6 Relaxation techniques to reduce stress and improve health

Relaxation techniques to reduce stress and improve healthChronic stress can cause serious health issues like heart attacks and it may even speed up aging, according to recent research.

How to reduce stress

Try these relaxation techniques to help reduce stress and improve your overall health.

1.  Breathing in Peace and Exhaling Stress:  Inhale through your nose to the count of seven.  Then, with lips puckered, exhale very slowly through your mouth to the count of 14. Concentrate on the long-sighing sound and feel tension dissolve.

2.  Diaphragmatic (Deep) Breathing helps to reverse the stressful breathing pattern.

  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose pushing your abdomen out as far as possible.  (Count to four)
  • Let your shoulders and neck muscles relax.
  • Begin to exhale slowly and comfortably
  • Focus on any awareness of relaxation (ocean)
  • Repeat steps 1 to 4, 5 times

3.  Mini Vacation: Think of a place in nature that represents relaxation to you.  It may be a place you have been before, or a place you would like to visit.  It may be by a body of water, or in a quiet meadow or forest or perhaps in the mountains.  Step into that experience, just like it is happening now.  See what you see.   Hear what you hear.  Feel what you feel.  Is there something you smell or taste?  Make all the colors brighter, closer, more clear..  Make all the sounds more pleasant. Enhance all the good feelings and sensations.  Stay there until you are ready to come back to this time and place. Bring the peaceful, pleasant feelings back with you.

4.  Thought Shifting:  Thoughts create feelings. Choose thoughts that bring you relief and make you feel better. Ask yourself: 

  • What could I appreciate right now? Look around you (a flower, a supportive person, a baby, your comfortable surroundings.
  • What is working in my life right now?
  • How else could I look at this, so I can feel better?
  • What music could I listen to that would lift my spirits?
  • What can I think of now that would make me smile, or laugh?

5.  Mental Relaxation or Meditation:  Take a few deep, relaxing breaths.  Allow all of your muscles to feel warm, loose, and relaxed.   Follow the path of your breath.  Think “in” on the in breath and “out” on the out breath.  When thoughts occur, and they will, just return to your focus on your breathing.  Let your thoughts slow down. Quiet your mind and body.  Give your mind a rest from thinking and mind chatter.

6. The Quick Calming Response can be used to offset a stress reaction.  Stress reactions produce feelings of being tense, irritated, anxious and angry; whereas a calming response produces relaxed, open-minded, calm and friendly reactions within the body.

  • When you begin to feel a stress response within your body, take a few seconds to turn on your “quick calming response” by saying to yourself:  “My mouth will smile, my eyes will sparkle, my mind will be alert, my body will be calm.”
  • Then take a slow easy deep breath and then slowly let your breath out allowing your body to relax as you exhale.
  • Allow a feeling of heaviness, like a wave of warmth, to flow throughout your body all the way down to your toes.
  • Then resume your normal activity.

Try a few of these techniques to see which works best for you. When you begin to practice them regularly, eventually they will become second nature to you and virtually automatic.  You will become in control of your body and let go of the stress response.

To learn more about managing stress and stress reduction techniques, attend our free Stress Management seminar on February 9th, 2012.  There, a Botsford Hospital nurse will explain coping and adaptation techniques for adults. Also discussed will be various stressors and circumstances of life such as aging, depression, general changes in health and well being.

What stress reduction techniques work for you? Share them with us in the comments below.

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