How to Relax

If you are like me then you might struggle with bouts of anxiety and panic attacks. While both of these situations are common and most people will experience them at least once in their lifetimes, some people experience them on a daily basis. This can take a toll on your body after a while.

Basically your body is responding in a fight or flight reaction. Back in the day, when humans experienced something scary, their bodies would react strongly. The sympathetic nervous system kicked in to help them react to a situation in away that would keep them alive. It made sense that when they saw a giant animal, they would run, their bodies would pump adrenaline, raise their heart beat, and stop their digestive system.

These days our bodies act the same way, the problem is, your body cannot tell the difference between a tiger or an alarm clock. We react with the same intensity. Normally, after a rush into safety, the human body would activate the parasympathetic nervous system and start to calm the body and return it to its normal state.

But what happens when your body reacts to your alarm clock, and then a honking car, spilled coffee, a shouting boss, and more and more of today’s nuances? Our bodies continue in a state of anxiety and never get the change to recoup! Over time this can create many health issues like digestive problems and general anxiety disorder.

Today I want to share with you a few small techniques that go a long way toward helping your body recover from the never ending demands of this new world. The following are called Brief Relaxation Techniques and I describe them as small because they feel small and inconsequential but in reality they make a huge difference in combating the stress response in our bodies.

Try these out several times a day and see how you feel and how well your respond at the next stress event. I received these from my doctor as I was learning how to handle my anxiety and they have made a huge difference!

  1. Correcting Breathing. This one is very simple, its learning how to properly breathe. Make sure that you always breathe from the bottom of your lungs and allow your chest and shoulders to relax.

  2. Two-Stage Breathing. For this one you want to start low in your lungs and then move on to the top and breathe out through your nose.

  3. Stretching. This one you can do anytime of the day. Start by doing a gentle head roll and shoulder roll.

  4. Tense-Relax Muscles. This one really makes a difference. Start by purposely tensing up your whole body and slowly relaxing it bit by bit, usually starting from the bottom of your body to the top. You will feel the difference immediately.

  5. Quick Body Scan. Pay attention to your body and realize when you are feeling tension in a part of your body that you are not actually using. Make the decision to relax that part of your body.

  6. Quieting Response. Determine what is causing stress and use it as a cue to relax your body. You can say to yourself “When I relax I can cope.” React this way first to any stress event and then take action against it.

  7. Re-frame. Put a positive spin on your stress inducing event. Make the decision to view it in a new frame, for example a red light can become a moment to take a breath and relax.

  8. Mind Scan/ Coping Statements. Sometimes we don’t realize how many negative statements go through our mind, scan to make sure that you are not accidentally telling yourself that you can’t handle this situation and create new statements that you can repeat to yourself to help you through it. For example “I am only human”, “this too shall pass”, or my favorite “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

  9. Attitudes and Perceptions. This one also requires you to scan your mind and your emotions and take notice of the negative perceptions you may have toward certain events. For example if you view mornings as inevitably stressful parts of the day then you will feel the stress even on non stressful mornings. Changing your attitude towards mornings may allow you to take in the positive notes of the event and help you better cope with them.

  10. Visualization. This one can feel silly but it really works. Stop, close your eyes, and picture yourself in a peaceful place that you enjoy. The beach or the forest are common themes. Try to really see yourself there and imagine how your body would feel. Your mind can’t tell the difference of what is actually happening and what you are telling it is happening and in return your body will respond as if you are actually in a peaceful and relaxing place.

Try these techniques out and let me know in the comments how they have made a difference for you! Remember, it takes time and patience, but choosing not to take actions will require more time and patience dealing with the negative rather than the positive. Stay strong and god bless you!