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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Relax Your Mind When Stressed (The Simple Guide)

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How to Relax Your Mind When Stressed (The Simple Guide)

Do you ever feel stressed and overwhelmed by things going on in your life? Most of us do from time to time. Stress is a normal part of life. It is actually a survival mechanism to protect us from dangerous situations. The problem arises when we don’t know how to relieve it, and the stress persists.

Here we are going to look at why we have chronic stress, and then I’ll show you how to relax your mind with some simple practices. You’ll see for yourself that a peaceful mind is well within your reach, no matter how stressed out you may be.

Benefits of Relaxing Your Mind

The main benefit of relaxing your mind is that it relieves stress. By calming your mind, you’ll feel less overwhelmed by your emotions, which can make you feel like you’re losing control.

By calming your mind, you also avoid many of the health consequences of stress, such as high blood pressure, depression, and fatigue. A peaceful mind will improve your mood by reducing anger and frustration, and also improve your confidence in handling life’s problems.[1]

Overall, you’ll feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Why We Have Trouble Relaxing Our Mind

I often hear people say, “I can’t stop my mind from racing.” They are usually busy people whose lives are filled with commitments and activities. They have demanding jobs and families to take care of. Sometimes, they are young people with goals and ambitions.

There’s nothing wrong with these scenarios. They are normal courses in our lives. The challenge is to find a balance between our commitments to others and our personal needs, and one of those needs is relaxation.

A busy life tends to overstimulate our mind. Basically, anything that touches any of our five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell) will trigger a chain of thoughts. So, all our activities are continuously stimulating our mind. And if we’re really busy, then we can experience sensory overload, which leads to a racing mind and stress.

Reframing Our Views About Relaxation

Another reason we have trouble relaxing our mind is our unconscious views about relaxation. Ask anybody about his views about relaxation, and he’ll probably tell you it is a good thing, and people should take the time to relax regularly. Then, ask him if he actually does that. Chances are he doesn’t.

It’s much like people’s views about exercising. They know it’s good for them, but they have a hard time practicing it. The reason is that our subconscious mind tells us something different. Our subconscious mind tells us things like:

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“I don’t have time to relax.”

“I have more important things to do.”

“I need to be productive.”

“I don’t know how to relax my mind.”

“I’m the type of person who can’t sit still.”

These subconscious beliefs are very strong, and they dictate our actions. So, if we want to change these beliefs, then we need to reprogram our subconscious mind. That may sound difficult, but it’s not. You can easily do it with a technique called writing meditation.

With writing meditation, you simply copy a set of affirmations by hand in a notebook for about five minutes a day. You can do it at any time and any place. You don’t even need a quiet place.

After a few days, you’ll notice a change in your behavior. It will become easier to dedicate time to relaxing your mind. Here is the relaxation writing meditation:

I realize that I deserve to have peace of mind. I know that with a peaceful mind I will be happier, more productive, and make better choices in my life. May I live in a way that doesn’t overstimulate my mind. May I reduce unnecessary background noise around me.

May I take some time everyday to relax and settle down. May I have the strength to follow other relaxation practices to further calm my mind. I commit to relaxing my mind, so that I may realize true happiness and personal fulfillment.

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In order to get the most benefit from this exercise, I suggest doing it once a day for about 3 to 4 weeks, or however long it takes for you to make relaxation a priority in your life.

How to Relax Your Mind

How to relax your mind is pretty simple. The suggestions below will accomplish two things:

  • They will prevent your mind from getting too agitated in the first place.
  • They will allow your mind to settle down naturally.

You are free to choose any of them. Your choice will depend on how agitated your mind is. If it’s highly agitated, then you’ll want to start with some simple suggestions, such as closing your eyes for a few seconds. Then as you begin to relax over time, you may want to try something for deeper relaxation, such as meditation.

Here are some simple practices for how to relax your mind.

1. Listen to Soothing Music

Soft music can go a long way toward relaxing your mind. The slow pace of the music will force your mind to slow down. There is a variety of different relaxation music on YouTube. Find something like a dreamscape with the sounds of nature.

2. Take a Walk

Going for a walk can help us clear our mind from all the clutter. It gets us away from the things that are agitating our mind, and helps us put things into perspective.

