Relaxation Practices that Reduce Stress
The body’s natural relaxation response is a powerful antidote to stress. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and yoga can help you activate this relaxation response. When practiced regularly, these activities lead to a reduction in your everyday stress levels and a boost in your feelings of joy and calmness. They also serve as a protective quality by teaching you how to stay calm and collected in the face of life’s everyday stresses.
The relaxation response
You cannot avoid all stress, but you can counteract its negative effects by learning how to evoke the ‘relaxation response’, a state of deep rest that is the polar opposite of the stress response. The stress response floods your body with chemicals that prepare you for “fight or flight.” But while the stress response is helpful in true emergency situations where you must be alert, it wears your body down when constantly activated.
The relaxation response brings your system back into balance: deepening your breathing, reducing stress hormones, slowing down your heart rate and blood pressure, and relaxing your muscles.
In addition to its calming physical effects, research shows that the relaxation response also increases energy and focus, combats illness, relieves aches and pains, heightens problem-solving abilities, and boosts motivation and productivity. Best of all – with a little practice – anyone can reap these benefits.
Getting the most out of your relaxation practice
Set aside time in your daily schedule. The best way to start and maintain a relaxation practice is by incorporating it into your daily routine. Schedule a set time either once or twice a day for your practice. You may find that it is easier to stick with your practice if you do it first thing in the morning, before other tasks and responsibilities get in the way.
Don’t practice when you are sleepy. These techniques can relax you so much that they can make you very sleepy, especially if it is close to bedtime. You will get the most out of these techniques if you practice when you’re fully awake and alert.
Choose a technique that appeals to you. There is no single relaxation technique that is best. When choosing a relaxation technique, consider your specific needs, preferences, and fitness level. The right relaxation technique is the one that suits you best and fits your lifestyle.