As the world evolves, it seems to become more and more difficult to relax. The pace of life, the demands of work, and everything else can challenge our ability to just let go and truly relax. However, the ability to relax is like any other skill. It just requires practice.
As life would have it, though, the more stressful the circumstances, the more distracted you’ll be from executing any relaxation techniques.
Practice this relaxation technique. It can help you relax even when you feel highly stressed:
1. Take slow, deep breaths. Controlling your breathing is an excellent way to control your physiology. When you’re stressed, your breath becomes rapid and shallow. Slow, deep breaths oxygenate your blood, remove carbon dioxide, and change the pH of your blood.
2. Focus on your breathing. Your attention should be on your breathing, not on whatever is causing your stress. Feel the air moving in and out of your body. Any thoughts you have should be about your breathing.
3. Smile. The mere act of smiling has been shown to improve one’s mood. It also makes you more attractive to others.
4. Either close your eyes or focus your vision on a fixed spot. Moving your eyes around increases stress. It’s also sending more sensory information to your brain that needs to be processed, which is distracting.
- If you’re in a situation that permits closing your eyes, close them. If you’re sitting at a conference table at work, pick a reasonable spot free of movement and gaze there.
5. Sit up straight and rotate your head and your shoulders. Stretch out your shoulders and your neck.
6. Relax your body. Start at one end of your body and focus on relaxing each muscle. Continue until you’ve relaxed every muscle in your body. Now assess your body for any tension. Go back to those spots and relax them again.
7. Go back to focusing on your breathing. Again, your thoughts should only be about breathing. Take control of those thoughts. Thinking about stressful things causes stress!
8. Repeat to yourself, “I am relaxed.” Each time you exhale, repeat the phrase. Continue until you’re completely relaxed.
9. Go back to your previous activity. Focus on your breathing and the activity itself. Avoid thinking about the future or possible negative outcomes. Just perform the task. If you’re sitting on a bus, you should only be thinking about the bus. Breathe and act.
It’s important to use the technique as soon as you start to feel stressed. It is far more challenging to relax when you’re highly stressed than when you’re just mildly stressed. Practice noticing when you’re beginning to feel stressed and then apply the technique immediately.
Perfect your technique in lower stress situations first. Then you can move on to higher stress situations and expect success. It’s no different than learning to play piano. At first, you might be able to play when you’re all alone, but it’s far more difficult to play while 100 people are watching and listening.
Over time, you’ll notice that your ability to relax is almost a reflex. If you use the technique every time you’re stressed, your mind and body will start to do it automatically. This isn’t as far-fetched as it might sound. You already have a habit pattern in place for handling stressful situations. But the one you have probably isn’t working for you.
Try these steps for an entire month. That should be long enough to develop a relaxation habit that will serve you well for the rest of your life.