Let’s face it; life can be stressful. Relaxing your mind and body is essential for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. However, it doesn’t come naturally for some, especially in our device-tethered society.
But there’s good news. You can learn simple techniques to help you relax and restore your mind and body. And, the more you practice, the better you’ll be at it.
Let’s discuss how stress harms your body, and then we’ll explain ways to begin learning how to relax.
How does stress affect your health?
Not all stress is bad.
Short-term stress is the good kind. For example, it can motivate you to study for a test or help you focus your energy to perform better.
When you experience a stressful situation, your adrenal glands produce and release the steroid hormone called cortisol to regulate the body’s response. Cortisol is an essential hormone that has many roles throughout the body. It helps regulate metabolism, blood pressure, inflammation, and blood sugar.
However, chronic stress is harmful to your health. When your body releases too much cortisol, you will feel jittery and exhausted. When this continues long-term, it can lead to weight gain, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, inflammation, high blood pressure, etc.
At first, learning to relax may feel strange, and that’s okay because the more you do it, the more you will enjoy it.
Here are a few methods to help you get started on your relaxation journey:
- Progressive muscle relaxation helps reduce tension and anxiety. It involves a pattern of tensing and relaxing all the major muscle groups in the body. Lie or sit comfortably somewhere without distractions. Rest your arms in your lap or beside you. Begin inhaling and exhaling very slowly. After a few breaths, focus your attention on your forehead while allowing the rest of your body to relax. Squeeze your forehead muscles tightly and hold for 15 seconds. Then, slowly release the tension in your forehead until it is completely relaxed. Next, tighten the muscles in your jaw and hold for 15 seconds. Slowly release the tension as you continue to breathe slowly and evenly. Repeat with your neck and shoulders, arms and hands, glutes, legs, and feet, noticing the relaxation you’re feeling as your move through the process.
- Percussion massage guns are a popular tool for boosting recovery and performance in the fitness industry, but they can also help ease muscle tension and promote relaxation. Starting with the lowest intensity, begin massaging the areas with the most tightness and continue working through your main muscle groups. As you start relaxing, your body will increase the production of dopamine and serotonin, known as the happy hormones, and decreases cortisol, promoting a more positive mental state.
- Deep breathing or belly breathing is another effective relaxation method. Filling the lowest part of your lungs encourages full oxygen exchange, trading incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon monoxide. This technique naturally slows your heart rate and reduces or stabilizes your blood pressure. Sit comfortably for a moment and try to clear your mind. When you’re ready, breathe in slowly, expanding your chest and belly as you fill your lungs with air. Hold for three counts and exhale slowly through your mouth, emptying as much air as possible. Repeat three times.
There are many techniques you can learn to bring your mind and body into a state of relaxation. Some will require more practice than others, but the rewards to your physical, mental, and emotional health are worth the effort. So, go ahead, give it a try.