Guest Author - Karen Huber
The best way to relieve stress is to use the body's relaxation response. With so many ways to induce relaxation such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, visualization, yoga, tai chi, and aerobic exercise, how does one find the right technique? You can try a few techniques, alternate techniques every few days or every other week, for instance, until you find a program you are comfortable with and that works the best for your needs. You can try different times of the day, before or after breakfast, before work, or before bed. A good time is during or after exercise since you are already in workout mode. Relaxation techniques can take 10 to 30 minutes a day. Your program or techniques should leave you relaxed, calm, and focused.
The key to choosing a relaxation program is to figure out how you respond to stress as an individual. If you become irritated and wound up when stressed, choose relaxation techniques to calm you such as meditation, breathing exercises, or guided imagery. If you become depressed or withdrawn, choose a program that energizes you such as walking or biking. If you alternate between both states, rhythmic relaxation techniques might be best, such as power yoga, ballet exercises, or rhythmic dancing. If you need to be alone to relax, a program that concentrates on meditation or progressive muscle relaxation might be ideal. If you like people, join a class that will help you stay motivated.
There are many different types of relaxation techniques; some use movement, some do not. Basic techniques that do not utilize movement are deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and guided imagery, which is a variation of meditation where a person envisions calm, peaceful scenes in order to reduce tension. Techniques that utilize movement include rhythmic and aerobic exercise such as walking, bicycling, running, yoga, and tai chi. You can concentrate on the exercise and forget your worries. You can choose high- or low-impact exercises and tailor your program to your individual needs.
Make a habit or your relaxation techniques by trying to do them the same time every day. Some people like to do their routine in the morning so they are not interrupted by the day's events. If you set the same time each day for your routine, it will be easier to make it a habit. You can combine daily activities with stress-relief activities. You can meditate or practice deep breathing as you are lying in bed or waiting in line. I find meditation and deep breathing help me to sleep.
Focusing on your body while you are exercising is a form of meditation. Focused breathing can also be a part of aerobic exercise. Many people focus their breathing when running or lifting weights. If you need a break, take one. Resume your program when you are able. Taking too much of a break, though, will get you out of your exercise or stress-relief program, so try to take short breaks if you need to. If you get out of your routine, you will have to build up again.
Try different breathing techniques, meditations, or forms of yoga, of which there are many of each. They are easily found on the Internet or in books from your library. You might need a variety so you do not get bored. I have many different exercise DVDs so I do not get bored. Make learning new techniques a game or a challenge that you can master. You will have fun finding and learning new techniques and gain more benefits as your body gets fitter, more focused and relaxed. Most of all, find or create a technique or program that you like. Liking your activities will keep you motivated and decrease the chance of boredom.