These days, we need stress relief more than ever. But many people get less than what they need which causes both physiological and psychological problems. What most people aren’t aware of is that there are some pretty solid relaxation techniques for stress that anyone can do at home or at the office that will cause less stress. You might think that you have no time for relaxation, but you don’t have to commit to a full hour. In fact, you can de-stress yourself a great deal just by taking a few minutes out a couple of times a day. We’re going to explore 12 relaxation techniques for stress that you can do in just minutes a day and still get much of the benefit.
Everyone loves music. We dance to it when we hit the town, we play it in our cars and our offices, we even buy albums and songs and listen to them via our smartphone or mp3 player while jogging or walking. But there are some types of music that can actually have a major physiological effect on the body according to researchers. Findings published by the National Center for Biotechnological Information showed that music definitely has an effect on the human psychological system and other research has been conducted with similar findings, particularly a study by University of Nevada – Reno that concluded that music at around sixty beats per minute had a positive effect on stress levels.
You can easily take some time out during your day to listen to music, or you might be able to incorporate these relaxation techniques for stress while you are working so that your stress levels are lowered. If you truly can only take a few minutes to listen to some music during the day then try these relaxation techniques for stress to enhance your stress-reduction.
- Sing along with the music. Singing relieves stress as well as just listening to the music. If you don’t sing but you play an instrument, playing along can have the same effect.
- Breathe while listening to the music that you are using to reduce stress.
- Use visualization. Listen to relaxing music and really melt away the stress by imagining yourself on a tropical beach somewhere, or whatever your personal paradise is.
- Dance with the music! Dancing can help you to get some exercise in, which is one of the ways to relieve stress on its own, and dancing to the music can definitely make you feel better.
- Use aromatherapy to go along with the music like a scented candle or any favorite smell that you can breath in.
2. Video Games
It seems like one of those “somebody is actually paying for that?” type of research projects, but the truth is, science has proven several times that video games are great stress relievers, depending upon the type of video game it is. in fact, even violent video games have been shown to reduce stress levels and even can make a person less likely to be violent in real life.
But video games just don’t lower your stress levels, they also improve your motor skills (especially if you use a controller), help you make decisions better and faster, improve your vision and even improve your physical self at the same time if you are using one of the new video game systems that require that you move to play them.
Of course, there are video games that can significantly increase your stress levels so the choice of the game that you play is certainly a factor. For example, if you have to go through a long tutorial phase at the beginning, or have a game that makes you repeat missions over and over again because they are so hard, you are actually going to raise your stress levels not lower them.
What you need to do is choose games that are easy to start playing and allow you to progress and feel good about your accomplishments. There are many simple games to play on the internet on sites like AddictingGames.com if you don’t already have some you can try, and there are millions of games for apple, windows and android powered phones.
Using video games as relaxation techniques for stress can be effective, but you also need to choose games that are easy and fun and don’t require a great deal of investment. Try a game and see if it lowers your stress level and you might just find yourself enjoying the game so much you’ll find more time later on to play.
3. Practicing Your Talent
Whatever talent you have, chances are good that doing it is one of the best relaxation techniques for stress; notwithstanding talents like skydiving or base jumping. Whether you sing, play piano, paint or fix machines, practicing your talent for fun is a great stress reliever. If you can find a few minutes a day to practice as well as a place to do it, you will have a better rest-of-the-day.
So, do these activities actually lower stress? You bet they do, says Dr. James W. Pennebaker of the University of Texas at Austin. In fact, his study showed that practicing a talent, in this case writing, had all kinds of health benefits including fighting infection and preventing depression. According to the University of Indiana at Bloomington, stress levels cause a number of physiological symptoms which can be alleviated with a relaxation response that fights the fight or flight hormone that causes stress. That can cause some amazing physiological changes and is one of the most easy-to-do relaxation techniques for stress.
- Heart rate lowers and respiration as well, and your blood pressure goes down.
- Metabolic rate slows down as does saliva production and digestion.
- You’ll feel warm, heavy and relaxed.
- Your alpha brain waves will increase.
