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 with other 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. These techniques refocus one’s attention away from stress onto something calmer. They also increase awareness of one’s 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 techniques use both visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress. Autogenic relaxation comes from within you. You can repeat words, make suggestions in your mind and imagine a peaceful setting, control your breathing or feel different physical sensations in 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 forms a mental image within one’s 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 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 comfortably with b your back straight, and 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 abdominal. 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.
Mediation is used to clear the mind, and 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 is a series of moving and stationary poses combined with deep breathing. The benefits of yoga include reducing anxiety and stress, and improving flexibility, strength, balance, and stamina. There are many types of yoga, if you have never done yoga before start off with 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 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.
Tips on Using Meditation to Reduce Stress
Are you someone who loves to meditate but is just not able to make the time for it? Finding the time to meditate is holding you back from beginning the practice. Maybe you try to carve out the time, but your busy schedule gets in the way! Despite all your good intentions, you simply can’t find a free hour to sit down. While practicing regularly meditation has its benefits, you can also boost your mindfulness with brief breaks of a few minutes or less.
Try these meditation tips for calming your mind on your busiest days.
- Take a break! Get Present. Pay attention to your breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils. Follow its path up and down your body. Notice how your abdomen and chest rise and fall when you inhale and exhale deeply.
- Do a quick body scan. Slowly scan your body from head to toe. Search for areas of tension in the body. Massage your stiff shoulders or hands as you imagine your breath warming and healing them.
- Watch your thoughts as they show up one by one. Check what’s on your mind without making any judgments. Allow your mind to slow down. “When there are thoughts, it is distraction: when there are no thoughts, it is meditation.” – Ramana Maharshi
- Acknowledge your feelings. You can meditate when you are feeling content or when dealing with major stress. Just acknowledge your feelings. Remember that your emotions are temporary and you decide how to respond to any situation.
- Focus on something around you. Just lock your eyes with an object around you and while you are looking at it, allow yourself to feel your presence and your being.
- Say something inspiring to yourself. Fill your mind with an inspiring saying of your own. Repeat it 3 times.
- Bring your mind back. Gently rub your hands till they become warm and place them on your eyes. Now slowly bring your attention back to your surroundings and enjoy being back to a beautiful and wholesome state.
Easy ways to incorporate mediation into your daily schedule.
- At the traffic signals. Now you can look forward to the red lights. Use the traffic signals and stop signs as a reminder to breathe.
- During breaks at work. You can stay mindful and relaxed at work by checking on your mind and body, the same way you check the phone calls and text messages. Ask yourself, “how you are feeling?”, while you are looking to see if a friend responded to your last message.
- During your workouts. Connect with your mind as you shape up your body. Meditate for a few minutes on the treadmill or at the swimming pool.
- First thing in the morning and the last thing at night. Mediate for a few minutes each morning to start your day feeling fresh. Also meditate for a few minutes at night before going to bed, for a deep and relaxed sleeping experience.
- While playing with your kids. Mindfulness exercises can be especially beneficial for children. Make your sessions fun by keeping them short and simple. Throw in some yoga poses, singing, and visualizations that will appeal to your child’s imagination.
- In the lines, while you wait. Your daily life is probably full of long lines. Next time you’re waiting at a grocery store, remember that meditation is a great way to help you pass the time.
- During commercial breaks. Do you enjoy watching 30 seconds of advertising before you can watch the video you clicked on? Hit the mute button, and enjoy the silence that surrounds you.
- When feeling overwhelmed. Do you automatically reach for a donut or a margarita after a rough day? Do you try to soothe yourself with a little retail therapy when feeling exasperated? Meditation could be a healthier and less expensive response to stress.
Regular meditation can do wonders for your mental health and when it comes to reducing daily stress! You can enjoy greater peace of mind in just a few minutes a day. Simply dissolve the stress and boost your concentration with a quick meditation session. “Meditation is a way for nourishing and blossoming the divine within you.” – Amit Ray