TECHNIQUES TO REDUCE STRESS

One of the most common methods you doctor will recommend to reduce stress is a series of relaxation techniques. Most are easy to learn. To master them, however, you have to practice to experience the benefits. When you are under tremendous pressure is not the best time to begin and expect results.

Relaxation Response

Meditation is capable of reducing heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen consumption. Relaxation response borrows from meditation the parts that create relaxation and reduce stress.

This is how you can use this technique in your life. You should plan a time every day for rest. This is not to be confused with sleeping time. You should sit in your favorite chair and close your eyes while relaxing your muscles. You should breathe regularly and at a constant rhythm. You are going to repeat one word over and over either in your head or aloud. You can say it with each breath which helps to keep both constant. The word you chose can be anything you like. It can be a word like “relax”; it could be a word with a spiritual significance to you; or it could be a nonsensical word like the famous “om”. Maintain your relaxed muscles and regular breathing during this technique.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This technique teaches you to relax your entire body. Starting with your head, you will tense your facial muscles by clenching your teeth and frowning. Hold the tension for five to 10 seconds, and then release it. Next move down to your shoulder muscles, tense them by raising them in a shrugging motion and tucking your chin into your chest. Hold the tension for five to 10 seconds, then release. Next, tense your arm muscles by making fists. Hold the tension for five to 10 seconds, then release. Continue to tighten and release each group of muscles in your body until you have worked all the way down to your toes. Picture the tension evaporating as you release each muscle. Pay special attention to the feeling of heaviness and warmth in each area as it relaxes.

Visualization

Visualizing is another excellent way to mentally remove yourself from a stressful situation. Sit or lie somewhere comfortable. Close your eyes. While doing the progressive muscle relaxation exercise above, let images drift through your mind like a video. You do not want to think because that will interrupt your relaxation; you just want to watch and feel. Imagine a place that makes you feel good, such as the beach or the woods. It can even be a place you’ve never visited, but always dreamed about going as long as you can picture it with enough detail to make it real to you. Breathe slowly and deeply until you feel relaxed. You are going to use all five senses as you experience the scene unfolding in your mind. It is something like wearing a virtual reality helmet without all the wires and gadgets. Imagine what you see, feel, hear, taste and smell. Continue to see yourself in this place for five to 10 minutes. Then gradually return to the room you are really in and end the exercise.

Relaxed Breathing Exercises

To understand the different ways you breathe, you need to try this and be aware of what is happening in your body. If you take a deep breath in and out, you probably felt your chest expand and contract and your shoulders rise as you drew air into your lungs. This is how many adults breathe. But, to promote relaxation, you need to tap into the way you breathe when you are asleep.

When you are in the relaxed sleeping state, you usually breathe from your diaphragm. This is the muscle between the abdomen and the chest. While breathing this way the abdomen rises and lowers with each breath, your chest and shoulders remain relatively motionless. This type of breathing takes less effort and is typically more efficient than the way you breathe when you are awake. For this reason, breathing from your diaphragm is more relaxing.

To try the relaxed breathing method, you will lie flat on your back with your feet slightly apart. To help you learn whether you have the right breathing going on, you will place one hand on your abdomen above your navel. Rest your other hand on your chest. Inhale through your nose and calmly exhale through your mouth until you’ve emptied most of the air from your lungs. Focus on your breathing and pay attention to which of your hands is moving.

While you slowly count to four, you should inhale gently, allowing the air to fill your diaphragm which will distend your abdomen and make it rise. Imagine your lungs and all parts of your body filling with a warm feeling. Hold the breath for one second. Then again to a count of four, you will exhale slowly and gently. Your abdomen will slowly fall and your diaphragm will relax. Pause for another second. Repeat this process five to 10 times. As you perfect the technique, you can practice relaxed breathing while seated and even while standing.

Evaluate Your Fears

It is human nature to worry. You just cannot help yourself. But, if you are like most people, many of the things we worry about in stressful circumstances never happen. The next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, examine your thoughts closely to see if the situation really justifies the amount of stress you are feeling. You can ask yourself questions like what is the worst that can happen here? What is the likelihood that the worst possible outcome will occur? Be honest. What changes would this outcome make in your life? Have you done everything within your power, besides worrying, to influence the outcome for the better? These questions can help you see the circumstances more clearly and can help you reduce the pressure to a manageable level.

Remove Stressors by Setting Limits

Often the very qualities that make you a good friend, employee, or team member are adding to your stress level. Perhaps, you are the person who always says “Sure!” when your boss, colleague, group, or friend asks you to take on another project. Then, when the reality sets in, you sit there feeling that familiar knot forming in your stomach. If that’s the case, you may need to set some limits.

You may already have as many responsibilities as you can handle. You need to learn to avoid putting more on your plate and making promises you just cannot keep. Be respectful and polite, but just say, no. You should pay attention to the observations other people might make about your workload. If you are receiving comments about how large your workload or personal responsibilities have become, you should take a moment and evaluate them honestly without allowing yourself to become angry or self-critical. Figuring out what their comments mean, may open your eyes to the true situation. Most people have a hard time standing outside of themselves and seeing their life’s circumstances as it appears to others.

Manage Your Time

You will find it beneficial to your health if you think ahead to reduce stress. You should try to stay aware of what is coming. If a particularly stressful week is on the horizon, wouldn’t you rather take steps to prepare for it than go with the flow and just suffer through it? One way to manage your time is to set priorities. You can compile a to-do list and schedule time to work on top priorities first. You always get the most important tasks done this way, and control the stress you feel about them in the process.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

If you are like many people, you may have a favorite comfort food you reach for when you’re stressed. Whether it’s chocolate, potato chips or a juicy hamburger, chances are it is unhealthy and high in fat, sugar or salt. Your comfort food is bad for your health.

Research shows that a healthy diet may reduce stress. Your comforting treat may backfire, and may be making you feel worse. Giving up your comfort food may actually make you feel better.

Exercise

Your doctor will tell you that exercise can reduce stress. An aerobic exercise like running, swimming or brisk walking for 20 minutes or more will reduce your stress level. If you think, you just cannot squeeze 20 minutes out of your day then, even a 10-minute walk can help. Yoga and non aerobic movements such as stretching can reduce stress by inducing a calmer, meditative state.

Exercise turns your attention away from the causes of your stress. It decreases emotional suffering, enhances concentration, and promotes an overall calming feeling. You know, you should exercise. So, when you actually do it, you feel proud, and this has a side benefit of raising your self-esteem. Working out also helps ward off possible diseases that the effects of chronic stress make worse like heart disease.

It is difficult to start or maintain an exercise routine, especially when you are pressured and stressed. Making time for exercise a habit can help you handle your stress and is good for your general health.

Socialize

You know that talking about your problems with someone you trust helps relieve tension and may help you solve them. However, you should choose your social occasions carefully.

A drinking party or happy hour might not be the best way to reduce stress. Having a glass of wine with dinner may have health benefits, but excessive alcohol consumption can make matters worse. Be choosy about which groups you socialize with. Stay away from situations that make you feel uncomfortable or that reinforce unhealthy habits, because those may increase your stress.

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