Common Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief
Living in today’s world can be stressful. Hectic work schedules, heavy school timetables, a multitude of deadlines, demands from significant others, to name a few, are some of the issues that most of us have to manage on an almost daily basis.
Too much stress experienced over a sustained period of time, with sufficient coping strategies can result in ‘wear and tear’ to the body. Over the longer term, both emotional and physical wellbeing can be affected. Inability to contain your inner tension may also result in collateral damage to interpersonal relationships and work performance.
Tell Tale Signs of Excessive Stress
When a person is under stress, he/she may experience the following:
A. Psychological Arousal – Increased irritability and easy frustration – Sensitivity to noise – Restlessness – Irrational and/or excessive emotional reactions – Sense of dread for the future – Poor concentration – Recurrent worrying thoughts.
B. Physical Symptoms – Sleep disturbances e.g. insomnia, night terrors – Tension Headache – Hair Loss – Back, shoulder or neck ache – Heartburn or upset stomach – Constipation or diarrhoea – Hyperventilation or feeling of being short of breath – Palpitations – Sweaty palms – Cold hands/feet – More frequently colds or flu – Lower libido and/or other reproductive problems – Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Skin conditions e.g. eczema, urticaria, psoriasis.
C. Relationship and/or Work Problems – Dislike for social activities – Increased arguments – Domestic or workplace relationship conflicts – Frequent job switches or persistently thinking about leaving your job – Road rage.
D. Behavioural Techniques – Smoking more cigarettes or consuming more alcohol than you used to – Participating in high-risk behaviours e.g. speeding, unsafe sexual practices, gambling etc to feel “alive”.
Relaxation techniques are an essential part of stress management.
These simple techniques aim to bring about relaxation to help the body neutralize the toxic effects of stress, restore balance and improve health.
For some, simply listening to their favourite music, exercising or taking a nature walk may be effective enough to reduce stress levels. Other, however, may require more focused tenchiques.
Some of the more commonly used techniques include:
1. Deep Breathing for Stress Relief Deep Breathing is a quick relaxation technique that is both simple to learn and easy to practice in most situations. This technique focuses on breathing deeply from the abdomen to get in as much fresh air as possible into your lungs. Apart from this revitalising effect, deep breathing also stimulates slower brain waves that occur when one is relaxed.
To practise deep breathing, you can place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly button. Counting silently from ‘1’ to ‘4’, inhale slowly and deeply through your nose over 4 to 5 seconds. You should feel the hand on your abdomen rise as your lungs expand. The hand on your chest should not move much. Then, counting back from ‘4’ to ‘1’, exhale slowly through you nose. Repeat a few times until you feel your inner tension decrease.
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This technique emphasizes on gradually tensing and then relaxing each muscle group from head to toe at intervals of 10 seconds. Through this, it helps you identify the tense muscles in your body and allows you to relax them in a progressive fashion. You should wear loose clothing and be sitted comfortably in an armchair while practising this.
3. Using Imagery or Visualization All of us have the ablility to form mental images. Through relaxation training, we can use all of our senses namely sight, smell, sound, touch and even taste to take us on an imaginary journey to a soothing, peaceful place. This place can be somewhere tranquil in the mountains or a warm white sandy beach with crystal clear waters at a tropical island. If the thought of relaxing at a mountain chalet calms you, you might want to imagine the cool crisp mountain air, smell of fresh pine and the occasional rustle of the shrubs as the wind ruffles through them. For this, you may like to close your eyes and be comfortably sitting at a quiet place. There are also other relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, massage that can be helpful. You will need to decide what works best for you.
Remember that relaxation is a skill that has to be acquired through practice. Your ability to utilise these techniques and their effectiveness will increase as you use them. Do bear in mind though, that some persons with complex emotional issues mqy experience psychological discomfort while practising relaxation. If so, you will need to stop what you’re doing and consider seeing your doctor for further advice.