Learning how to relax is one of the most important ways to cope with stress in a positive way.
Relaxation is more than just sitting back and being quiet. Relaxation is an active process involving methods that calm your body and mind. Learning how to relax takes practice, just as learning how to ride a bicycle takes practice. Once you know how, it becomes "second nature."
Keep in mind that there's no right way to become relaxed. Whatever works for you is what's important. Listed below are a few suggestions. Try out different methods until you find one or two that you like best.
- To begin with, try to set aside time in a quiet place, away from people, TV, radio and other distractions.
- Close your eyes. Slowly tense and then relax muscles that feel tense. Begin with your feet and work up to your neck.
- Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor and your arms at your sides. Close your eyes. Breathe in, saying to yourself, "I am . . . ," then breathe out saying " . . . relaxed." Continue breathing slowly, silently repeating to yourself something such as: "My hands are . . . warm; my feet . . . are warm; my forehead . . . is cool; my breathing . . . is deep and smooth; my heartbeat is . . . calm and steady; I am . . . happy; I feel calm . . . and at peace."
- Light a candle, and focus your attention on the flame a few minutes. Then close your eyes and watch the image of the flame for a minute or two.
- Imagine a white cloud floating toward you. It wraps itself around your pain and stress. Then a breeze comes. It blows away the cloud, taking your pain and stress with it.
- Think about a place you have been where you once felt pleasure or comfort. Imagine it in as much detail as possible how it looks, smells, sounds and feels. Recapture the positive feelings you had then and keep them in your mind. Don't make any room for negative thoughts, stress or pain.
- Imagine that you've put all your concerns, worries and pain in a helium filled balloon. Now let go of the balloon and watch it float away.
Sometimes simply letting your mind wander or "go on vacation" will help reduce your stress. Here are a few suggestions. Invent your own!
- Watch a sunset.
- Take your shoes off and walk in the grass.
- Sit in a park on a warm, sunny day and listen to the birds.
- Sit in front of a fire in the fireplace.
- Gaze at fish in an aquarium.
To overcome barriers to relaxation, you must really want to learn to relax. Some common "stumbling blocks" to relaxation include these:
- Feelings of guilt for taking time from your busy schedule
- Being made fun of by others
- Not being able to stop and take time
- Fear of "loss of control."
Remember that relaxation will help you gain better control of the demands made on you. If you devote time to relaxation, later you'll be able to do more and enjoy yourself more.
From time to time it may seem impossible to stop and relax. You may find yourself in a rut--tense because you're so busy, and too busy to relax. If this happens, start wherever and whenever you can. If you're waiting in traffic, take a few deep breaths, and let the air out slowly. If you're at work, take a short break in the rest room, lounge or snack bar. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and try to forget about everything, except your breathing. Notice which muscles are tense--perhaps your neck, forehead or shoulders--and relax them.
You may think that a high level of body tension means that you're "in control," and that feeling relaxed seems like a loss of control. Realize that muscle tension drains your energy and can increase your pain. Relaxation actually helps you gain control over your stress and pain.
It takes time and effort to learn a new skill. Therefore, don't give up before you have a chance to reap the benefits! Knowing how to relax can become part of your life. Remember, like any habit, learning to relax takes time to become automatic.Some relaxation tips:
- Practice every day, even for just 15 minutes. A new habit must be repeated often until it begins to feel as though it's a part of you.
- Choose your favorite methods. Be creative. Remember, there is no one, best way to relax.
- Work in short relaxation breaks during your day, whenever you can. Try using very simple methods such as deep breathing for even a minute or two.