This guest post is one that I’m excited to share with you because it comes from my bestest friend ever! Jeremy and I have been pretty much attached at the hip since freshman year of college and I could not imagine my life today without her. She accepts my craziness and deals with whatever it may be that I throw at her (I think that is her psych background coming in handy) and no one understands me better than she does. We just get each other!
Her post on relaxation comes at a perfect time for me as I’m just starting on a relaxing few days in Napa Valley. Hopefully I don’t need to use any of her techniques this week but I’m sure they will come in handy once I return to the hustle and bustle of reality next week!
Hi LoveEatRun followers! It is such a pleasure to be here to share my guest post with you! As you may have read, Jenny and I have been best friends since our freshman year of college. She is “my person” for all you Grey’s fans out there. A little background on me – I’m currently working on my Masters degree in Clinical Community Counseling and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Psychology. Don’t worry I’m not analyzing anything Let me also say before I start that I am by no means an expert or professional in the field, I am merely a student sharing something I learned.
Ever heard the phrase “Stressed is desserts spelled backwards”? As a LoveEatRun reader, I’m sure you know Miss Jennifer loves her desserts, but has never used them to deal with being stressed. One of the many things I admire about her is her ability to self-regulate, she is so driven and full of will-power, it is sometimes mind-blowing to me. I, on the other hand, need extra help keeping myself on track and focused. I am a generally anxious person by nature, given my educational background, I probably have too much information at my disposal for the ins and outs of my brain and how I can cope best with the stresses and anxieties of every-day life. Do I use the information I have? Sometimes.
Relaxation may seem like an easy concept, but very few of us actually allow ourselves to fully relax. I don’t know about all of you, but I have definitely uttered the phrase “I don’t have time to relax!” Well, that’s just not true. Relaxation can be as simple as spending 5 minutes focused on your breathing, or 10 minutes of visualization. The truth is the time it takes to complete a relaxation technique is a small fraction of the benefit you get from it. Relaxation techniques can slow your heart and breathing rate when stressed, reduce your blood pressure, increase blood flow to major muscles, improve concentration, reduce anger and frustration, and boost your confidence.
Here are a few relaxation techniques I have learned over the years that have helped me immensely in my day-to-day life. They may seem silly and the first time you try them you will wonder what the heck you are doing, but give it a shot. Not everything works for everyone, but it doesn’t hurt to have a few extra tricks in your bag.
- In order to achieve the most beneficial type of deep breathing, diaphragmatic breathing must be practiced. To start, lie flat on your back with one hand or both hands on your stomach. Place your tongue on the alveolar ridge (the soft tissue between the roof of the mouth and the upper front teeth) and exhale once forcefully, deeply, and noisily through your mouth. The rest of the breathing will be done through your nose. As you inhale, focus on flattening your diaphragm against your abdominal cavity, allowing your stomach to rise. Your lungs will naturally fill with air. When you exhale, the lungs empty, the diaphragm relaxes, and the stomach recedes. The slower the breathing, the more relaxed you will be. This type of breathing, once you have tried it lying down, can be used anywhere in any position.
- Another type of breathing exercise is inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. It is often helpful to count during this exercise. Inhale through your nose for a count of five seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, and exhale through your mouth for eight seconds. Depending on how stressed you may be you can vary the lengths of time you inhale, hold, and exhale.
In any breathing technique, the idea is to focus on each breath. Feel the air coming into your body, filling your lungs, and then leaving your lungs and escaping your body. Notice every movement, every sensation, and every breath to achieve full relaxation.
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Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is best used when deep breathing and concentration on breath is just not going to cut it! (It can also help after a long, grueling workout!) The idea here is to focus on each muscle progressively down your body and mindfully relax them as you go along. You can start at your toes or your head, whichever you prefer. Begin by flexing the targeted muscle for five seconds, and then relax that same muscle for thirty seconds. Be sure you only focus on THAT muscle you are working on. Repeat this for each muscle in your body until you have fully felt the sense of relaxation in each.
“Go to your happy place.” Sounds childish and playful, but that is actually exactly why it works and feels so good. Taking a few minutes out of your day to visualize relaxation will create relaxation. During your visualization process you want to go somewhere that is peaceful and calm. It is best to practice visualization with your eyes closed in a quiet space. As you begin your mindfulness journey, try to use all of your senses. For example, if you are at the beach, imagine the sound of the waves, the smell of the ocean, the feel of the sand, the sight of dolphins jumping, etc. Stay in your happy place as long as you need to feel the sense of calm you were seeking at the onset of the exercise.
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There are a number of other techniques that you can use to reduce stress and create a sense of relaxation: hypnosis, massage, yoga, tai-chi, meditation, etc. The key is to find what works for you and practice! Relaxation is a skill, be patient and don’t let your attempt to relax become a new cause of stress in your life.
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These techniques in combination with eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising will keep you focused and fueled to tackle any stress you face! Thanks for taking the time to read my post and of course for being such loyal followers of Jenny
Have you ever tried these relaxation techniques before? What works for you to be relaxed?