This article leads you through the first step of the REWARD-Method to reduce daily stress: Relaxation. People using this word often think or speak about commercial or public wellness, visiting a spa or taking a holiday.
Relaxation in this context usually means having to go somewhere, to spend money and maybe even being in need of other people (e.g. a therapist) to get one in relaxing mode.
Other people relate relaxation with consuming brain altering substances (such as alcohol, legal or illegal drugs) to forget about the day’s issues or to sit dully in front of the TV not even knowing what they are watching.
However, what we want to talk about here are simple, cheap and healthy methods everybody can integrate into one’s life. You might even know about them – the question is, are they a part of your life yet?
The field of relaxation methods is a very wide one. If you do a search on the Internet you’ll find plenty of information. Here are three pieces of advice on how to choose, use and integrate relaxation methods in your daily life:
Have fun and look at different methods! It is most important that you find something that really suits you – otherwise you won’t do it regularly.
Try them out and give them a chance. Relaxing needs practice as everything else in life. Maybe you won’t be able to feel such an instant relaxation effect as when getting a professional massage, but in the long term you will be able to reap the fruits of your practice.
Practice shortly and regularly – A time of 10-20 minutes of relaxation is usually enough. During the day you do also well with 5 minutes periods after having some practice. Longer times especially of passive methods (see below) signal your body to shut down which might leave you with a low energy feeling. Integrate those methods in your daily life, finding times to practice them as regularly as you brush your teeth.
You can choose between active and passive relaxation methods. As the names imply choosing an active method means you actually do something whereas choosing a passive method means to ‘receive’ relaxation.
Passive relaxation methods
There are lots of possibilities for passive relaxation on the market, like all forms of relaxation media, e.g. audio and video files containing relaxing music, sounds or guided meditations to relax your mind. Please be aware of the time, many media files run over 45 to 90 minutes which might be too long for you (see point 3 above). Also check carefully if the content has a relaxing effect on your mind. Not everything that is called ‘relaxation’ has this kind of effect on you.
Active relaxation methods
Out of the wide range of active relaxation methods, here are some examples:
Doing sports – this is one of the oldest and most common ways to relax your mind and release stress; especially the constant switch from the right side to the left (bilateral) while running, activates the brain’s skills to internalize and integrate information and events. Also think about all the calm ways to do sports, such as: Yoga, Tai Chi or simply going for a walk in nature.
Breathing – To breathe is essential in providing our body with oxygen and it’s controlled by our autonomous nervous system. But we can also, very effectively, use our breath to release stress – ‘Take a deep breath’ is not only an old saying. Take a minute or two and just focus on your natural breath floating in and out of your body. After some practice you might find that your breath is able to loosen muscular tensions from the inside. Don’t try to push it, using your natural way of breathing and your attention on it, will be just fine.
Art – there is an old saying: ‘Creating art means to go on holiday without having to leave your place’. You don’t have to be an artist – it’s the joy that leads us to relaxation or to say it with the title of the old song by Cat Stevens ‘If you want to sing out, sing out’ and if you want to paint or craft, do it. Singing and humming have great stress relieving effects, as does playing an instrument. Please pay attention to not try to be perfect. If you want to achieve a certain goal it’s no longer relaxation.
People – talking and chatting about news and everything that bothers us is like emptying our ‘inner trash bin’. It can be very useful as a stress relieving method especially if it’s about sharing emotions, opinions, etc. or finding solutions together.
Awareness – stepping out of our automatic routine and focusing on the here and now again is what awareness is all about. Mindfulness has a great importance in the field of reducing stress.
Napping – the power nap is a highly effective method to release overflowing stress and to regain new energy quickly. It means sleeping for about 10 to 15 minutes – not longer!
Some of these examples might already be a perfect match for you. But always feel free to find out your own personal healthy way.
Join me next week to find out about Step 2 of the REWARD-Program – ‘Eating’.