10 relaxation techniques to reduce stress on-the-spot
If your hectic lifestyle is getting to be too much for you, experts say relaxation techniques can bring you back into balance -- some in five minutes or less.
The children need a lift to school, your husband can't find his underwear,
your boss has just scheduled an online meeting, and your best friend
desperately needs your help - all at the same time.
Is it any wonder that you can't find a minute for relaxation? In fact, if
you're like most women, you may have even forgotten how to relax.
While experts say that some stress is good for you (it can sharpen your
senses and your mind) too much stress is bad for your mental and physical
health. At the same time, relaxation can do wonders to restore balance in your
life and may even reduce some of the health risks associated with stress.
We talked to the experts to learn more about relaxation and how to attain
it. What follows are 10 on-the-spot techniques you can use (any time and almost
anywhere) to reduce tension in your life.
If you think meditation means twisting your body into an uncomfortable
position and uttering ‘oohs’ and ‘omms’ for an hour, guess again. Dr Herbert
Benson, author of The Relaxation Response, says any repetitive action
can be a source of meditation. Benson, who is also director emeritus of the
Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine in the US, says meditation
includes walking, swimming, painting, knitting - any activity that helps keep
your attention calmly in the present moment.
If you catch yourself thinking about your job, your relationship or your
list of things to do, experts say to simply let the thought escape, and bring
your mind back to the repetition of the activity. Try it for just five to 10
minutes a day and watch stress levels drop.
2. Picture yourself relaxed
Is your mind too talkative to meditate? Try creating a peaceful
visualisation, or ‘dreamscape’. To start simply visualise anything that keeps
your thoughts away from current tensions. It could be a favourite holiday spot,
a fantasy island, a short break in London - or something ‘touchable’ such as
the feel of your favourite silk dressing gown or cosy jumper.
The idea is to take your mind off your stress, and replace it with an image
that evokes a sense of calm. The more realistic your daydream (in terms of
colours, sights, sounds, even touch and feel) the more relaxation you'll
3. Breathe deeply
Feeling stressed evokes tense, shallow breathing, while calm is associated
with relaxed breathing, says Michael Lee, author of Turn Stress into
Bliss. So to turn tension into relaxation, he says, change the way you
Try this: let out a big sigh, dropping your chest and exhaling through
gently pursed lips, says Joan Borysenko, director of Harvard University's
Mind-Body Clinical Programmes. Now imagine your low tummy, or centre, as a deep
powerful place. Feel your breath coming and going as your mind stays focused
there. Inhale, feeling your entire tummy, sides and lower back expand. Exhale,
sighing again as you drop your chest, and feeling your tummy, back and sides
contract. Repeat 10 times, relaxing more fully each time.