3. Make a Gratitude List

We often tend to focus on the things that we don’t have in our lives. This can be depressing, and keep us striving for those things we believe are missing.

Take about five minutes to write down the things you are grateful for. This will help reprogram your subconscious mind, and put you more at ease.

Get some inspirations here: 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life

4. Find Some Alone Time

It’s important to have some time for yourself. Take some time regularly to get away from everybody, and do something you enjoy, such as reading a good book, or watching your favorite program.

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5. Cuddle with a Loving Pet

Studies have shown that some pets can have a great calming effect. They help take our mind to a place of simplicity and unconditional love.

6. Turn Your Cell Phone Off

Our cell phones are a great source of mental agitation. Is it really necessary to be connected to other people all the time? Turn your cell phone off for a while, if not hours. Most people in our lives can survive without us being on call.

Next are some really simple things you can do at any time, without taking much time from your busy schedule.[2] They are meant to interrupt the acceleration of your mind. They also bring you back to the present moment, which is the essence of mindfulness.

7. Close Your Eyes

Just close your eyes for a few seconds. You can even follow your breath if you want. This will help reduce some of the sensory stimulation.

8. Laugh

I personally enjoy funny social media posts, or reliving funny sitcom scenes. Laughing gives us a short break from serious issues.

9. Smell the Flowers

Flowers are nature’s work of art. They come in all shapes and sizes and scents. Stop once in a while to admire their beauty and fragrance. Don’t neglect the tiny ones. They too have great beauty.

10. Get Some Sunlight

Sunshine can have a tremendous calming effect. Go outside for a few minutes during your break. Sit on a bench, close your eyes, and just enjoy the warmth of the sun.

11. Look out the Window

If you’re not able to go outside, gazing out the window for a couple of minutes can be almost as good. Look at the trees, birds, and any other critters you can spot. And don’t just look at the immediate area, but also look into the distance.

If you are serious about how to relax your mind, the following practices will help you achieve a deeper state of relaxation.

12. Reduce Noise and Activity

If you live a busy life, there is probably a lot of noise and activity around you. Try reducing some of the background noise, such as TV and radio when you’re not fully engaged with them.

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13. Relax Physically

Physical relaxation will help calm your mind. There are various ways to relax physically, such as stretching, practicing tai chi or yoga, or taking a warm bath. You can even listen to a guided meditation with a body scan.[3]

14. Talk to a Friend

We often have things going on in our mind because we’re not able to fully make sense of them. Sometimes, just talking to someone else will help us sort them out.[4]

15. Practice Mindfulness Meditation

This is a powerful and diverse practice that can significantly calm your mind. In addition to doing sitting meditation, you can also do mindful breathing, mindful walking, and guided imagery.

Take a look at the different types of meditation and see which one is suitable for you: 17 Types of Meditation (Techniques and Basics) to Practice Mindfulness

16. Exercise

Physical exercise can help you get your mind off your problems, and calm your thoughts and emotions.[5] It also gives you a greater sense of well-being by increasing your brain’s production of endorphins, the neurotransmitters that make you feel good.[6]

Final Thoughts

As you can see, relaxing your mind is fairly simple. It is mainly a matter of reducing the things that agitate your mind, and taking some time to allow it to settle down naturally.

Just imagine what your life will be like with a peaceful mind. Things will become much clearer, you’ll make better choices, and you’ll feel more in control of your emotions and your life. All this is well within your reach. All you have to do is follow some of the simple practices outlined above.

More Tips to Help You Relax Your Mind

Featured photo credit: Tamara Bellis via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Charles A. Francis

Author, meditation teacher, and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute

How to Start Living in the Moment and Stop Worrying 20 of the Best Guided Meditations for Sleep and Insomnia How to Learn to Let Go of What You Can’t Control How to Cope with the 5 Common Stressors In Life and Feel Better 10 Ways a Silent Retreat Improves Your Mental Health

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1 Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why? 2 Does Depression Make You Tired And How? 3 Overwhelmed at Work? 17 Ways to Manage Work Anxiety 4 Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine? 5 How To Cope With Traumatic Events And Stress

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Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

1. Stress Hormone Overload

Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

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You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

3. Negative Mindset

Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

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Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

4. Digestive Issues

It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

5. Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

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Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

6. Breathing Problems

Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

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There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

7. Sleep Issues

Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

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More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

Reference

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