Stress is one of the leading factors, which leads to health related problems in the 21st century. The economy, your job, family, finances, and even your health can cause one to have stress. When we encounter stress our bodies release chemical hormones, which flood our blood stream causing chemical reactions to determine how we react next. When these hormones overload our bodies because they are continuing to be released due to high stress situations they can have a negative effect on the body. Excessive stress can lead to conditions such as fatigue, heart disease, depression, anxiety, sleeping problems, high blood pressure, ulcers, migraines, and many more. Most people try to mask their stress by drinking alcohol, doing drugs or letting loose. However just like stress these bad habits can lead to their own set of health and non-health related problems. The best way to reduce stress is through relaxation techniques. Once you learn to reduce your stress its easier to compartmentalize and find ways to minimize your stress.
Relaxation techniques to reduce stress should be used along side positive coping methods such as exercise, getting enough sleep and have support from your friends and family. Relaxation is the process that decreases the effects of stress on your mind and body. Relaxation techniques refocus ones attention away from stress onto something calmer. They also increase awareness of ones body. Most relaxation techniques are free or low cost, pose little risk, proved health benefits and can be done almost anywhere. Besides reducing ones stress, relaxation techniques provide other health benefits such as slowing the heart rate, slowing breathing, lower blood pressure, increasing blood flow, reducing muscle tension and chronic pain, improving concentration, decreasing anger and frustration and boosting confidence. Learning relaxation techniques takes time. Find which technique works best for your personality and practice it. Overtime you will become accustomed and it will come naturally to you.
Autogenic Relaxation- Autogenic relaxation techniques use both visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress. Autogenic relaxation comes from within you. You can repeat words, make suggestion in your mind and imagine a peaceful setting, control your breathing or feel different physical sensation sin your body. The point is that whatever you do its something from within you to reduce stress, relax your mind and reduce muscle tension.
Progressive muscle relaxation- Progressive muscle relaxation focuses on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group in the body. Stress, anger, frustration and anxiety cause the muscle to tighten up and without the essential compounds within the body those muscles can stay tight. With progressive muscle relaxation you can become aware of the difference between muscle tension and relaxation. You can start from the head all the way down to the toes or vice versa. Tense each muscle for five seconds then relax for 30 seconds.
Visualization- Visualization forms a mental image within ones mind. The image allows the mind to travel to a peaceful and calming place thereby reducing stress. The objective is to try to use as many of your senses as possible to make the setting real and virtually eliminate your stress. To do visualization find a quiet place, close your eyes, and wear loose fitting clothing.
Deep Breathing- Deep breathing is the cornerstone of many relaxation techniques. It can be done by itself or in conjunction with other techniques such as mediation, yoga, tai chi, etc. Deep breathing is simple, because we have to breathe to live, but powerful and effective at calming the mind and reducing stress. Deep breathing focuses on breathing full, cleansing breaths from the abdomen. It’s easy to learn can be done anywhere and it keeps your stress levels in check. Sit comfortable with b your back straight, inhale through the nose, as the abdomen rises. Inhale as much fresh air into the lungs as possible. This allows for more oxygen to enter the body. Exhale through the mouth, as the stomach falls, pushing out as much air as you can and contract the abdominals. If you have trouble doing this sitting try it first lying down. You can put your hands on your chest and stomach to know if you are doing it correctly.
Meditation- Mediation is used to clear the mind, expand ones consciousness until you are one with yourself. Meditation focuses on the sensation of breathing, inhaling through the nose, exhaling through the mouth. This clears the mind of stressful thoughts, which cloud our judgment and thoughts.
Yoga- Yoga is a series of moving and stationary poses combined with deep breathing. The benefits of yoga include reducing anxiety and stess, improving flexibility, strength, balance, and stamina. There are many types of yoga, if you have never done yoga before start off with a beginners or gentle class. If you are uncomfortable taking a class at the gym or studio you can purchase a DVD and do yoga at home.
Tai Chi-Tai Chi is a non-competitive series of slow, flowing body movements that can be used to reduce stress. Its roots are in martial arts, but now it is more for calming the mind, conditioning the body and reducing stress. Tai Chi emphasizes concentration, relaxation and conscious circulation of energy throughout the body. While doing Tai Chi focus on your breathing and keep your attention in the present moment.