Why is relaxation so important?
Too much stress in our daily lives has been linked to many health concerns, such as heart problems and high blood pressure. As the muscles in our bodies tense up, we may also experience uncomfortable bodily sensations such as headaches, aching in the back and neck, and tightness in the chest.
Not only can incorporating relaxation techniques into you daily routine reduce overall stress levels, but it may also have other benefits, including:
- Reduction in anger and frustration;
- Improvement in physiological health;
- Better sleep;
- Improved concentration and memory;
- Lower fatigue levels;
- Improved mood.
Healthy Relaxation Techniques for Everyday
In order for relaxation to be beneficial, it must be practised regularly. Yoga, art, meditation, music and massage are all healthy ways to relax.
In addition, there are some relaxation strategies suggested by many health professionals that you can use everyday, that I have listed below.
Deep Breathing: When we feel anxious, our breathing rate increases and becomes shallow. The balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in our bodies becomes disrupted, and leads to physiological symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath and tingling in the hands and feet.
When practising deep breathing, we increase the supply of oxygen into the brain and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. This promotes a feeling of peace, quietens the mind and promotes a physical relaxation response in the body.
The first step to deep breathing is to bring your awareness to your breathing. Focus on breathing into the stomach. A way to check this is to place one hand on your stomach. As you breathe in, your hand should rise. Breathe in through your nose as you count to five, pause for a few seconds, and slowly breathe out through your mouth. Slow your breathing rate down and repeat for several minutes until you are feeling calm and relaxed.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR): Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a technique where you focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group in the body, one group at a time.
As you do this, you will gain an increased awareness of the difference between muscle tension and relaxation. For example, slowly tense the muscles in your feet as you breathe in, and then relax the muscles as you breathe out. Focus on the heaviness and softness of your muscles as you relax them. Move through each muscle group and do the same.
Guided Imagery/Visualisation: In this relaxation technique, you will need to find somewhere quiet to sit or lie down and close your eyes.
You then form mental images of a calming, peaceful scene. You take a mental, visual journey and focus on using as many of the senses as you can. For example, if you are in a rainforest you might focus on the different shades of green in the trees, the sounds of a babbling stream and the smell of pine needles.
Mindfulness: Being in the present moment and the awareness of the here-and-now has a tremendous calming effect. Thoughts and feelings are seen as transient events; they come and go like clouds floating in the sky. The five senses are used to fully bring your awareness to the present moment.
Relaxation techniques are skills, and as with learning any new skill, your ability improves with practice. If you are having trouble relaxing, it may help to talk with a professional.
Author: Tegan Gonczar, BA (Hons), Grad Dip Ed (Secondary).
Tegan Gonczar is a Brisbane psychologist with experience in providing psychological counselling to children, adolescents and adults; she has a passion for working with people of all ages, to help them overcome obstacles, learn effective ways of coping and lead happier and more fulfilling lives.
Bookings and Fees: To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Tegan Gonczar, try Online Booking – Loganholme or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129.
- Powell, T. (2009). The Mental Health Handbook: A Cognitive Behavioural Approach (3rd ed.). Speechmark Publishing Ltd., U.K.