In our stressful world, with a never-ending pandemic among many other stressors happening in our daily lives, a lot of people are finding themselves struggling to relax. Whether that’s due to anxiety, just general stress, or restlessness, it’s pretty common to find relaxation difficult. Relaxation is also important. It kicks in our parasympathetic nervous system, which brings us down from that fight-flight-freeze state we find ourselves. Relaxation can also be pleasurable, increasing emotions of contentment, joy, and happiness. We often think of relaxation as just calming our minds OR our bodies, but it often calms both. I’ve had many people say that they didn’t even know their bodies were tense-they only noticed their minds racing. And the opposite is also sometimes true, where we notice the tension in our bodies, but aren’t ready to acknowledge how our minds are busy in an unhelpful way.
So, here are 5 easy ways you can learn to relax at home.
- Breathing Practices. There are many different types of breathing practices you can use to create a sense of relaxation in your mind and body. Specific breathing kicks in the parasympathetic nervous system, and mindful breathing also teaches us how to slow our minds, notice our thoughts, and redirect our attention. Boxed breathing is popular – inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, and exhale for 4 counts. A mindful breathing meditation done for even just 5 minutes is often calming. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3ywkkOjwew
Deep breathing, into your diaphragm, can be helpful for anxiety attacks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjjPXKdYPEE
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation. We can actually create relaxation in our bodies by tensing each individual muscle group for 5 seconds, and then allowing it to relax. When our focus is on our bodies, our minds also tend to relax. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eipVhYhDrMk
- Taking a Warm Bath or Shower. Many people find that taking some “me time” in the shower or bath, with warm water is soothing. This may include bubbles or Epsom salts or shower gels, but it doesn’t have to. It gives our bodies times to relax. You can help calm your mind by mindfully paying attention to the feeling of the water on your body, the sounds of the water, and anything you see. Bonus if you combine it with soothing music which can bring additional feelings of calmness.
- Journaling. Sometimes we have a lot on our minds and no one to talk to about it. When we journal, especially if we are writing to ourselves in a kind, compassionate voice as we do it, can provide that same support we would hope to get from someone else. Many people feel relaxed when they get their problems “off their chest” and the expression itself shows how the mind and body are connected, usually leading to reduced tension in the body.
- Yoga, Walking or Any Other Exercise That You Enjoy. The key word here is enjoy. What brings relaxation to me may not bring relaxation to you. However, these types of activities release important neurochemicals in our brains that produce feelings of relaxation and happiness. The exercise doesn’t have to be intense, especially if it’s for relaxation purposes. Just light exercises that you find fun is enough.
Hopefully this gives you some ideas to feel relaxed as we continue on in 2022.