Stressed at all?  In Miami, where I live, there is road rage, job restlessness, chores that never end, and so much more! How about where you live? For many of us, we live or work with a chronic complainer. Perhaps you find there’s not enough hours in one day to do all you set out to do.

Luckily, I have compiled a list of the top 6 relaxation techniques that can help you get relaxed in seconds.  Master any one of these and you will be able to get from a tense situation into a calm frame of mind to tackle the business of everyday life.

Relaxation Techniques

Stress can trigger many health issues: hives, high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, seizures and more.  It is linked to increasing blood sugar levels, anxiety and panic attacks.  Stress is, therefore, a silent killer.  As a person wishing to increase the longevity of others, educating on how to reduce stress is one of the key elements with many  of my clients.

There are many ways to reduce stress.  Learning to relax within five minutes is possible after a few practices. For initial consultations on stress relief and relaxation, I recommend a whole slew of things to try out. Having two or three ways will allow the client to select the most convenient at the time it hits.

Any of the following can help.  Which one will work better on you depends on your personality and disposition.  Go ahead, try a few:

1. Belly Breathing

Very relaxing and can help you relieve stress on the spot.

  1. Sit or lie flat facing up
  2. Place one hand on your belly, just below your ribs, and the other hand on your chest.
  3. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand outward (Note your chest should not be moving)
  4. Breathe out slowly through pursed lips. As you feel the hand on your belly go in, use it to push all the air out
  5. Repeat at least three times.
  6. You’re ready to face the world.  No, really, notice how you feel after several breaths in and out.
  7. If you are still unable to face the world, try holding your breath a few seconds (start with a seven-second breath hold), then release the air in your lungs slowly through your mouth.

2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

Progressive muscle relaxation exercises are relaxation techniques that involve progressively tensing and then relaxing muscles or muscle groups. Your muscles naturally tighten when you experience stress, acute physical pain, chronic discomfort, and worry. Most of us don’t even notice when we are holding our breath, clenching our jaw, or tensing our muscles.

This 7-minute progressive muscle relaxation exercise will help you increase your awareness of the ways your body is experiencing tension:

To get started, find a very comfortable relaxed position. You may want to close your eyes, or feel free to keep them open if you’re more comfortable that way.

Let’s begin by focusing on your breathing, following your breath as it comes into your body and goes out of your body. Take 3 slow, full natural breaths in and out, noticing how your energy rises on the in-breath and falls on the out breath. Slow even breaths can help our bodies begin to relax as we start to notice the difference between tension and relaxation.

Now, focus on your feet, continuing to breathe evenly and naturally. Tighten the muscles in your feet by clenching your toes and pulling the tops of your feet up towards your shins. Hold the tension, continue to hold… then release and relax, noticing the difference between tension and calm relaxation

Next, focus on your lower legs. Tighten those muscles in your calves… tight and tense… hold… then release and relax, allowing the tension to drain away and melt into the ground. Notice the experience of peaceful relaxation in your calves. Continue to breathe naturally and easily as you pay attention to the relaxation in your calves.

Shift your awareness now to your upper legs. Tense and tighten the muscles in your thighs, hold them tight, tensing… then release and relax, letting any tightness, discomfort or stress flow away while continuing to notice the difference between tension and tranquility. Stay with that experience while continuing to breathe easily and calmly.

Now let’s move your awareness to your stomach and back. Tighten those muscles by pulling your belly button as far as you can towards your back, tight and tense. Hold… tight… then release and relax, making plenty of space in your abdomen for your breath, noticing how it feels to allow your muscles to be still.
Gently shift your attention to your hands. Tighten your fingers into tight, tense fists… squeezing as tight as you can…then release and relax, letting any tension or discomfort flow out through your fingertips. Take time for the experience as the tension melts away, replaced by a feeling of calm, peaceful relaxation.
Next focus on your arms. Tighten all of those muscle, pulling your arms in as tight as you can into your body… tight and tense… and hold… then release and relax, allowing your arms to settle, noticing the difference between stress and stillness. Take the time to breathe into this experience.

Now move on to your shoulders and neck. Go ahead and lift your shoulders up and in, really pulling them into your neck, and hold tight, tensing them… Then release and relax, letting your shoulders fall gently down and back, letting go of any stress and allowing the muscles in your neck and shoulders to be free from tension.

