Health & Wellness

Instant Relaxation Techniques

By Phoebe Chi, MD, MPH

Even when equipped with effective Stress Management skills, sometimes one just needs a break from the stresses of a busy day—in the middle of the day.

These mini-relaxation techniques are powerful stress busters that you can reach for anytime. Whether you’re preparing for an important meeting, stuck in traffic, or in the middle of an uncomfortable situation—these exercises can be a fast and effective tool to help you achieve a relaxed state so that you can confidently face the stresses of the day. So go ahead—take some time to try them all to see which ones work best for you.

Have 15 minutes to spare? Try a full relaxation session for a total de-stressing experience.

******************

– 1 –
Breathing for Relaxation

breathing

These techniques counteract the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.

• Deep Breathing •

Time Needed: 30 seconds

How to do it:

  1. Sit back in a comfortable position.
  2. Place one hand on your belly, so you can feel it rise and fall with each breath.
  3. Breathe in slowly through your nose.
  4. Hold the air within your lungs for 5 seconds.
  5. Pucker your lips, and slowly exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds.
  6. Repeat several times

deep breath
• Focused Breathing •

Time Needed: 30 seconds

How to do it:

  1. Sit back in a comfortable position.
  2. Begin breathing slowly and naturally.
  3. Quietly whisper “I am” as you breathe in and “at peace” as you breathe out.
  4. Repeat this several times.
  5. Feel your entire body relax into the support of your chair.

peace

– 2 –
Mindfulness

Time Needed: 1 minute

Rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, the act of mindfulness switches the focus to what’s happening right now, allowing you to be fully engaged in the present moment.

Use this technique when you are at work, home, or even when you are doing activities such as walking, exercising, or eating…whenever you need a dose of calmness.

mindful

How to do it:

  1. The first time you try this, get in a comfortable position—sitting in a chair or cross-legged on the floor.
  2. Focus on an aspect of your breathing:
    • The sensation of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth
    • Your belly rising and falling
  3. Now, begin to widen your focus:
    1. The sounds you hear
    2. The sensations you feel
    3. The objects you see
  4. Embrace and consider each thought or sensation without judging it good or bad.
  5. If your mind starts to race, return your focus to your breathing and repeat the exercise. 

– 3 –
Tensing & Releasing

Time Needed: 2 minutes

When we hold onto worries and stress, our muscles unconsciously tighten. Most of the time we don’t even notice how tense we are–until the tension leads to aches, pain, and exhaustion.

This technique is about helping your body let go of all that tension. By first tensing your muscles and then loosening them, you force your body to release the stresses of the day.

tense

How to do it:

  1. Sit or lie in a comfortable position.
  2. While taking a deep breath in, tense your entire body by squeezing every muscle you can–from your face down to your toes.
  3. Hold this tension and your breath for 5 seconds.
    • Notice the heaviness and tightness
  4. While exhaling, relax all of your muscles, imagining all the built-up tension and stress in your body melting away into the ground
    • Notice the lightness of your body
  5. As you take slow, deep breaths, continue focusing on how soft your muscles are and how relaxed you feel.
  6. Continue this until you feel completely relaxed.

* * *

Like all skills, I encourage you to practice these techniques several times a day for at least a week of two, in order to find what works best for you. In a subsequent post, I will discuss more complete relaxation techniques that you can do when you have more time set aside. 

In the meantime, let’s all breathe our way to a stress-free day!

******************

Want to keep this information handy for future reference?

Below is a printer-friendly handout with all these tips and more!

IMG_8044

Fast Relaxation Techniques Informational Handout

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