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The Best Relaxation Exercises To Reduce Stress

Fitness, Stress

The Best Relaxation Exercises To Reduce Stress


Not one relaxation technique can work for everyone. This is because each one of us has a different way of reacting to stress. Some get agitated, some depressed while some withdraw themselves from the scene. If the reaction to stress is different, then the approach to get rid of it must be different too.

This appendix will provide:

  • Three relaxation exercises for each stress response
  • Tips for incorporating them in your busy schedule

Do you tend to become angry, agitated, or keyed up? You are Type I. You may respond best to relaxation techniques that quiet you down, such as these:

 1. Breath focus: Abdominal breathing

Position: Sit on the floor cross-legged or on a chair, with back straight. Keep one hand on your belly and another on your chest.

Steps: Breathe in with the count of five. Make sure that while inhaling, your belly moves out, while your chest doesn’t move at all. Hold the breath in for count of five. Now exhale with another five. Here, your belly should cave in. Hold the breath out for another five counts. Repeat this five times. Then, breathe normally.

Minimum time: 10 minutes

Important notes:

  • Do as many times possible in 10 minutes.
  • Gradually, increase the count from 5 to 10. This will also strengthen your respiratory system.

Read Equal Breath technique (Sama Vritti Pranayama) for further details.

2. Guided imagery

Position: Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes. Start by just taking a few deep breaths to help you relax.

Steps: Picture a setting that is calm and peaceful (beach, a mountain setting, a meadow, or any scenery). Imagine and try to add some detail. Is there a breeze? How does it feel? What do you smell? What does the sky look like? Imagine yourself taking a path to explore the surroundings. When you are deep into your scene (feeling relaxed), take a few slow breaths and feel the calm. Count to 3, and open your eyes. Notice how you feel then.

Minimum time: 10 minutes

Important notes:

  • Breathe normally.
  • Use a podcast like birds chirping, sea waves, water falling, etc. to de-stress faster.

3. Mindfulness Meditation

Position: Sit in a comfortable position, either in a chair or on the floor, with your spine straight.

Steps: Breathe normally and observe your body. Observe the environment. If you are practicing it in a park or beach or even in your office cabin, observe the people around. An observant, non-critical attitude is essential. Do not think about past or future, just focus on what is happening now. Even if your thoughts try to distract you, let them come, focus on them for a few moments. Then, allow them to leave.

Minimum time: 10 minutes

Important notes:

  • Breathe normally.
  • Your aim is to just focus on what is happening now. Keep that in mind now.

Do you tend to become depressed, withdrawn, or spaced out? Then you are Type II. You may respond best to relaxation techniques that are stimulating and that energize your nervous system, such as these:

1. Laugh out loud

A good belly laugh will unload you mentally. It lowers cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, and boosts brain chemicals called endorphins, which help uplift your mood. Plug in your favorite sitcom or video, read a comic, or chat with someone who makes you smile, and enjoy the happiness.

Minimum time: As much as it takes

2. Nurturing yourself

Reboot your body and mind with a quick manicure-pedicure session, a long bubble bath or even longer spa trip. They will not only help you unwind mentally but give you a much needed pampering massage at all the right points.

Minimum time: As much as it takes

3. Engage in a physical activity

Science has proven that physical activity of any kind releases feel good hormones and helps uplift your mood. So play a game, go swimming or exercising, do some stretching at the desk, or dance. Do anything mindless yet physically engaging.

Minimum time: As much as it takes

Do you tend to freeze-speeding up internally, while slowing down externally? Then you are Type III. Your challenge is to identify relaxation techniques that provide both safety and stimulation to help you “reboot” your system, such as these:

1. Yoga

Sign up for a weekly yoga class. Restorative yoga is the easiest, as it does not require much of bending or focus on right alignment. All you need to do is just lie on bolsters and pillows. Another gentle style is Hatha yoga, which is immensely effective in a lot of other areas too.

Minimum time: One hour a week

2. Journaling

Position: Sit on your desk or in a quiet peaceful place. Take a pen and paper.

Steps: Gradually begin to write down what problem you are facing. Elaborate it with how you are feeling. Let it all out without any inhibitions. Scribble down your fears, anxiety, insecurities, etc. in an attempt to make it big, larger than life. Now, reverse the process. Try to compress it with positive thoughts. Even if you cannot do this, just tear that paper out, crush into a ball and squeeze it hard with your shoe. Let the feeling of relaxation wash you over and calm you down.

Minimum time: 10 minutes

3. Open eye meditation (Candle meditation)

Position: Lotus pose or cross-legged on floor or yoga mat. Sit straight, not slouchy, and place your palms gently in center, left on top of right.

Candle: Its advised to use keep candle on a stand, so, the flame lights on your eye level. This is to reduce strain on back of your neck and shoulders. Keep the stand about 50 cm away from yourself.

Room: Dimly lit, and warm. Avoid thermostat.

Steps: Light the candle and focus your gaze on its flame. Notice the colors, and the way it is flickering gently. If distracting thoughts come to you, try taking one thought at a time, and incinerating them into the flame. Take beauty in the glow and warmth. When you start getting a feeling of oneness with the candle, close your eyes. You’d still be able to see the flame inside you. Continue focusing your thoughts on that circle of light to experience transcendental joy and serenity. Stay as long as you want to without worrying about the ticking of clock.

Minimum time: 15 minutes

Important note: Make sure you breathe evenly and slowly. This way, gradually, you’ll feel everything fading into darkness except the candle.

Tips for fitting relaxation techniques into your busy life

  1. Schedule a set time to practice each day.
  2. You can use your time to practice relaxation techniques while you’re doing other things. Meditate while commuting to work on a bus or train, or waiting for a dentist appointment.
  3. If you exercise, improve the relaxation benefits by adopting mindfulness. Instead of zoning out or staring at a TV as you exercise, try focusing your attention on your body.
  4. Avoid practicing when you’re sleepy. You will get the most benefit if you practice when you’re fully awake and alert.
  5. Don’t expect miracles after the first time. It takes time for the mind to adjust to “absence of thoughts” when its sole purpose is to think and process.

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