We all face stress in our day to day lives, from small annoyances like traffic jams, to major concerns like health problems. Regardless of the cause, stress can flood your body with hormones. This can increase heart rate, breathing, and tense muscles. The “Stress Response” is a normal bodily reaction to uncomfortable and threatening situations, honed in our history to help us survive threats like animal attacks or floods. In present day, we rarely face these threats, but challenging situations in daily life can still set off the stress response. We’ve provided some healthy ways to respond to stress, based on the “Relaxation Response.”
The Relaxation Response technique was first developed in the 1970’s at Harvard Medical School by Cardiologist, Dr. Herbert Benson. This response is the opposite of the stress response. It’s a state of profound rest that can be elicited in a number of different ways. With regular practice, you create a well of calm to dip into as the need arises.
- Breath Focus – In this simple yet powerful technique, you take long, slow, deep breaths (also known as abdominal or belly breathing). As you breathe, you gently disengage your mind from distracting thoughts and sensations.
2. Body Scan – This technique blends breath focus with progressive muscle relaxation. After a few minutes of deep breathing, you focus on one part of the body or group of muscles at a time and mentally releasing any physical tension you feel there. A body scan can help boost your awareness of the mind-body connection.
3. Guided Imagery – For this technique, you conjure up soothing scenes, places, or experiences in your mind to help you relax and focus. You can find free apps and online recordings of calming scenes – just make sure to choose imagery you find soothing and that has personal significance.
4. Mindfulness Meditation – This practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing, and bringing your minds attention to the present moment without drifting into concerns about the past or the future. This form of meditation has enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years. Research suggests it may be helpful for people with anxiety, depression, and pain.
5. Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong – These three ancient arts combine rhythmic breathing with a series of postures or flowing movements. The physical aspects of these practices offer a mental focus that can help distract you from racing thoughts. They can also enhance your flexibility and balance.
6. Repetitive Mantras – For this technique, you silently repeat a short mantra or phrase while practicing breath focus. Some examples of repetitive mantras include, “I am enough”, “All is well”, or “Be still.”
Rather than choosing just one technique, experts recommend sampling several to see which one works best for you. Try to practice for at least 20 minutes a day, although even just a few minutes can help. The longer and the more often you practice these relaxation techniques, the greater the benefits and the more you can reduce stress.
Information sourced from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/six-relaxation-techniques-to-reduce-stress