Have you ever been told to relax? I know when someone tells me to “relax,” it just gets me more fired up. In fact, when I’m wound up, clenching my teeth in frustration, it’s often the case that the more I am told to relax, the harder it becomes.
I don’t need to be told to relax. I need tools.
So, through research and practice, I’ve come up with the following four ways to successfully reduce stress, and help me induce that wonderful state of relaxation. They’re almost as good as a day on the beach.
1. Relax…Take a deep breath
Do you know when a stressful situation is going to hit? How do you prepare yourself?
When I know a stressful situation is inevitable, I stop and take a deep breath. Deep breathing can reduce your heart rate and increases blood flow to your brain, allowing you to better cope with a stressful situation.
Deep breathing can be done anywhere. When I get lost driving, I make myself inhale for five counts then exhale for five counts, and repeat until I feel my stress fall away.
2. Relax…Close your eyes
When you’re in a hectic environment, you may find you strain your eyes. Stress tells your eyes to be alert, which was useful in our hunting and gathering days when running from a predator. Nowadays we’re more likely to be chasing deadlines or staring at proposals for hours on end, which often leads to sore eyes and headache.
Give your eyes a break.
Try closing your eyes and picture a pleasant object (perhaps a flower, or that new Ferrari you’ve been dreaming of). Focus on your object for 10 seconds, then allow other images around your chosen object.
Practicing this only takes a few seconds and can reduce eye strain and headaches that are normally associated with stress.
3. Relax…Give your body a break
Do you ever feel your whole body tensing when you’re trying to solve a problem? If so, try taking two minutes to understand where the tension is in your body.
Find a quiet space, or use ear plugs so you can focus on releasing each muscle. Starting at the tips of your toes working up your body to the tips of your fingers and up to the top of your head, relax every muscle one by one until you feel as if you are a pool on your chair. When you are ready, begin to slowly wake each muscle up starting from the top to the bottom.
In two minutes you can release the tension from every part of your body, improve blood flow, find mental clarity, and eliminate your stress.
4. Relax…Create realistic expectations
Thanks to media, most people believe that they should be skinny, fit, healthy people who are 100% content with their lives. They should have everything. Great relationships, big houses, perfect kids, and lots of money. Unfortunately, reality isn’t always so pretty.
In the real world, no matter how hard you try there are challenges that come up. Babies get diaper rash and are miserable, someone spills coffee on you at work, your six pack mysteriously disappears when you face the mirror. Reality sucks sometimes, and deep down we know it. So why do we continue to expect what the media portrays?
In situations like this you need to relax your expectations. Instead of wanting what others have, try asking yourself:
- Do you really need that big house which you will spend the rest of your life sitting in an office paying for? Perhaps something more modest will do?
- Is a wife/husband and two kids necessary before you’re 30? Do you want to rush a relationship and end up divorced? Isn’t it possible to meet the right person after 30?
- How much money do you really need to be happy? For that matter, what really makes you happy?
Expectations are causing a lot of stress in our lives. Decide which are unrealistic and make the switch. You may find that what you think you want isn’t worth the sacrifice after all.
There are many instances in our daily live that cause us to clench our teeth in frustration and anger, which can lead to a significant increase in stress.
Should you find yourself experiencing elevated levels of stress remember there are always methods to help.
All you need to do is relax.