The first step to overcoming stress is to get into a less frantic, more relaxed state of mind. How can we relax when we’re feeling stressed, and what are the best relaxation techniques to use?
When we’re stressed, we’ve got a couple of options.
- Stay frantic and let the stress continue to pile up and get worse.
- Take a step back, take a deep breath, and take control.
Overcoming stress is an impossible task when we’re feeling overwhelmed and frantic. We need to get into a better mental place to start dealing with it.
You can’t deal with stress unless you’re in a good mental space. Trying to overcome stress with a stressed mind is like trying to fight fire with fire. (Pointless.)
That’s why creating a more relaxed mental space is crucial for dealing with stress – it gives us the very best chance of overcoming our stress and managing it better.
Let’s take a step back, take a deep breath, and stop stress from taking over. Let’s get the control back.
Here are seven popular relaxation techniques you can use to overcome stress and stop it from controlling you, including videos to help.
#1: Deep breathing
When you practise deep breathing, you breathe in slowly and deeply, while expanding your belly, allowing your diaphragm to contract. Breathing in this way sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax, which makes it effective for dealing with stress. It is a simple and versatile technique that can be learned and used immediately.
#2: Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a great technique for releasing tension in your muscles: you tense a muscle for a few seconds and then relax it. For example, try clenching your fist for a few seconds and then letting go, releasing the tension so your hand is as loose as possible. Your hand should feel relaxed after doing this a few times. You can use this technique on any muscle in your body, so if you have a particularly tense area, you can concentrate on that. The typical areas of the body that affect us are the neck, chest, face and shoulders. If you do this daily, you will condition your muscles to relax much more freely and naturally.
#3: Physical exercise
You need an outlet for your tension so it’s not trapped inside you and used to create more stress and negative energy. Physical exercise is a great way to release tension, due to the fact you burn energy and feel like you’ve accomplished something.
Here’s a little trick to help you get to the gym more often.
Yoga and tai chi are known to improve breathing and relaxation and are therefore good for stress and tension. If you’re more of a football or boxing fan, join your local club. The aim is to find a physical activity you enjoy.
Here’s a top tip: Try a group exercise class. Being around other people gives you extra motivation, and you achieve more. Plus, you get to meet new people.
#4: Mental exercise
You can channel the release of tension through healthy mental exertion. I can, however, think of a few board games that increase tension rather than reduce it, so if it becomes counterproductive, avoid it! Sitting down to do a crossword is relaxing for some people, and stressful for others. Use your common sense: if it’s not helping you reduce your stress, try something else.
Although I don’t practise meditation or mindfulness, I make sure I find a moment to relax every day, especially if I’m busy and find myself dealing with extra stress. People have told me meditation and mindfulness has helped reduce their stress and anxiety, improved their mood, and been good for their insomnia – so it could do the same for you. Meditation takes time to perfect, but if it’s something you would like to explore, you’ll find apps and videos on YouTube that will help get you started.
#6: Have a clear-out
It feels very therapeutic to have a good clear-out. The more possessions we have, the more emotional attachment we have to them. This emotional attachment isn’t always negative, and you’ll probably have possessions that bring you great joy and comfort, like your favourite jumper or chair. At the end of your clear-out, I don’t expect you to have an empty home! However, there will be some items you just don’t need (or want) any more. A good clear-out can make you feel lighter and clearer. I do it regularly. When I looked at my wardrobe I noticed I tended to wear the same selection of clothing all the time, so I packed up all the clothes I hadn’t worn for a year and sent them to a charity shop. eBay is marvellous for raising some extra funds from unwanted stuff. You might be surprised by how much you can raise. Maybe you could put the money you raise towards a trip, or course?
The TEDx talk by the Minimalists, A rich life with less stuff, explains this well.
#7: A change of scenery
If you’re constantly looking at the same four walls, talking to the same people, or doing the same monotonous tasks or job, you’re not presenting your brain with the variety and challenge it needs and deserves. Predictability is boring, and boredom leads to unwanted feelings, including feeling trapped, leading to stress and tension. So spice up your life a little. Take a relaxing break, change your scenery, and do something out of the ordinary.
Now is a good time . . .