Now gently focus your attention on all the tiny little muscles of your face. Tighten those muscles by tightly shutting your eyes, clenching your jaw and stretching your lips up and back. … maintain the tension… then release and relax, letting your muscles be settled and comfortable, paying attention to the difference between the tightness of tension and the comfort of relaxation.

And now, imagine looking over your whole body to see if there are any remaining areas of tension or discomfort. Gently breathe into those areas, imagining oxygen is going directly to any areas of tension.

Enjoy for a few more moments the comfort and relaxation you feel … knowing that you can return here at any time. Allow your body to continue to feel comfortable and relaxed, even as your attention turns elsewhere. When we are relaxed we are more focused, experience less pain and are more able to be connected to what we are doing.

When you are ready, take one more full breath and gently bring your attention to the world around you. Wiggle your fingers and your toes.

You are ready to continue your day!

3. Visualization

Also called Guided Imagery.  It is a technique anyone can use with just a bit of creativity.  It involves creating a detailed mental image of a pleasant or attractive place, time, environment, or event, transporting you there in your mind. 

This is a positive, proactive technique that focuses your imagination.  For example,If you are seeking a goal, you can, in your mind’s eye, transport to the moment of achieving it.  Practicing that sensation of success daily, your brain believes it can happen, and will do what it takes to make it real. It is very self-empowering!

Try this basic visualization:

Take a moment to relax.

Sit or lie in a comfortable position and close your eyes for a moment. Concentrate on your breathing, allowing yourself to become more relaxed with each breath you take. Each time you exhale, imagine your stress and tension draining down your spine, down your legs, and into the ground.

Each time you inhale and exhale, you may be surprised to find yourself twice as relaxed as you were a moment before. Twice as comfortable. Twice as peaceful. For with each breath, every cell of your body becomes at ease….as all the tension, all the discomfort, drains down your spine, down your legs, and into the ground. As you allow your stress to drain away, you feel more and more deeply relaxed. Your body feels deeply relaxed. Your arms and legs heavy and relaxed. Your face smooth and relaxed. Drifting into deeper relaxation….total relaxation.

Now, imagine a special place that is soothing and relaxing – perhaps a place you have been before, or a place you would like to go. Think of a place that’s outdoors….that’s beautiful….peaceful…serene and secure. A magical, special place. It may be a place you remember from your childhood, or it may not. Choose a special place where you feel safe and calm.

Experience what it would feel like to be at this imaginary place. Make yourself comfortable in your special place…and then sense it as fully as you can. Fill in the scene, using all sensory modes. What colors are present? What visual images make up the scene? Are there any sounds…wind, water, trees swaying in a breeze? Are there any smells or fragrances? How does your body feel? Can you feel the wind or the sun’s warmth? Look around and notice the beauty of your own special place. Allow yourself to experience the feelings your scene elicits. Notice how your body feels in your magical place. You may feel tranquil, peaceful, serene and secure. Stretch out, relax and enjoy. Give it time.

As you relax and enjoy how wonderful it feels to be here, remember you can return anytime you wish….simply by taking a few moments to relax yourself and letting your imagination carry you here. Each time you come to visit, you will find it even more beautiful, more serene, more peaceful…as new horizons are opened for you to experience. It’s so easy…so accessible…so available to you.

Stay in your special place for whatever length of time you need. This is your place to come and relax anytime you wish. A haven anytime you want to fell totally relaxed… to sense the beauty around you, and within you….to sense the interconnections of life.

When you end this exercise, you will feel not only rested, relaxed and comfortable… but also energized with such a powerful sense of well-being that you will be able to respond to any demands that may arise…feeling confident and strong…feeling accepting of yourself. When you are ready to leave your special place, take a deep breath, and then open your eyes when you exhale.

As you end the exercise, don’t hurry yourself. Take time to look around and notice where you are…and remember to breathe.

4. Meditation

Meditation is a word that has come to be used loosely and inaccurately in the modern world. That is why there is so much confusion about how to practice it. Some people use the word meditate when they mean thinking or contemplating; others use it to refer to daydreaming or fantasizing.

Meditation can be defined as a practice where an individual focuses their mind on a particular object, thought or activity to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state (Wikipedia).

There are many things in life that are beyond our control. However, it is possible to take responsibility for our own states of mind – and to change them for the better. According to Buddhism this is the most important thing we can do, and Buddhism teaches that it is the only real antidote to our own personal sorrows, and to the anxieties, fears, hatreds, and general confusions that beset the human condition.

