Have you ever been told to, “just relax?” And have you ever realized just how hard to simply let go and relax really is? As easy as it sounds, learning to calm and relax your body and mind can actually be quite difficult to do.
All of us know stress is a part of life and life can, at times, be very stressful. From worries about health, safety, or job security, to concerns about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and when life will return to normal, each of us have likely felt the burden of too much stress and too little downtime.
Believe it or not, our mind is one of the hardest parts of our being to dial down to a state of relaxation. When the wheels in your mind are constantly turning, obsessing over worries and stress, finding ways to relax seems almost impossible. But this is when learning to relax is absolutely necessary. This is when it’s time to make a schedule in relaxation into each day treating it as a necessity and not a luxury.
Unfortunately, our culture emphasizes being busy. Many of us feel the constant pressure to be doing something at all times. Constant busyness, however, only ramps up our go-go lifestyle while making downtime seems uncomfortable and undesirable. But, making time for relaxation is what we need the most. In fact, making time for relaxation should be on the same priority level as adequate sleep, brushing your teeth before bedtime, or getting in daily exercise.
How can we break the cycle of a mind that won’t shut off? How do we learn to embrace downtime? When do we realize that relaxation helps us function at our best helping ease stress, anxiety, depression, and sleep problems?
That’s why learning to make relaxation an everyday part of your day is necessary. Keep in mind that learning to relax doesn’t happen overnight – real stress relief requires regular attention and practice.
Here are several ways getting you started on mastering the art of relaxation, making it a reality for you:
Relax the mind
This is the first place to start. When you control your mind, you control your thoughts and ultimately, relaxation. Here are suggestions on how to get started:
- Take slow, deep breaths
- Soak in a warm bath
- Listen to soothing music
- Practice mindful meditation. The goal is to focus your attention on things that are happening right now in the presence. Examples might include listening to your body as you breathe – is it slow, fast, deep, or shallow? Or if outside, focus on sounds around you – birds singing, traffic, children playing, a water fountain, or dogs barking.
- Keeping a journal of your thoughts and feelings or whatever you want to write about can be relaxing
- Use guided imagery. Imagine yourself in a certain setting that helps you keep calm and relaxed.
- Take a social media break each day. Take at least 1 hour a day, to not check your email, your phone, your tablet, any social media platforms, whatever that drains you of energy. Learn to relax without technology. By removing yourself from electronic devices throughout the day, you’re better able to focus on the here and now without feeling edgy or apprehensive.
Relax the body
Our body expresses pent-up stress in many ways – aches, pain, tension across the shoulders, neck, or back; headaches, frequent illnesses like colds, or feeling overly anxious. Try these suggestions to relax your body releasing the stress:
- Go outdoors. Simply being in nature is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to reduce stress. Eat lunch outdoors; take your meeting or a phone call on a walk. Plant a garden, hike, take a nature trail walk. Simply be yourself in nature, enjoying everything it has to offer, especially relaxation.
- Every day take stretch breaks or practice yoga.
- Try progressive muscle relaxation. This involves tensing a group of muscles, such as your arms, as you breathe in, and then you relax these muscles as you breathe out. It helps to start either at your feet or head and work progressively and slowly throughout the whole body helping it to physically relax.
- Get a massage or have someone give you a back rub
- Drink warm herbal tea