Too much stress makes me physically ill. It weakens my immune system and aggravates a pre-existing condition. Apparently, I’m in the majority, because it is estimated that 75-90% of all doctor visits are for stress-related problems (WebMD).
I need to take time to relax – we all do – but few of us have the time or money to get a weekly massage and spa treatment. Instead, here are 7 suggestions for relaxing when there is only 5 minutes to spare.
I have been breathing all of my life, but it turns out I’ve been doing it wrong. How do you breathe? Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach. Now take a deep breath. Which hand rises the most? It should be the hand on your stomach, which means you are breathing with your diaphragm instead of just your chest. Take a few minutes to breathe slowly and deeply – with your diaphragm – by breathing in through your nose, hold for 3 seconds, and breathe out through your mouth.
Sit for 5 minutes and consciously relax any tight muscles. Start with your facial muscles and move your awareness slowly down your body, allowing any tense muscles to fall limp. For me, stress usually causes my jaw and shoulders to become tense, and allowing them to relax for a few minutes gets me through a busy day.
Tense to Relax
Sometimes, we are the most relaxed after being tense. If you are so stressed that you feel like hitting something, then a punching bag, weight lifting, or other exercise is ideal. But if you only have a minute to spare, try tensing your upper body. Clench your fists and tighten your arm muscles for a few seconds, and then release them. Do the same with your lower body. Now stretch.
Take a moment to imagine a restful place. Picture yourself on a warm beach with crystal blue water or curled in front of a fireplace on a snowy day. If there is a particular person who has a calming presence, imagine them. For help with visualization, keep a photo of the calming place or person on your desk and look at it when you need some inspiration.
Place a small, damp towel or heat compress in the microwave, and wrap it around your neck and shoulders for a few minutes. Allow your built-up tension to melt away.
Most of the time, people aren’t really laughing when they type “lol.” Many of us have gotten into the habit of not laughing when we find something funny, but laughter is known to decrease stress and boost our moods. Allow yourself to laugh.
Say Good Things to Yourself
Believe it or not, our bodies respond to the things we say. If you think “this job is too hard” or “I can’t do this,” your body will react accordingly by causing extra stress. Tell yourself “I can do this” and other positive thoughts when you start to feel overwhelmed.
Slow, relaxing music can add an additional stress reliever to any of these suggestions. Personally, I prefer slow instrumentals, since lyrics distract me from my task of relaxing. So put in your earbuds, play one song, and relax with these tips until the song is over. Do you feel any better?
Kansas State University
Mark’s Daily Apple