How to Relax

We all lead busy lives, and we all know we need to stress less, and relax more. 

The question is, how?

learning how to relax

If we don’t make an effort to relax and reduce the stress in our lives, we are setting the stage for a number of health issues, such as heart problems and high blood pressure. When we are stressed, all our muscles tense up – and then we wonder why we are plagued by headaches, tightness in the chest, or pain in our neck or back.

By learning how to relax, and making it part of our daily routine, we can not only reduce our stress levels, but will likely also see a positive effect on our:

  • anger and frustration levels;
  • physical health and wellbeing;
  • sleep and energy levels;
  • concentration and memory; and
  • mood and emotional state.

Common Ways of Relaxing

Yoga, art, meditation, music and massage are all common ways to relax.

However to experience the true benefits of relaxation, we need to learn how to relax – and make sure we do it regularly!

Here are some simple relaxation techniques, that you can incorporate into your everyday life:

Deep Breathing: Feeling stressed and anxious? Have you noticed that your breathing has become more rapid, and more shallow? The balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body is disrupted, leading to physical symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath and tingling in the hands and feet.

By practising deep breathing, you increase the supply of oxygen into the brain and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. This promotes a feeling of peace, a physical relaxation response in your body, and quietens your mind.

Try deep breathing, by first of all bringing your awareness to your breathing. Focus on breathing into the stomach. A way to check this is to place one hand on your stomach. As you breathe in, your hand should rise. Breathe in through your nose as you count to five, pause for a few seconds, and slowly breathe out through your mouth. Slow your breathing rate down and repeat for several minutes until you are feeling calm and relaxed.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR): Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a technique where you focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group in the body, one group at a time.

As you do this, you will gain an increased awareness of the difference between muscle tension and relaxation. For example, slowly tense the muscles in your feet as you breathe in, and then relax the muscles as you breathe out. Focus on the heaviness and softness of your muscles as you relax them. Move through each muscle group and do the same.

Guided Imagery/Visualisation: In this relaxation technique, you will need to find somewhere quiet to sit or lie down and close your eyes.

You then form mental images of a calming, peaceful scene. You take a mental, visual journey and focus on using as many of the senses as you can. For example, if you are in a rainforest you might focus on the different shades of green in the trees, the sounds of a babbling stream and the smell of pine needles.

Mindfulness: Being in the present moment and the awareness of the here-and-now has a tremendous calming effect. Thoughts and feelings are seen as transient events; they come and go like clouds floating in the sky. The five senses are used to fully bring your awareness to the present moment.

Once you know how to relax, it is simply a matter of practising – like any new skill, you will improve with practice. However if you find that you are still struggling to reduce stress and relax, it may help to talk with a professional.


Tegan Gonczar depression counsellingAuthor:
Tegan Gonczar, BA (Hons), Grad Dip Ed (Secondary).

Tegan Gonczar is a Brisbane psychologist with experience in providing psychological counselling to children, adolescents and adults; she has a passion for working with people of all ages, to help them overcome obstacles, learn effective ways of coping and lead happier and more fulfilling lives.

Bookings and Fees: To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Tegan Gonczar, try Online Booking – Loganholme or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129. 

References:

  • http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/relaxation-technique/art-20045368
  • Powell, T. (2009). The Mental Health Handbook: A Cognitive Behavioural Approach (3rd ed.). Speechmark Publishing Ltd., U.K.