Will You Just Relax Already!

In this, the last of a four-part series on stress reduction, we will focus on reducing the harmful effects of stress by finding ways to relax! No matter how hard we work to change the way we react in stressful situations, inevitably we’ll get stressed out! We all do. That’s why it’s important to know some quick ways to relax.

Breathing exercises are considered one of the most powerful ways to reverse the stress response. By simply noticing your breath you start to relax. Try the following breathing exercise…

Slowly take in a deep breath through your nose and imagine the breath filling your tummy, actually see if you can make your abdomen get bigger as you inhale. Hold the breath for a few moments. Now exhale through your mouth. Hold again for few moments before repeating.

When we breathe in this way we trigger the relaxation response, the opposite of the stress response. Our heart and breathing rates slow, our blood pressure falls and we gain a sense of wellbeing and peacefulness. Try this the next time you’re stuck in traffic!

Another powerful tool in reducing the impact of stress is progressive relaxation. In this technique breath and awareness are combined in a process of deeply relaxing the whole body. There are tapes and CD’s available that walk you through this technique, which over time can become a powerful way to quickly and deeply relax. In a nutshell, you breathe into various areas of the body as you squeeze the muscles in that area. Hold the breath and the muscular tension for a few moments, then relax and exhale. Progressively move all the way through the body, from the feet, to the top of the head. If I can’t sleep at night, I’ll start this and usually by my tummy or lower chest, I’m out!! Give it a shot.

Some of the key components to a relaxed and healthy lifestyle include a nourishing, well-balanced diet, plenty of restful sleep, and regular physical activity. It’s also helpful to create a soothing and calm atmosphere in home. You can do this with fresh flowers, soothing music, and essential oil diffusers that give your home a relaxing aroma.

Finally, remember to take time for you. Be good to yourself! Treat yourself to a hot bath, indulge in a good book, go see a concert or art exhibit. Remember that the more you do to take care of yourself and relax, the better you will feel, and the healthier you will be!

Chris Tickner is a Pasadena psychotherapist, child therapist, and clinical supervisor practicing holistic psychotherapy, where he combines mindfulness psychotherapy,  somatic therapy, neuroscience, and good old fasion humor and compassion to form a a powerful treatment that is transformative and holistic.  There are thousands of California psychotherapists, and finding a counselor or finding a therapist can be daunting. On his website, Chris provides a primer to help you find the therapist that is perfect for you! Chris is also a Pasadena therapist specializing in anxiety psychotherapy and depression psychotherapy.