Obviously, if your talent is painting, you might not be able to put a full easel and set of brushes in your office so that you can relax that way, but you might be able to keep a drawing pad at your desk and make sketches to relax. If you sing, you might try going off by yourself for a few minutes and singing to your phone or acapella. If you are a writer, a few minutes a day might eventually get an entire novel finished, and you’ll have relaxation techniques to thank. No matter what your talent is, there are many creative ways that you can practice it at home, at work, while you are out running errands or whatever else you do during the day.
4. Deep Breathing
Everyone knows that deep breathing can help you relax but you might be surprised at what science has found out about this ages-old cure for high stress levels. Harvard University has published their own research on breathing and how it combats the “fight or flight” response that triggers stress and the American Institute of Stress endorses deep breathing as a method of keep levels down. The fight or flight trigger is only supposed to kick in when we are actually threatened, but because of all of the stressful things that happen in our lives every day, the fight or flight trigger goes off all the time.
The problem with being overstressed is that it is quite literally bad for our health. Living a life of stress can cause chronic high blood pressure, diabetes, acne or even heart disease. There are a lot of reasons to use deep breathing as one of your relaxation techniques for stress. However, you should also be aware of some of the other benefits of deep breathing as well.
Better digestive health: Constipation is sometimes caused by not breathing deep enough and deep breathing can solve the problem right away.
Better respiratory health: You reduce all sorts of breathing problems, even asthma, with regular deep breathing.
Circulatory system works better: Because more oxygen is getting into your blood, you are able to improve your circulation and that means more oxygen goes through the body and to the other organs as well.
Improved lymphatic system: Because of the increased circulation mentioned in the previous benefit, your lymphatic system improves which means you heal faster and give your immune system fuel that is can use to protect you.
Quiet nervous system: This is the major benefit linked to de-stressing. Your nervous system calms down when you practice deep breathing and this makes your life much less stressful.
Meditation has been practiced around the world for thousands of years, and while skeptics scoff, there actually has been some solid scientific evidence that meditation is different than sleep and that it can do your body and mind a lot of good and is one of the solid relaxation techniques for stress reduction. Learning how to meditate will definitely help you get a handle on the stress that you are experiencing and if you make a habit of it, you will have less stress in your life.
So, what kind of research actually backs up this stress reducer? There have been quite a few studies that show how healthy meditation is and what kind of relationship it has with your stress levels. Harvard University is just one respected institution that has found a link and they have discovered that meditation is actually something that everyone should be doing anyway, because it rebuilds your brain cells and keeps your brain healthy.
So, how do you meditate? The process isn’t easy but you can learn it if you practice a few times. You probably meditate now anyway without realizing it. Have you ever taken a walk and been so deep in your thoughts that you looked up and suddenly didn’t even know where you were? That’s meditation. Controlled meditation on purpose requires that you sit comfortably and just look inward. You don’t have to clear your mind, just be with your thoughts and try to get deeper within yourself and into that meditative state.
As you do it more and more you’ll find that you’re able to go deeper and you’re able to start to meditate much faster than before. If you’re new to meditation and aren’t sure how to start, give Headspace a try. It’s a guided meditation app that teaches you the basics and even tracks your progress to make it a little more fun.
Some people love exercise and others see it as a chore that they need to do three times a week or more, but either way you look at exercise, doing it will help you relieve stress. There are many ways that you can exercise a few minutes a day, even at the office or while you are driving in your car, so there is no reason not to exercise at some point. If you want to know why exercise is so good for your body and mind here are some health experts who have studied the relationships between exercise and stress.
The American Psychological Association says that when you exercise what you are actually doing is fueling the buffers that hold back your stress. Research that has been going on since the 80’s show that there is a link between exercise and stress. Exercise releases a neuromodulator called norepinephrine which helps the brain handle stress.
The National Center for Biotechnical Information has a paper published on thier site that shows the relationship between psychological stress and physical activity. They found that stress levels were reduced in study participants that exercised, and that was true no matter what type of stress that they had. Interestingly, the study also found that those who were too stressed out had almost no desire to exercise.
So, what kind of exercise do you need to do to get the benefit of stress reduction? Almost any kind of exercise that you can. If you can only sneak a few minutes of some jumping jacks in between meetings, you’ll combat stress a lot more than if you just skipped it, and try to make exercise at least three times a week a priority because there are more health benefits than just stress reduction. Exercise is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.
