Easy ways to relax and banish stress
In this blog, I want to share my three favourite stress management techniques for creating instant relaxation. These are the go-to activities I practice every day for two reasons:
to maintain a level of calm and equilibrium in my life
so that if stress starts to build or emergency circumstances arise, I can instantly cool my jets and regulate my response
My favourite relaxation techniques are fast, simple, and free. They are easy to do every day and this is important because they are essentially experiential – you have to do them to see results.
By practicing one or all of the exercises every day (even for just a couple of minutes each), benefits accumulate and you can make relaxation your default setting.
By practicing, you can ensure that when inevitable stresses arise, you have a fail-safe technique to minimise physical and emotional tension.
So here in no particular order are my three favourite fast, free and simple relaxation techniques:
Breathing for Stress Reduction
Slowing and deepening your breathing is one incredible life hack, because almost instantly it lowers your pulse, allows you to focus, and reduces pain or discomfort. It’s free, everyone can do it and it can be done anywhere.
My favourite breathing technique:
Sit upright in a chair or lie flat on the bed or floor
Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly
Inhale slowly into your belly, feeling it rise for 4-3-2-1
At the bottom of the breath, hold 2-1
Exhale slowly for 6-5-4-3-2-1
Repeat as many times as you want
Using the Five Senses to Reduce Stress
When we’re stressed the body can be flooded with adrenaline so that the pulse and mind are racing, and this sometimes feels uncontrollable.
With our five senses, we have the tools to anchor ourselves to the present moment and the material world. It is a good way to come out of the mind and into the body.
This is a fantastic exercise to do outside in a green space to harness its powerful grounding effect alongside the calming benefits of nature. You can walk, sit or lie to do it, just take the steps below in order and take the time to focus the senses one at a time.
SIGHT: What FIVE things can you see? What visual details do you notice?
HEARING: What FOUR things can you hear around you? Can you hear things you don’t normally notice?
TOUCH: Touch THREE things and concentrate on the sensations they provide. Use your whole body, not just your hands. For example, what does sitting on the chair feel like?
SMELL: Smell TWO aromas in your immediate surroundings and immerse yourself in them.
TASTE: If you can eat or drink safely, taste ONE thing and focus fully on this taste. This can just be the taste of your own mouth if nothing else is available.
Writing For Stress Relief
When your mind feels crammed with thoughts, when the past is intruding, if you’re worrying about something or replaying an argument… this is a good time to brain dump. So simple!
1. Get a pen and paper. This needn’t be a fancy notebook and pen but if you want or have them, go ahead and use them.
2. Set a time that feels right for you – one minute, five minutes, but no more than ten. You can set a timer or alarm.
3. Capture all of your thoughts and anxieties on paper.
4. Don’t worry about technique, this is not a time for structure or elegant prose. Get it all out. Doodle if you want to.
5. At the end of the time close the book. Do not re-read what you’ve written for at least six months. Don’t let others read it. If you want to rip the pages up or burn them (safely), do it.
6. If you do this every day it can become a springboard for daily creativity.
7. One permutation of this is the insomnia-based to-do list. Keep a pen and paper by your bed and if your busy thoughts are intruding in the middle of the night, write them down and then go back to sleep.
That’s three simple relaxation exercises to reduce stress. It’s a good idea to practice every day so that you always have a toolkit at your disposal.
There are many reasons to lower your stress levels. One particular benefit is how regular stress management helps to soothe stomach problems such as IBS by helping to disrupt the gut/brain dialogue. (Related post: How Stress Affects Your Stomach)
If you’d like to discuss how stress is affecting you and the stress solutions I use in my practice, do consider booking a free 30-minute discovery call at the bottom of this page or emailing me with any questions.
Dr Michael Mosley's brilliant podcast series 'Just One Thing' has an episode on the amazing benefits of deep breathing
Plenty more excellent stress reduction tips on Henrik Edberg's PositivityBlog