July 28, 2010
When you start to feel stressed about all the things you need to do in your day, you might think you need to work faster or do more than one thing at a time. In fact, taking a break may be the best thing you can do. Not only does a break help you think more clearly, but it can also be important to your health. Most of us would be much better off if we made relaxing a regular part of our day. Like eating right and exercising, relaxation is key to a healthy life.
Relaxation can reduce the wear and tear of stress on your body and your mind. When you are under stress, your body has what is called a fight or flight reaction, which speeds up your pulse and your breathing and increases muscle tension and the work of several glands. This can help you react well to a true emergency. But when your life is stressful on a daily basis, and you don't take time to relax, your body tends to stay in this high-alert mode. This can be both damaging and tiring. For your mental and physical health, it is important to learn to manage stress in a healthful way.
You can take simple steps throughout your day to help you turn off the fight or flight state. Practicing them can:
Most of us have never learned how to relax, especially in the middle of a busy day. But when you notice your heart is beating faster or your shoulders are so tight they're halfway up to your ears, it's time to try a relaxation technique. Here are a few you can practice wherever you are.
You may have heard people joke about going to their happy place, but visualization can help you reduce your stress level. All you have to do is close your eyes and take the time to imagine a place where you feel happy and at ease. The more detailed the image in your mind, the better it will work for you. So if you think about being at the beach, imagine the sound of the surf, the smell of the salty air, the feel of the sand under your feet and the sun on your body. Think about someone you like to be with. If you let yourself get into the image in your mind, you'll find your body relaxing.
This technique involves tensing and relaxing groups of muscles in your body, starting with your toes and going all the way up to your head and neck. Tense each muscle group'for about five seconds and then relax them for 30 seconds. Feel the difference between the tension and the relaxation. Then, move to the next muscle group. For a quick break, you can tense all your muscles for about 10 seconds and then let go all at once and feel the tension flow out.
Breathing deeply is one of the best ways to lower stress. It brings more oxygen to your brain and body cells. It sends a message to your brain to calm down, and your brain sends that message to the rest of your body. You might expect correct breathing to come naturally. But most people don't know it means allowing your abdomen to relax and expand as you inhale. That gives your lungs room to fill up with the relaxing breath.
These are three powerful relaxation techniques you can use no matter where you are. But don't forget to work other ways to relax into your life. Some good ideas include exercising, getting a massage, meditating, doing yoga, listening to music, taking a walk, or calling a friend.
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