Self-hypnosis is inaptly named. In fact, is is impossible to hypnotize yourself and get health benefits because you cannot do an induction and then go into trance yourself. However, what people commonly refer to as self-hypnosis is actually something called auto-hypnosis. It means using a recording of some kind to do your hypnotic induction and then give you suggestions while you are under as to what kind of behavior you are trying to change or what kind of habits you want to create. In this case, you want to be less stressed and handle the stress that you have better.
So, what kind of science is out there that shows a link between auto-hypnosis and stress reduction? There have been a surprisingly large number of studies done, researching everything from how hypnosis affects the stress levels of those undergoing surgery to how it helps those who have anxiety problems and cannot function normally.
There are many ways that you can undergo hypnosis for stress problems. First, there are hypnotherapists all around the country that practice this exact thing. You can see them for a variety of problems from quitting smoking to sexual dysfunction and anxiety and stress are in there somewhere. If you would rather see someone more qualified many psychologists also do hypnosis therapy as part of their practice.
There are also many hypnosis audio programs out there that exist for nearly everything that you want to change, from the simple to the very complex requiring several sessions. Some of these are better than others, so you want to make sure that you are choosing the right sessions if you want relaxation techniques for stress. This can usually be accomplished by checking the reviews that the program has online and finding out if other people have had any success with it. You’ll find that just a few hypnosis sessions can help you deal with stress better and bring down your current stress level if it is high, much like meditation can.
8. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
There is at least one study that shows a link between progressive muscle relaxation, often abbreviated PMR, and stress relief. However, if you think about the way that progressive muscle relaxation works, it is easy to see how it would reduce stress levels. These relaxation techniques for stress work very much the same way as meditation or hypnosis does. In fact, there are a lot of similarities between hypnosis and PMR. You might have noticed that in many hypnosis inductions they go through a sort of noninvasive progressive muscle relaxation as an aid to get the patient into a state of utter relaxation.
However, actual progressive muscle relaxation works a little differently than the hypnosis methods. For one thing, there is a specific order to go in and second, you will actually be flexing the muscles as you do the exercise. You’ll need to find a place where you aren’t going to be disturbed and you need to be wearing loose clothing and remove your shoes if that is more comfortable.
You’ll start with your feet, choosing the one to start with based upon your dominant hand. So, if you are right-handed, start with your right foot. It may take some practice for you to be able to flex each muscle individually, but do the best you can, identifying muscles, flexing them as tight as you can for five seconds and letting go. If you notice pain or quivering that’s perfectly normal, but make sure that you don’t hold it too long and injure yourself.
Work your way up your body on one side and then down the other. As you tense up your muscle, breathe in and then breathe out when you let go. This should take approximately fifteen minutes, but if you don’t have that long, you can shorten it and only do the major muscle groups. When you finish you should feel less stressed and more relaxed, both mentally and physically.
Another technique that works great for relaxation and for eliminating stress is visualization. Visualization is when you sit in a quiet place and you just picture “your happy place” in your mind. It could be on a beach somewhere or it could be in a forest or on a mountain top. It doesn’t matter what you choose for your visualization, all that matters is that you are able to relax by picturing it in your mind. If you have trouble finding a place that you feel relaxed in, just think about somewhere you’ve always wanted to go or somewhere you’ve been, where you feel safe, secure and can just relax and imagine yourself in.
So, do visualization techniques actually work to control or eliminate stress and is there actual science to back up the claim? Actually, there are numerous authority websites like Psych Central and Psychology Today that promote the technique for reducing stress. Visualization works differently depending upon what you are trying to accomplish with it. For example, if you are trying to complete a difficult task, imagining yourself doing it actually can help you do it. In the case of reducing stress, you’re going to use visualization to imagine yourself relaxing.
Guided visualization is probably the most effective way to reduce stress, since it allows you to full concentrate on visualizing rather than figuring out what to see. How guided works is with a person giving you a basic skeleton of the place where you are imagining yourself to be. For example: if you are going to use a meadow as your happy place, your guide might describe flowers and grass and just sketch out a few basic details and let your imagination fill in the rest. This is much more effective than doing visualization by yourself because you are able to relax more fully and turn the reigns over to someone else – usually a psychologist or an experienced visualization coach.
