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It’s no secret that we live in a stressful world—and that external stressors can wreak havoc on our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. What’s a bit more complicated is learning how to reduce stress and how to relax, despite the demands on our lives.
While it may take some trial and error, finding stress relievers that work for you is crucial for taking care of yourself and avoiding burnout. Here’s what you need to know about how to reduce stress.
How to Relax in 4 Steps
Different relaxation techniques work for different people—while some enjoy going for a run or spending time in nature, others may find it more relaxing to take a bath or listen to guided meditations. The possibilities are endless and unique to you and your needs, and the most important thing is to understand what works best for you.
That said, if you’re wondering “How can I relax instantly?” here’s a simple way to tap into your body, decompress, and enter a relaxed state.
Step 1: Find a Comfortable Spot
Whether you’re laying in bed, in a seated position, or outside in the grass, finding a comfortable spot to practice these relaxation techniques is the first and most important step. If possible, try to avoid being around a lot of noise or other people. If not, don’t worry—it’s entirely possible to tune out and take some deep breaths in your desk chair at the office.
Step 2: Relax Your Physical Body
If you’re wondering how to relax the back, how to relax your muscles, or how to relax your jaw, you’re not alone, as these are all areas of tension for many of us. One tried-and-true relaxation technique is a body scan meditation, in which you bring attention to each muscle group, and then try to release any tension you’re holding there. If this is challenging to practice on your own (which is fair!), try turning on a guided body scan meditation.
Step 3: Focus on Your Breathing
One easily accessible, simple stress reliever is taking deep, intentional breaths. Inhaling deeply into your belly (as opposed to taking shallow breaths into your chest) can help you trigger your rest and digest mode—the opposite of the panicked “fight or flight response” we all know too well. This type of breathing helps many relax their mind in less than two minutes!
Step 4: Carry the Relaxation With You
Whether it’s taking a few breaths at your desk or while you’re cooking, setting boundaries with a clingy family member or co-worker, or setting a weekly goal to get into nature, start to implement relaxation into your daily life. Taking even five minutes to actively remove yourself from the flight or fight response and into rest and digest can do wonders for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Why Relaxing and Stress Management is Important
Stress management, rest, and relaxation are paramount to our physical and mental well-being. Being in a state of consistent stress can lead to chronic health concerns, lower the effectiveness of your immune system, cause gut imbalances, and so much more. And—let’s be honest—it’s a lot more enjoyable to go through life with less stress. Making time for relaxation helps us be centered, calm, and in the moment, whether that’s at work, spending time with loved ones, or indulging in a favorite hobby.
5 More Ways to Relieve Stress
When exploring how to relieve stress, be sure to find what feels fun, easy, and relevant to you. If you love art, try out a new medium! If movement is more of your thing, consider sports, yoga, or dance as part of your stress relief and relaxation time. Each person is unique in how they process stress and what feels good in their body.
If you need a bit more inspiration, here are a handful of additional relaxation techniques that may help you relieve stress.
1. Utilize Calming Herbs
Calming herbs, like lavender and chamomile, can support you in your journey to relax and unwind. These are called nervine herbs, which are herbs that act directly upon your nervous system. Whether you use them to make tea or another type of herbal medicine, they may be the support you need to calm down.
Some people have found CBD, a plant extract that assists in relaxation, to be helpful. Wondering how much CBD to relax you’ll need? Like all plant medicine, it’s best to do your research and consult an herbalist, naturopath, or medical professional.
2. Try Gentle Movement
Practicing gentle movement such as yoga, including Yoga Nidra, Yin Yoga, and Restorative Yoga, can help you move stagnation in your body, become more present, and start to unwind. If those moves aren’t in your practice already, hop into a class and be guided! Or try going on a walk or hike, or doing whatever movement suits your interest or your body. Some people prefer a more vigorous workout to relieve stress as well.
3. Practice Meditation
Daily meditation is a wonderful way to tune inwards, practice a grounded relaxation technique, and explore how to relax your mind. Sit quietly for a few minutes a day, or take a beginner’s meditation course if you’re looking for guidance on how to get started. A simple meditation practice can do wonders in soothing your nervous system.
4. Start a Journal
Writing or journaling can be a great way to get your thoughts, worries, stressors, and emotions out of your head and onto paper. One approach is morning pages, a three-page free-write every morning to clear your head, created by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. Try this or another journaling exercise daily for a couple of weeks and see if it’s a helpful relaxation technique for you.
5. Relax With Art
Lastly, you may find it easier to move out of your head and into your body by creating art. Whether it’s watercolor painting, taking a ceramics class, practicing photography, or simply doodling in a sketchbook, try this creative outlet to reduce stress and promote relaxation. And don’t worry about your art being perfect or beautiful—that may just add more stress! Instead, enjoy the experience of making art itself.
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