December 11, 2013
We all get stressed at times, but there are moments when it becomes too much. We either get that feeling of being completely overwhelmed, or we find it hard to stop our mind from jumping from thought-to-thought, from worry-to-worry. In any case, it can be a struggle to figure out a way to calm down. We have all heard someone say, “Just breathe”, or “Find a distraction.” While these suggestions might be well intentioned, they are typically vague and only moderately helpful at best. So, what does help? Here are 3 techniques that provide specific, readily available solutions to that question.
Please don’t stop reading just yet. This is not another simple recommendation to “Just breathe.” It is a very basic approach to relaxation, and there is a specific way to use it. This type of exercise is best used in moments when finding a quiet space to be alone may not be an option. There is a great app called Breathe2Relax that provides a structured method for maintaining deep, controlled breathing. By slowing our rate of breathing, we in turn refocus our mind and relax our body. This app also provides a way to adjust the length of time between breaths to find a comfortable rhythm.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is a little more involved approach to relaxation, but it can be very helpful with the right method. PMR focuses on different muscle groups throughout the body to refocus the mind and ultimately relax the body. There is a myriad of free scripts available online. One particularly good website is Innerhealthstudio.com. Their Sleep Countdown script is a good example of using PMR to relax when it is difficult to fall asleep. Many find it helpful to have someone else read the script allowed, but if that is not an option, recording it ahead of time might be helpful. The steps are also fairly easy to remember to walk through individually.
This is the most involved of the 3 suggested techniques. Guided imagery requires focusing on a peaceful thought or scene to refocus the mind and relax the body. Like PMR, there are many free scripts and recordings available online. Finding the most helpful script may take some time, but it is worth the effort. One particularly good website is Calm.com. There is both a web-based and an app-based version, which offers great convenience. Users can choose from a number of different scenes, music selections, and session lengths.
It is important to remember that different relaxation techniques work well for different people. Definitely try them all to see what is most beneficial. Stress is taxing both mentally and physically. We need solid strategies to counteract the stress that we all face on a daily basis.
By Treg Thomas