10. Ambient Sound
Anyone with access to YouTube has the ability to do ambient sound therapy anytime they want, and there are so many different ambient sounds to choose from that you could do a different one every day and not run out for years. Of course, most people have an ambient sound that they prefer – something that relaxes them like no other. Some people may be relaxed by sounds of the beach or rainforest, and others relax better when they hear rain hitting the roof and the faraway boom of thunder.
Although there aren’t a whole lot of studies yet to look at the relationship between ambient sound and stress, there is at least one and it shows very positive results, published on the NCBI web page. But you don’t need a scientist to tell that ambient sound can help you relax, all you need to do is go on YouTube or purchase an ambient sound pack and try it for yourself. Most people notice a significant reduction in their stress levels after they have been listening to the ambient sound for a while. In fact, some people are able to relax so much that they use it before bed when they can’t fall asleep right away.
If you want to use ambient sound to help you get rid of stress you should do it a certain way. It will be much more effective if you sit in a place where you can relax and just let yourself soak up the sound than if you try to play it while you are doing other things. Feel free to let your mind wander as you listen to the sound. You want it to become something that you are aware of subconsciously but aren’t necessarily listening to actively, because controlling the subconscious is the key to controlling your stress.
In case no one ever gave you permission to nap as a grown-up before – go ahead! Napping is actually really healthy and doesn’t just treat anxiety and stress. Naps are terrific ways to rejuvenate the entire body and they aren’t just for kids – they are for adults to. In some parts of the world, napping is not only accepted, it is actually promoted by companies. In Japan, workers that are sleepy are allowed to take a twenty minute nap at their desks because they are more productive if they sleep.
There have been numerous links found between napping and stress reduction, and in fact, there are dozens of other benefits to napping as well. Taking a 30 minute power nap is something that can make up for a lack of sleep the night before. Some of the authority websites that endorse napping for stress relief include: WebMD and the NCBI site.
There are many other benefits of power naps as well. Besides helping you to make up for sleep that you have missed out on, power naps can increase brainpower and help us to solve problems, remember things and to learn new things. Power naps helps everything from our logic and reasoning centers to the creative side of the brain and they also have a huge effect on our emotional state, making us in a better mood and more energized. Also, it has been shown that napping can have physiological effects as well, particularly on the heart, blood pressure and of course, stress.
Do you struggle to get a good nap in the day? Try these tips from Buzzfeed.
Finally, there is massage for stress reduction. Massage is one of the most effective reducers of stress and getting a massage is something that can make your entire week better. Many people get massages on a regular basis because they are so effective. Both the Mayo Clinic and the American Massage Therapy Association endorse massage as an effective treatment for anxiety.
A certified massage therapist is someone who actually goes to school to learn how to massage the proper way. You should only visit a qualified massage therapist with a license number if you want an effective massage. You might also find a qualified massage therapist at your chiropractic office or in many physical care facilities.
Although getting a massage can be somewhat costly – on average around $50 an hour – it is definitely worth it. Getting a massage from a friend or loved one might seem like a much smarter option, but unless someone has studied how to do a massage, you won’t get the full benefit of stress relief from it.
Many massage therapists incorporate some of the other elements of relaxation that are listed here. For example, many of them use aromatherapy as described here as well as ambient sound and other helpful relaxation aids like doing the massage by candlelight. There are also several different styles of massage so that you can choose what you like.
However, those who have never gone to a massage therapist before should be forewarned that your first massage might be painful. After the massage is over you will feel better than you ever have so stick with it and wait until the end.
The mechanism by which massage therapy works isn’t exactly clear but what is known is that massage has been shown in studies to lower blood pressure by 11 points, as well as make people feel less depressed, better about themselves and even give them more energy to get through the day. The studies, conducted by the University of Miami School of Medicine, showed definitively that a therapeutic massage could lower stress levels and eliminate anxiety.
Of course, if your time is limited, or your budget simply won’t allow for regular massage therapy, you can still do your own self massage to get some of the benefit to reduce stress and anxiety. Simply find a part of the body that is tight or painful and needs massaged and do your own massage of the area. You can take five minutes and do a self-massage and help yourself relax, but if you want to get long-term stress and anxiety relief, you will have to start getting regular therapeutic massages.
Try These Relaxation Techniques for Stress!
All of these relaxation techniques for stress can work to reduce stress to a certain extent, but finding the combination that gives you the most benefit is the most effective way to use this information, and it will help you live a life with much less stress.