One of the best ways to manage stress is by learning to relax, but many people don’t realize that relaxation doesn’t simply mean to stop, or to shut down. Instead, relaxation means to reduce tension or restore balance, and it takes effort. It has to be learned.
There are several excellent relaxation techniques out there and, even if you’ve decided to put in the effort to learn, it’s often difficult to determine which one is best for you. Don’t be discouraged, and don’t let stress management become a source of stress. You need to try a few techniques and see what works.
You could start by doing something simple like taking a walk. However, your particular work situation and possibly even the weather might not make this practical, or very appealing. You could also learn one of the many age-old meditation techniques, but some of these require special training and take several years to truly master. Here are a few less time-consuming suggestions that are relatively simple to learn and yet highly effective if practiced regularly.
In what might be viewed as a variation on the idea of positive thinking, visualization involves picturing yourself in a relaxing setting. The idea is that if you see yourself as being relaxed then that mental picture will help you to actually relax. Sounds simple and potentially too good to be true, but it can work.
Breathing is something that, thankfully, we all take for granted. We do it all the time, so why not let it help you to manage stress? One simple technique is to monitor your breathing. Don’t try to change how you are breathing, just pay attention to your inhalations and exhalations for a few minutes. Here’s another approach. You’ve probably been told at some point in your life to stop and take a few deep breaths. If you listened to this advice, you likely sucked a large amount of air into your lungs, having your chest puff up like a rooster. Not very helpful. Deep breathing requires slowly drawing a column of air into the body by using the diaphragm, and then slowly releasing the air in the same way. Think of it as breathing with your stomach. Learning this method takes a bit of practice, but it’s an excellent way to lower your blood pressure and calm yourself.
If you’re preoccupied with concerns about things that happened in the past, or things that have yet to happen, then mindfulness might work for you. Start paying attention to what is happening around you in the here and now. What do you see? What do you hear? Identify those things that are impinging on your senses and focus on them for a moment.
If all of this sounds too difficult, relax. You’ll be glad you did.