate as many senses as you can such as, smell, sound and touch. You can practice visualisation on your own or using an app or audio recording to guide you through the imagery.
Physical exercises and yoga
It’s not unknown that people who exercise daily are less likely to experience stress and anxiety than those who don’t. This is simply because any form of physical exercises reduces the cortisol level (the stress hormone) in your body and releases a chemical called endorphins which helps in elevating your mood and acts as a natural pain reliever. Apart from this, physical activity or any form of exercise, such as yoga, jogging, brisk walking, cycling and even dancing improves your quality of sleep that is often affected by stress, overthinking and anxiety.
Music and art therapy
“Music can heal the wound that medicine cannot touch”
Music and art play a significant role in promoting relaxation. After a tiring day at work, use your headphones or noise-reducing in-ear buds to listen to some soothing music- set the volume at a comfortable level, neither too loud nor too quiet; relax and concentrate on listening to the music! It will not only promote relaxation of tense muscles but also enable you to easily release some of the tension that you have been carrying from a stressful day (or, week).
“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”- Pablo Picasso
You don’t really need to be an artist to utilise art to promote relaxation. Activities such as drawing, sketching, colouring mandalas, sculpting, photography are relaxing and rewarding hobbies that can lower your stress level and leave you feeling mentally clear and calm. Creating art provides a distraction, giving your brain a break from your usual thoughts.
Developing a habit takes time
Here are a few simple ways to an effective start:
- Set aside a specific schedule. Take out at least 20 minutes once or twice a day to practise relaxation.
- Make use of smartphone apps and other aids. Many people find smartphone apps or audio downloads as a useful tool in guiding them, establishing a regular routine, and keeping track of progress.
- Follow the 21/90 rule. It takes 21 days to build a habit, and 90 days to build a lifestyle.
- Expect ups and downs. If you skip a few days, don’t get discouraged. Just get started again and slowly build up momentum.
Learning the basics of different types of relaxation techniques is quite easy. However, it takes regular practice to truly harness the power of relieving stress. Try to practise for at least 20 minutes a day, although even just a few minutes can help. But the longer and the more often you practise, the greater the benefits and the more you can reduce stressors of your daily lives.
If you feel stressed, before giving up, for once, take the time out for yourself and seek professional help from therapists near you. Download the MFine app and consult top psychotherapists from your city.