When faced with stress, we all have different coping mechanisms. Some of the most effective are relaxation techniques to provide ourselves relief from stress and help us stay calm. Even as simple as taking a few deep breaths and counting to ten, like my mother said! We cannot escape stress in our day to day activities but we can minimize the effects.
We are looking here at natural stress relief, that is utilizing our body's inbuilt systems to help us cope with stress. There are many techniques which switch on our body's adaptive systems. Such techniques include deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, meditation, yoga and many more.
Techniques that are effective for stress relief vary for each individual and using these techniques for may also require some effort and practice. So, while it is good to try a few different things, just make sure you try them for enough time to assess how well they work for you.
Stress causes your system to go into overdrive to prepare for a fight or flight response. There is a jolt of cortisol which makes you feel suddenly very alert and energetic. Think about crossing a street and a speeding bus suddenly comes around a corner! After this momentary jolt however, a cycle of tiredness occurs as your body comes back into equilibrium and balances out the internal chemical landscape.
Some people find that the relaxation/tiredness switch does not come on automatically, and this is where relaxation techniques can be a great help. Here are some techniques that you can try and are proven to be effective in almost all individuals.
Deep Breathing: Deep breathing is one of the simplest techniques to relieve stress yet it is very effective. First, sit in a comfortable situation with your spine straight and your knees flexed if possible. Put your hands on your abdomen with your middle fingers touching each other.
Deep breathing is done using abdominal breathing and your hands allow you to know whether you’re doing it right. Now, breathe in through your nose then hold your breath for about a second and breathe out using your mouth for about twice the time as breathing in. As you breathe in, your abdomen should get bigger and your middle fingers should part.
When you breathe out, they should rejoin each other as your abdomen gets smaller. Repeat the steps and do this breathing for at least 10 minutes or for as long as you like, making sure you are doing abdominal breathing. If you are having difficulty doing this whilst sitting up, you can modify into a lying position. You can also put a book on your abdomen instead of your hands and make sure you are raising the book up.
When practiced perfectly, this provides very effective stress relief through a variety of biofeedback systems.
Guided imagery: Guided imagery is a form of relaxation technique that involves visualizing a scene in which you feel at peace. It may be the sea, a lake, a garden or a favorite place from your childhood. This allows you to drift away from the current situation which you are finding stressful and alters your mood and thus your brain chemistry.
Guided imagery is also used by nurses in the management of pain, where the goal is redirecting the attention of the individual from the pain felt towards something that brings joy or happiness to the individual.
The body has an amazing first aid kit inside, we just need to know how to dispense the medicine. There are many other relaxation techniques out there, including yoga, meditation and others that help in relieving stress. These two are the simplest techniques that can help you get started in finding which relaxation technique suits you best.