7 Powerful Relaxation and Stress Relief Techniques to Help Your Mind and Body
It’s no secret that we aren’t at our best when we are over-stressed and overworked. Our bodies go into fight or flight mode and never come out. This constant state of alertness, which has evolved over millennia to happen infrequently and to last only as long as the danger remained present, causes all manner of problems—from disruptions in sleep patterns and early aging to weight gain, and more.
In the over-connected, always-on, hyper-focused world we live in, a constant onslaught of stress has become a part of life most of us simply have to accept and learn to live with. So how can we ever hope to live our best lives is we barely have enough time in the day?
Short Relaxation Breaks Reduce Stress and Improve Health
We all know that downtime is essential for reducing stress. Stress is much more manageable if we are able to focus on disconnecting and taking personal time to recover and revitalize before diving back into the fray, but not everyone has the flexibility or freedom to step away from their jobs or their personal responsibilities to jet set off to an island getaway every time they feel like they’re in over their head.
Luckily for those of us who have to deal with stress in the here and now, a new study has shed light on the stress-relieving benefits of short relaxation breaks. The study, conducted by psychologists out of the University of Konstanz, found that a ten-minute break was enough to significantly improve both psychological and physiological stress in the test subjects. When combined with additional relaxation techniques such as a massage, the physiological effect was even more pronounced.
These findings support the idea that taking short, purposeful breaks throughout the day can increase productivity and even job satisfaction.
So how can we take advantage of this information in our daily lives to reduce stress, increase productivity, and avoid the many negative effects caused by a never-ending fight-or-flight state?
Stress Relief Activities for the Office
For many people, their job is the source of a large portion of the stress they experience on a daily basis. It is also one of the settings where taking time to relax can be most challenging. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find a few moments here and there to relax and help manage stress.
Take the Long Way
When you have someplace to go at work, whether it’s to a meeting, to the break room, or even to the bathroom, taking the long route there or back and giving yourself time to clear your mind can help reduce stress. This doesn’t have to be a long walk, either. Simply giving yourself a few extra seconds each time you step away from your desk can give you much needed time to process and organize your thoughts and stress throughout the day.
Schedule Time for Yourself
For many people, especially those who work in office settings, the constant bombardment of meeting requests can quickly fill up your calendar, leaving precious little time actually to get work done. Scheduling times each day for yourself can help you organize your daily workflow, and if you are able to include it in a company-wide shared calendar, it may help you avoid unnecessary meetings. This can give you time to take care of the backlog of work in a low-stress way and can reduce the stress of constantly worrying about when you can take care of the work that needs to get done.
Show Up Early to Give Yourself Time to Transition
If you are able to, arriving a few minutes early to work and relaxing for a few moments before entering the building can be a massive help with relaxing and staying stress-free. Not only does this short break give you the time to transition into ‘work mode’ smoothly, but it also gives you an opportunity to prioritize and plan your activities for the day.
Organize Your Space
Relaxation techniques don’t have to mean you avoid work-related activities. Taking time to clear your mind, organize your work area, and remove any clutter—both physical and mental—from your life can be a great way to reduce stress. Not only will you be able to use the time to relax and prioritize what is essential, you will also be able to get back to work in a more productivity-inducing environment.
Stress Relief Activities for Home
But even when we are at home, we aren’t immune to stress. Whether we have to study for a class, take care of children or other dependents, or arrive home and realize the milk has gone sour, there are plenty of situations we deal with in our personal lives that can cause a stress response.
Practice Deep-Breathing Techniques
The systems in the human body are all connected in one way or another. This is good news because it means that if we can relax the systems we have control over, such as breathing, we can also notice a similar relaxation in other systems related to the stress response. Controlled breathing is a cornerstone of many relaxation exercises and can help you relax and reduce stress.
Practice Mindfulness Relaxation
Taking a break to calm your mind, let go of the worries about the past and future, and focus on the present moment can help you to relax and destress. Thinking about what is happening in the moment, the sounds, smells, or sights, as well as the emotions and feelings, provides a great way to reevaluate the things that are causing stress and prioritize those things that are fixable in the moment.
Take a Break for Music
Music is a great way to relax, especially when you make an effort to focus on the music you are listening to and let go of the things that are causing you stress. If you want to take it even further, don’t just listen; getting up and dancing along with the music is a great way to get your blood flowing. Plus, its hard to be stressed when you’re dancing to your favorite tunes!
While a short break here and there will never have the same stress-relieving effect as a weekend at the spa or a relaxing vacation on the beach, if we can learn to incorporate these micro-breaks into our daily routines, we can become more effective at managing the daily stress. As you can see, there are plenty of ways to relax that can take as little as a few minutes to perform and can have an incredible effect on stress.
If you are constantly feeling stressed, try a few of these stress-relieving relaxation techniques and let us know how they worked for you in the comments below.
After receiving his undergraduate degree in psychology, Scott went on to work as a teacher and educational counselor while working towards his master’s degree. He has spent several years working with children and adults and has personal experience with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Dyslexia, and Depression.