“We need time to defuse, to contemplate. Just as in sleep our brains relax and give us dreams, so at some time in the day we need to disconnect, reconnect, and look around us”
– Laurie Colwin
Google’s dictionary will tell you that the definition of relaxation is: the state of being free from tension and anxiety.
Relaxation is allowing your mind and body to rest. Ask yourself this… when was the last time you just paused and attempted to relax your body and mind…?
I am not talking about laying on the couch watching Netflix, I am not talking about sitting on your phones scrolling through Facebook. I am talking about actually being able to lower the level of tension, stress, anxiety or becoming overwhelmed that we all experience.
Relaxation comes in many forms, some techniques can take very little time and others are a little more complex and time consuming. Practising relaxation is an important part of self-care. Read on and you will learn about the benefits and find a list of easy ways you can relax.
Learning to recognise when our bodies are holding tension, when our minds seem overwhelmed or when the stress is building is an important step in learning how to REALLY relax. You can do a lot of these techniques daily to increase your overall feeling of relaxation. You should also learn to identify when you are feeling tense or stressed so you can use some of these skills to manage the situation better.
Why should we practice relaxation?
There are so many benefits to being able to really relax both your mind and your body, to keep it simple here are some positive effects relaxation can have to you and your life:
- releases muscle tension and pain
- lowers blood pressure
- slows heart rate
- lowers fatigue
- improves sleep quality
- Improves concentration
- Boosts mood
- Helps you to be more productive
- Reduces stress hormones
These are just some of the benefits that relaxation can have with practice!
How do you relax?
Below are some relaxation techniques that you can begin to practice, I will add some links to some YouTube videos to give some extra guidance. I will add some other ideas that are simple and easy to do, so the next time you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, you can take a moment to relax yourself. These techniques are great for at work or at home, I quite often find myself doing a few of these while hiding in the bathroom from my kids!
Visualisation – the easiest way I have found to practice visualisation is by using a guided recording or video. There are so many options out there for computers, iPhone, iPod etc. An important part of visualisation is to try to include as many senses as you can. So as you think about a place or are being guided, try to visualise the image but also, the touch, the smell and the sounds that you might hear.
Here is a link to a YouTube video to give you a good idea of visualisation and to guide you through.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation – this is a favourite of mine and can be done anywhere, anytime and as quickly or as slowly as you like. Again I prefer a guided technique as it helps me stay on track and I feel that thinking about it less makes the experience more enjoyable.
The idea is that you start at the head or the toes and work your way through every area of the body, pause at each area, tense the muscles for a few seconds, then relax them. You repeat this until you have completed every area of the body. This helps to release tension in your muscles, makes your body relaxed and can even reduce pain. It also means you are giving your mind a break and by ensuring you are breathing deeply during this exercise you should feel a lot better.
Here is a little 5 minute Progressive Muscle Relaxation Guided Meditation.
Autogenic Relaxation – this relaxation technique is supposed to come from within your own mind. So you would picture yourself in a calm place that makes you feel relaxed, while visualising this place you are breathing deeply and trying to relax your body. Like visualisation you should try and include all the senses. I personally struggled with this one, having to think about all that made my mind feel even more busy. Give it a go though because like most things, one size doesn’t fit all.
Deep Breathing/ breathing techniques – there are many ways to practice deep breathing and a lot of different techniques. There are too many to list them all so here are a few different techniques that I have tried personally and really love plus a quick explanation on how to do them:
- Equal Breathing: breathing in for 4 seconds and out for 4 seconds.
- Abdominal Breathing: place a hand on your chest and one on your stomach, you want to breathe deeply through the belly not the chest. Aim for 6-10 breaths per minute.
- Attitude Breathing: the way I use this particular technique is to choose a feeling that I am experiencing, lets say stress and tension, then I identify the opposite of that feeling, so calm and relaxed. On the inhale I repeat in my head “I breathe in calm and relaxation” and on the exhale “I breathe out stress and tension”. This can be used for any emotion or state of feeling you may have.
- Lengthened Breath: breathing in for 3 seconds and breathing out for 6. You can increase these amounts if it feels good to you. Just ensure the out breath is longer than the in.
Other Methods for Relaxing:
I also wanted to include some other ways to take a break, relax and do something for yourself.
- Tai Chi
- Do something you enjoy
- Take a nice relaxing bath
- Have a hot shower
- Use stress balls
- Get some sunshine and fresh air
Get to it!
Learning to relax properly will no doubt improve your life. You should now have a better understanding of relaxation, what it means, how it works and some examples. Remember that it doesn’t matter how you choose to relax, just being able to recognise when you are stressed and taking action in that moment will benefit you. I would also suggest implementing one or two relaxation activities into your daily routine to help you cope better with lifes stresses and be a calmer person.
I started with a quote about relaxation and I would like to end with a couple that really resonate with me…
“Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax”.
– Mark Black
“The mind should be allowed some relaxation, that way it may return to its work all the better for the rest”.