Modern life seems to be lived at a hectic pace. There are so many things needing our attention, so much to see and do, that we can easily feel overwhelmed. If this state continues for an extended period of time, chronic stress can develop which affects the quality of life in a multitude of different ways. To help make your life better, you need to learn to relax; just breathe!
Have you ever noticed that when you are concentrating intently on something you forget to breathe? You don’t actually stop breathing, of course, but you do change to very shallow breathing which leads to tension. I become aware of this when I get a deep pain across my shoulder blades – a sure sign of stress which I now realize comes from forgetting to breathe normally.
It is really important to incorporate some form of relaxation into your life, no matter how busy you are.
I know what you’re saying – “who has the time?”
The thing is, you need to make the time if you are to avoid stress and the various stress-related diseases that plague modern life. Stress is one of the major causes of feeling dissatisfied with life.
Relaxation techniques have physical, physiological and psychological benefits and implications; this means that relaxation is important for good general health and wellbeing. You need to incorporate some form of relaxation into your day if you are going to be able to make your life better for yourself.
Set Aside Time
Set aside time every day to practice some form of relaxation. Different people find different activities relaxing; you might just sit quietly, listen to music, practise meditation or deep breathing. Or, relaxation for you could mean going for a walk or a swim, a work-out at the gym, cycling in the country or taking a dance class. Whatever it is, you need to do something that gets you away from your normal routine of busyness to do something different, just for yourself. You will be amazed at how refreshed and revived you feel afterwards and how much more you achieve in your day. You will improve your mood, enjoy a better night’s sleep and be a nicer person to be around.
During times of stress, take a few minutes, every hour or so, to stretch tired muscles and then close your eyes and take three slow, deep breaths. Clear your mind of whatever you were doing, close your eyes and relax your shoulders. Breathe in slowly and deeply while you count to four; hold your breath and slowly release while you count to five. Repeat two more times and slowly open your eyes again. This simple breathing exercise will calm you, refresh you and help you continue on with your day in a better frame of mind. I often use this technique when settling down to sleep after a busy or stressful day; it really helps me relax and unwind so I can fall asleep easily.
If you find yourself getting anxious, flustered or angry, stop and breathe deeply for a minute or two. This simple action slows your heart rate, decreases the adrenaline rush and helps you to relax and calm down, allowing you time to regain control. You will find this easy breathing technique prevents you getting overwhelmed and helps you deal with the situation. Because you are in more in control, you will find that your day runs more smoothly and you feel less stress.
Meditation is a centuries-old relaxation technique that often includes breathing exercises and breath control. It is a calming and clearing practice that acts to empty the clutter from your mind to allow you to relax. There are many forms of meditation that you can try; there are guided meditations and meditational music and sounds which are available on CD and as down-loads from the internet. You can learn from books and DVDs or attend meditation and yoga classes. You might think that meditation is complicated but you don’t need to be able to meditate like a Tibetan monk to appreciate its relaxing properties. The benefits of meditation are far-reaching and certainly enhance your life, which is probably why it continues to be practised by millions of people around the world.
Another useful relaxation practice is massage. I find there is nothing more relaxing than a massage from a licenced massage therapist. As well as relaxing my muscles, I find that my mind stills and quietens to the point where I sometimes go to sleep. I wake up feeling so refreshed and alive, almost without a care in the world.
Get Some ZZZ’s
Sleep is the possibly the best relaxation technique there is. During the hours you are asleep, your body and mind repairs and rejuvenates, making it essential for good health. Eight hours a night is still the recommended amount of sleep with the hours before midnight reportedly offering the most benefit.
I’d like to share with you the practice that has given me the most relaxation and mind-clearing benefits of them all. I wake up fifteen minutes earlier than I need to and go to one of my favorite spots around the house and garden. I prefer to get outside if the weather permits. When I am settled comfortably, I focus on my natural breathing and allow my mind to wander wherever it wants. My mind usually stills after a few minutes and then I sit and just ‘be’. I finish with the deep breathing technique and then get up and start my day. I feel refreshed, calm, in control and ready to take on whatever the world plans to throw at me that day.
Never underestimate the importance of incorporating relaxation time in your busy day. If you want to make your life better for yourself, it is non-negotiable. Remember, when the going gets tough, just breathe!