Meditation is a means of transforming the mind. Buddhist meditation practices are techniques that encourage and develop concentration, clarity, emotional positivity, and a calm seeing of the true nature of things. By engaging with a particular meditation practice you learn the patterns and habits of your mind, and the practice offers a means to cultivate new, more positive ways of being. With regular work and patience these nourishing, focused states of mind can deepen into profoundly peaceful and energized states of mind. Such experiences can have a transformative effect and can lead to a new understanding of life.

The techniques of meditation are very simple. However, reading about them is no substitute for learning from an experienced and reliable teacher. A teacher will be able to offer you guidance in how to apply the technique and how to deal with difficulties. Perhaps most importantly, a teacher can offer the encouragement and inspiration of their own example.

Simple meditation for beginners
  1. Sit or lie comfortably. Set up your meditation posture in a way that is relaxed but upright.
  2. Close your eyes. …
  3. Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
  4. Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation.

 

5. Yoga

A wonderful morning routine to have.  Stretching will help make you feel well, relieve headaches and stress. Being mindful of every stretch will keep your mind busy on small tasks which later relax you immensely.

Virtually no other exercise program is as enduring as yoga. It’s been around for more than 5,000 years. Yoga does more than burn calories and tone muscles. It’s a total mind-body workout that combines strengthening and stretching poses with deep breathing, meditation, or relaxation.

 

This is an example of a relaxation script for a yoga class:

Breathe deeply and let all tension go as you exhale. Think of a  beautiful scene:

Place an image in the mind of a white gate. Imagine that you stand for a few moments looking at the gate. Open the gate and walk through it and you see in front of you a lawn of the most perfect green, and a beautiful garden.

Close the gate and walk slowly across the soft and restful turf beneath your feet.

As you walk, the most perfect green color flows into your body, soothing your mind and bringing peace. Continue to walk slowly, enjoying the soothing, restful green.

As you walk you see in front of you a quiet pool that reflects the blue of the sky. Walk slowly to the edge of the pool and see steps of the purest white going down into the water. You notice that the blue color is the most perfect blue you have ever seen.

Slowly and peacefully walk down the steps into the water that you discover to be unlike ordinary water, as you do not appear to get wet. Go deeper into the water and feel the most beautiful penetrating light flowing into your body. Immerse yourself, completely letting the vibrant blue light flow through your whole being. Feel its healing qualities searching out and penetrating every discomfort, and bringing about a state of well-being.

Now visualize strong hands, perhaps of an angel, that lift you from the pool of light and lay you gently onto the green grass.

Rest for a few moments, enjoying the scents of the garden, then when you feel ready, stand up and walk back slowly the way came, enjoying the peace that every step gives you. Notice the white gate, beautifully clear in the sunlight. Open the gate and walk through.

Stand for a few moments again looking at the gate, and recognizing that it is the first image you placed in the mind and the key to your garden of healing light.

Then slowly let the scene fade from your mind and become aware of your breathing, and of your body resting. When you are ready to come out of your pose, take a deep breath and imagine exhaling away any last remaining tension. Then wriggle your fingers and toes, and have a good stretch through arms and legs. Bend your legs, roll over to one side, and sit up using your hands to push you up. (credit to callieyoga.com)

6. Music

Sing-along, pop on headphones or dance along.  Music can change your mood, energize you or relax you.

Our brains actually respond differently to happy and sad music. Even short pieces can affect us. One study showed that after hearing a short piece of music, participants were more likely to interpret a neutral expression as happy or sad, to match the tone of the music they heard.

An article in Science News on April 12, 2017 summarizes: “It doesn’t matter if it’s Bach, the Beatles, Brad Paisley or Bruno Mars. Your favorite music likely triggers a similar type of activity in your brain as other people’s favorites do in theirs, new research has found.” Music affects us all in personal and unique ways.

I love to relax to Monks singing, soft rock, or the sound of rain.  It’s probably because I was raised in a convent in the formative years of my life. But it depends on my mood. Everyone is different. I have a daughter who listens to Rap, even when she needs to relax.  I can’t even follow the words, but that’s okay.  It’s her unique way and I understand, and encourage it if it’s going to help her

Try any one of these relaxation techniques, a combination or all of them.

Then, let us know how it went for you. Comment below.