The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Regular activities like work, meetings, parenting, social media usage, and household management are common stress factors for many of us. Sadly, keeping yourself on top of these while feeling at ease has also seemed to be too good to be true, especially in this fast-paced digital age.
We’re all aware that such daily stressors take a toll on both our physical and mental health. If stress is not managed, it may become chronic and affect how we normally function, impeding our day-to-day lives.
To continue getting by without sacrificing your well-being, taking a step back to relax is vital for effective stress management. Now, how do we do this?
Relaxation techniques for stress management
More than enjoying a hobby or activity, relaxation is a process that allows you to embrace stillness and reduce stress effects on your mind and body. It comes in different forms, can be customized based on your needs, and has various techniques. These techniques involve refocusing your mind or attention on the things that keep you at peace and help you connect to your core.
These techniques are mostly self-facilitated, low-cost, and can be done almost anywhere. But you may also opt to consult healthcare specialists or experts as they can help you tailor your techniques based on what you exactly need.
Whether your stress and anxiety are spiraling out of control or you’re managing to keep them at bay, you can benefit from understanding relaxation techniques and what they have to offer.
Types of relaxation techniques include the following:
- Deep breathing
- Tai chi
- Guided imagery
- Progressive relaxation
- Music and art therapy
- Biofeedback-assisted relaxation (using electronic technology)
How relaxation techniques contribute to holistic health
According to studies, various forms of relaxation can help reduce many chronic health concerns–physically and mentally–as well as replenish energy and encourage a better sense of self. Just like with skincare, you get to constantly relax your mind and consistently relieve dull, tired skin when you make it a habit. The key benefits of relaxation techniques are the following:
Chronic stress can kill brain cells and even reduce the size of the brain (specifically the prefrontal cortex) per multiple studies. When the stress hormone (cortisol) spikes up, the amount of serotonin and dopamine gets reduced, resulting in an unstable state mentally and emotionally.
With relaxation, you get to shed off negative emotional and physiological feelings, release tension, restore mental and emotional energy, and promote calming thought processes.
2. Increase blood flow
Relaxation techniques can help slightly widen arteries, enabling an increase in blood flow. As a result, the amount of oxygen that reaches your body tissues also increases.
It’s difficult to accomplish even the simplest tasks if stress overpowers your ability to focus. With effective relaxation techniques, you get to listen to and focus on something else (like your core and body rhythm!), helping clear your mind.
Humans’ stress response inhibits the digestive system while relaxation response (aka rest and digest) activates it. The stress response triggers suppression of digestion, making someone feel uneasy and not in the mood for food intake.
With the right relaxation techniques, those with gastrointestinal disorders can experience reduced pain and be able to manage irritability better.
It is normal for your muscles to sometimes tense up when you feel angry or frustrated. To loosen your muscles and feel calmer, relaxation techniques are the way to go. With these, you get to be highly aware of your emotions, minimize the tendency to react impulsively, and respond appropriately.
Relaxation techniques, most especially when paired up with consistent sleep cycles, reduced caffeine and alcohol intake, and proper diet, can help you feel more rested, less fatigued, and energized. You also get to enjoy a good night’s sleep and wake up ready to face another day.
If sleeping on time is something you struggle with, you can also opt for devices like infrared sauna blankets that can help facilitate better sleep.
7. Lower heart rate, blood pressure, and stroke risk
Stress is another main culprit of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and other major health issues.
With relaxation techniques, you get to protect your heart by slowing your heart rate, allowing your heart and lungs to enter a more relaxed state and keeping your blood pressure lower.
Continuous learning of relaxation techniques will allow you to be more aware of the physical manifestations of stress. Once you discern what stress response feels like to you, you get to start making a conscious effort to practice relaxation techniques that work for you. This way, you can prevent stress from spiraling out of control and affecting your quality of life.
Be patient with yourself though–as learning relaxation techniques takes a lot of practice. Similar to building a skill, your ability to relax gets better with practice. The pursuit should always be progress over perfection. And if you feel like one technique does not work well for you, you can try another one until you build your set of relaxation techniques that you can incorporate into your routine. If none of them work, you can also consult your healthcare provider for more comprehensive and data-driven insights and recommendations.