Practicing a few simple relaxation techniques can help ease stress, anxiety, and even chronic pain. In our busy everyday lives, it may be difficult to make relaxation a priority; however, in just a few minutes, you can:
- Lower your blood pressure
- Reduce your heart rate
- Increase blood flow
- Decrease muscle tension
- Improve concentration
- Reduce frustration
- Increase your confidence
When using breathing techniques to relax, it is important that you always use “belly breathing.” That is, when you fill your lungs with air, be sure that you are filling your belly with air, rather than your chest. This allows for more natural and relaxing breathing. In order to be sure you are belly breathing, it may help to lie on your back and watch your stomach rise and fall as if you are filling a balloon in your belly. Also, if seated or standing, you may try putting your hands behind your head. This immobilizes your chest, which forces to you belly breathe. 4-7-8 is a simple breathing technique that can promote focus and relaxation. To use this technique, simply inhale for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, and then exhale your breath for 8 counts. Some individuals are uncomfortable holding their breath as in the 4-7-8 breathing technique. If this is the case for you, you may achieve the same effect by simply inhaling and exhaling slowly while focusing on your breath.
Progressive relaxation is a technique in which you flex and then relax each part of your body. For this exercise, lie on the floor and flex each part of your body from your feet upward, until you gradually reach your head and face. If you are sitting at a desk or in public, you may achieve similar results by completing this exercise with only your feet and legs.
Taking a few minutes each day to stretch can also help to release bodily tension. Stretch your arms, legs, neck, and back gently and slowly. Be careful not to strain yourself or stretch too deeply for comfort.
Investing just a few minutes each day in one or more of these exercises can help fight stress, anxiety, and pain as well as increase your sense of well-being and confidence. I encourage you to begin your day with these exercises, or incorporate them into your nightly routine as you get ready to go to bed. Remember, each of these techniques can also be modified for use any time you need a moment of relaxation throughout your day.
For more information about using these techniques, please see my recent Squidoo post.