For many of us, relaxation means zoning out in front of the TV at the end of a stressful day. But this does little to reduce the damaging effects of stress. To do this we need to get into a state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress.
What is the best way to relieve stress and relax? The best thing we can do to decrease stress is breathing. It is free and can be practiced anywhere. You probably don’t pay any attention to your breathing. It is just something we do without thinking. The key to reducing stress is to focus on intentional breathing.
How does deep breathing help you physically?
- Your metabolism decreases
- Your heart beats slower and your muscles relax
- Your breathing becomes slower
- Your blood pressure decreases
- Your levels of nitric oxide are increased
In a quiet place, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and go inward. Place your attention on your heart, in the center of your chest. Sit quietly and easily let your attention remain there.Deepak Chopra
Tips for fitting breathing relaxation techniques into your life:
- Try and schedule a set time to practice breathing each day. It may be easier to stick with your practice if you do it first thing in the morning, before other responsibilities get in the way.
- Work relaxation techniques into other things during the day. Meditate while commuting to work on a bus or train, or waiting for a doctor’s appointment. Try deep breathing while you’re doing housework or mowing the lawn. Mindfulness walking can be done while exercising your dog, walking to your car, or climbing the stairs at work instead of using the elevator.
- If you exercise, improve the relaxation benefits by choosing mindfulness during exercise. Instead of watching TV as you exercise, try focusing your attention on your body and your breath. If you are resistance training, for example, focus on coordinating your breathing with your movements and pay attention to how your body feels as you raise and lower the weights.
- Avoid practicing at bedtime. These techniques can relax you so much that they can make you very sleepy. You will get the most benefit if you practice when you’re fully awake and alert.
- Expect ups and downs. Don’t be discouraged if you skip a few days or even a few weeks. It happens. Just get started again and slowly build up to your old momentum.
Take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.Frank Sinatra
Get used to recognizing your emotions and what’s going on in your body. Don’t evaluate any of it as bad or good. Just let your thoughts fade away and try to not judge yourself for having them. Notice if your body is tense or relaxed. Recognize what’s going on as a way of gathering information about yourself and your stress response. Every little bit of deep breathing helps.