Def: to relax and stop being angry or nervous
2017 has well and truly begun, and most likely, despite our ambitious resolutions, seems the same as the last one! Before the stress and daily hum-drum can snowball, try some science-backed ways to unwind and reduce the tension.
Read a book
Drop the kindle, you can feel the difference with a page turning book. Scan the best seller or new release lists and choose something that you’ll enjoy. Then find a quiet place and nourish your mind and imagination.
Make contact with a person you’d like to catch up with to let them know you’re thinking of them, friend or family. We all get caught up in life and let friendships lapse. Youu’ll be surprised at how good it makes you (and them) feel if you call or write and to say “hi” and “remember when . . .?”
Take deep breaths
Deep breathing is a useful stress buster. When we’re anxious and stressed, it can cause you to take shorter breaths, so by deliberately taking a series of deep ones, you can help increase the supply of oxygen to your brain. This, in turn, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, sometimes referred to as the “rest and digest system” because it’s the part of the nervous system that slows heart rate, increases intestinal activity, and relaxes certain stomach muscles.
The key to a relaxed mind is a relaxed body, according to the Harvard Medical School: “The relaxed body will, in turn, send signals of calm and control that help reduce mental tension”.
A great way to relax the body is by including regular exercise in your routine. Running, walking or working out can help the body release mood elevating hormones, like endorphins, and reduce levels of stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol. It also helps clear your mind, prioritise and prepare you for the day ahead.
Get a massage
Massage is perhaps one of the oldest healing traditions. Many cultures – including the Ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese and Indians – were convinced of the therapeutic properties of massage and used it to treat a variety of ailments. One of the immediate benefits of massage is a feeling of deep relaxation and calm. This occurs because massage prompts the release of endorphins, the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that produce feelings of wellbeing. Levels of stress hormones, such as adrenalin, cortisol and norepinephrine, are also reduced. Some of the physical benefits of massage include reduced muscle tension, improved circulation, stimulation of the lymphatic system, reduction of stress hormones, increased joint mobility and flexibility and improved skin tone.
Some studies have shown that yoga could be a useful component to treating depression.
Meditation, or “a mind without agitation”, is considered a great way to relax, and many studies back up that idea, emphasizing its effect as an anti-anxiety and antidepressant method. Experts recommend sitting or lying comfortably in a quiet place with eyes closed. Breath naturally and focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation and clear the mind, allowing it to wander. For something more structured, there are various philosophies of meditation that involve mantras, visualisation and connecting with the body to attain inner peace.
Take a warm bath
Dipping the body in hot water to the neck is kind of an exercise for your blood vessels. This is because water creates physical pressure on the body and so increases the capacity of our heart. In other words, when we’re inside the water, the heart works faster and stronger. Baths also reduce stiffness and pain in your joints, and less pain can mean a more relaxed body and mind.
Visit a sauna
Saunas may be a great way to alleviate the body from stress-inducing tension, and thereby help the mind take a break and quiet down. Saunas help trigger anti-inflammatory responses in the body that may help provide some relief to people suffering from asthma, chronic bronchitis, and arthritis.
Spend time with a dog
Having a dog around comes with many benefits, one being that the simple act of making eye contact releases the feel-good chemical, oxytocin. Better still, take that dog for a brisk walk and you’ll both benefit.
Kiss and cuddle
Kissing may help reduce levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol. High cortisol hormone levels in the body are responsible for weight gain, stress, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Zoning out can be a great way to relax and release your creative mind. Some psychologists advise spending about 15 minutes a day daydreaming: not only could it help you focus, they say, but as a meditation technique it could also help reduce stress.
Take a holiday
You don’t have to travel far, just a night away or a day trip for fresh scenery. Taking a break helps to reduce stress by removing people from activities and environments that tend to be sources of stress. The professional services firm Ernst & Young conducted an internal study of its employees and found that, for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved 8 percent, and frequent vacationers also were significantly less likely to leave the firm. Additionally, research by the Boston Consulting Group found that high-level professionals who were required to take time off were significantly more productive overall than those who spent more time working.
The Mayo Clinic is a big fan of using yoga as stress relief and some studies have shown that yoga could be a useful component to treating depression. Added bonuses include flexibility, muscle strength, improved posture and increased blood flow.
Listen to music
Feeling stressed? Put on some tunes and unwind. One study found that listening to music before a typical stressful situation made it easier for the nervous system to recover when compared to not listening to music before the event. This was measured by monitoring cortisol hormone levels, heart rates, as well as reported levels of stress and anxiety. In fact, there’s a whole area of treatment, called music therapy, that’s dedicated to using music as a way to supplement other medical treatments.
Paint, draw or colour in
Break out the paints and textas, it’s time to get arty. Art is extremely therapeutic and can help generate wellness, quietness, mindfulness and the exact same benefits which meditation imparts on the brain. Enjoying peak popularity at the moment are colouring pages with Mandalas, symmetrical patterns and representations having their origins in India.
Get some alone time
Solitude allows you to reboot your brain and unwind. Constantly being “on” doesn’t give your brain a chance to rest and replenish itself. Being by yourself with no distractions gives you the chance to clear your mind, focus, think more clearly and problem solve.