Hi guys! As promised today’s post is on ways to reduce the symptoms of stress. It’s important to recognise the symptoms of stress early. Recognising the signs and symptoms of stress, will help you figure out ways of coping and save you from adopting unhealthy coping methods, such as drinking or smoking. If you are interested in this, check out my previous post on “Recognising Your Stress Symptoms”.
There are many things you can do to manage stress more effectively, such as learning how to relax, taking regular exercise and adopting good time-management techniques. Today’s post will be focusing on relaxation techniques. Practising relaxation techniques can reduce stress symptoms by:
- Slowing your heart rate
- Lowering blood pressure
- Slowing your breathing rate
- Reducing activity of stress hormones
- Increasing blood flow to major muscles
- Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
- Improving concentration and mood
- Lowering fatigue
- Reducing anger and frustration
- Boosting confidence to handle problems
Below I have included three common relaxation techniques.
1: Deep Breathing
It’s natural to take long, deep breaths, when relaxed. However, when you’re experiencing high stress, breathing becomes rapid and shallow. Deep breathing reverses that, and sends messages to the brain to begin calming the body. Practice will make your body respond more efficiently to deep breathing in the future. Below I have included an example:
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a mental count of four. Pay attention to the feeling of the air filling your lungs.
- Hold your breath for a count of 5 seconds. You don’t want to feel uncomfortable, but it should last quite a bit longer than an ordinary breath.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of 5-8 seconds (whichever you prefer), Pretend like you’re breathing through a straw to slow yourself down.
- Repeat the breathing process until you feel calm.
Think about some of your favourite and least favourite places. If you think about the place hard enough, you may begin to have feelings you associate with that location. Our brain has the ability to create emotional reactions based entirely off of our thoughts. The imagery technique uses this to its advantage.
Make sure you’re somewhere quiet without too much noise or distraction. You’ll need a few minutes to just spend quietly, in your mind. Think of a place that’s calming for you. Some examples are the beach, hiking on a mountain or relaxing at home with a friend.
Paint a picture of the calming place in your mind. Don’t just think of the place briefly, imagine every little detail. Go through each of your senses and imagine what you would experience in your relaxing place. Here’s an example using a beach:
Sight: The sun is high in the sky and you’re surrounded by white sand. There’s no one else around. The water is a greenish-blue and waves are calmly rolling in from the ocean.
Sound: You can hear the deep pounding and splashing of the waves. There are seagulls somewhere in the background.
Touch: The sun is warm on your back, but a breeze cools you down just enough. You can feel sand moving between your toes.
Taste: You have a glass of lemonade that’s sweet, tart, and refreshing.
Smell: You can smell the fresh ocean air, full of salt and calming aromas.
3: Progressive Muscle Relaxation
During stress, the tension in our muscles increases. This can lead to a feeling of stiffness, or even back and neck pain. Progressive muscle relaxation teaches us to become more aware of this tension so we can better identify and address stress. This technique prompts you to learn how to relax by comparing relaxed and tense states
Find a private and quiet location. You should sit or lie down somewhere comfortable. The idea of this technique is to intentionally tense each muscle, and then to release the tension. Let’s practice with your feet:
- Tense the muscles in your toes by curling them into your foot. Notice how it feels when your foot is tense. Hold the tension for 5 seconds.
- Release the tension from your toes. Let them relax. Notice how your fingers feel differently after you release the tension.
- Tense the muscles all throughout your calf. Hold it for 5 seconds. Notice how the feeling of tension in your leg feels.
- Release the tension from your calf, and notice how the feeling of relaxation differs. Follow this pattern of tensing and releasing tension all throughout your body.
After you finish with your feet and legs, move up through your arms, hands, neck, and head.
Today, try out some of these techniques and see which one works for you! Feel free to comment below if you had any requests. I will be posting about the benefits of exercise and time management techniques soon!
Niamh xx Psychotherapist