1. Control Your Breathing to Relax
We all breathe, all of the time, so it is understandable that we take this for granted. But actually, the quality of our breathing can have a massive effect on our health – both externally and internally.
The most noticeable pattern of breathing is that when we let ourselves get anxious or stressed about an issue, our breathing quickens and becomes shallow. In extreme cases, this can lead to panic attacks and hyperventilation. When you hyperventilate, amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide we have gets out of balance and you will feel light headed and maybe pass out.
Being able to control your breathing and bring it back to a more relaxed state is a real skill. Shallow breathing is when all the breathing takes part in the top part of your chest. Do this for too long and you will knotted up and tight in your chest.
One of the best tips I have seen for controlling this breathing is this:
Place one hand flat on your chest.
Place one hand flat on your abdomen.
As you breathe, observe the movement of your hands.
Are both hands moving? If only the hand on your chest, then you are most likely shallow breathing. As you take your next deep breath, concentrate on making the hand on the abdomen be the one that rises up.
As you take a deep breath in, breath out slowly, gently blowing the air between your barely opened lips.
2. Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
In a survey of Americans, 48% of the respondents reported suffering from occasional insomnia and 22% said they experienced it every night.
The exact function of sleep isn’t entirely known, but it’s recuperative benefits are obvious to everyone.
There are a number of prescription or over the counter medicines that are available to tackle insomnia, but these are usually recommended for occasional use as anecdotal evidence points to dependency setting in quite quickly, and also the quality of the sleep not being as restorative as naturally induced slumber.
For people having problem sleeping, there are a multitude of ideas, suggestions and products available. Here, we present a selection:
- Sprinkle lavender droplets on your pillow
- Turn your mattress regularly
- Use only one pillow
- Drink a milky drink before bed. Try mixing in some cinnamon as this can induce sleep.
- Read before bed. Choose your reading material carefully – avoid current affairs or any material likely to stimulate your brain too much.
- If you wake in the night, turn the light on and read again until tired.
- Play gentle music in the bedroom.
- Acupressure Bracelet
Recently, a product has come on the market called BedTime Milk. We would love to hear your experiences of this or similar products to see if it has benefit you. What ideas do you have for getting to sleep? Let us know what works and what doesn’t.
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A really good night’s sleep refreshes your mind and body. The rest and relaxation enhances your energy levels and sharpens concentration throughout the day.
This range of sleep products will help you to encourage natural sleep patterns:
3. Relaxation Through Mantras
A mantra is a word, or a collection of syllables that you will recite in repetition with the goal of reaching a deep state of relaxation. Typically the word you use will be one or two syllables only, and will be meaningless in everyday language – this will mean that you have no external associations with it.
The act of chanting your mantra is “mantra meditation”, and can bring deep relaxation and inner peace. Once you have learn how to do it, you will find you can use the technique anywhere – on the train to work, at the office, in the garden etc.
4. Relaxing At The Office
Obviously our offices are our workplaces, and these can be incubators of distress as we seek to reach the mountain of professional goals and targets required of us to successfully carry out our duties.
But since many of us spend so much of our time at our desks in offices, it makes sense to take sensible steps to de-stress our working environment as much as possible. You clearly don’t want to be too relaxed, as offices often thrive on a little stress as they can create a dynamic and energy, but a good balance will create better productivity.
Many offices now buy plants for the office. There was a trend for offices to become increasingly bland and sterile, but a plant can bring an energy of its own into the workplace. It will need to be tended to, so volunteer to look after it or have a rota in place for watering it.
As well as watering the plant, it’s important that you keep yourself well hydrated. Drink plenty of water. This will help you avoid headaches and keep you alert.
If you’re working at a computer screen, keep a piece of quartz crystal by your desk as they will soak up electromagnetic radiation.
A great tip that was submitted to us is to tidy your desk before going home of an evening. This will allow you to start the next day afresh and you will feel much better when you first sit down in the morning. Make this a regular routine – it works!
We should all be well aware now of the dangers of RSI or upper body limb disorder, so make sure your workspace is well adjusted with that in mind. Request a workspace assessment from your employer if you are not satisfied.
Rest your eyes from the computer screen regularly. Modern LCD monitors are less harmful to your eyes so request one of these, but even then, take a frequent opportunity to focus on some colorful distraction in the office rather than your screen.
An occasional stretch can also make you feel better. Lean back in your chair, interlock your fingers and stretch your arms up in the air for 15-20 seconds. If your colleagues wonder what you are doing, tell them and get them to do with you at the same time.
5. Music To Make You Relaxed
Music can have a very beneficial effect to anyone that is highly stressed or tense and seeking to relax.
I had a friend that was very tense in the car, but as soon as he played “Reach” by S Club 7 on his CD player, he instantly relaxed. The effect was quite dramatic.
This kind of effect will be guided by an individual’s own music preferences, and the very same piece of music is likely to produce the opposite reaction in many people.
Some universal types of music that seem to popular for the purposes of relaxation are sounds that come from nature, such as the sounds of ocean waves and animals at play.
It is best that you find the kind of music that you find most relaxing and then treat yourself to a session of “music therapy” when you need it, possibly using it as quick fix or when traveling.
Feel free to explore new types of music if the music you usually listen to isn’t particularly relaxing. Relaxation tapes and CDs will be available over the internet, as well as places like Boots.
For some reviews of relaxation CDs, check out this useful site:
Travelling can be a source of a lot of stress for many people. Whether it is the occasional drive on a motor way that freaks you out, or the everyday ordeal of being squashed on a commuter train, there are techniques at your disposal that can help relax you when travelling.
Sucking is a mint is a great way to distract your senses, especially if you are prone to feeling nauseous.
When driving, make sure you are sitting comfortably. Don’t clench the steering wheel tightly, but lightly hold it and feed it around as you turn corners.
If travel sickness is a problem, then make it easier on yourself by carrying a paper bag with you. Knowing that you have an option should you be sick, means not having to worry about making it to a toilet on a train or plane.
Listen to relaxing music on the car stereo, or on a portable music player if you on public transport. But always remember that your relaxation should infringe on other people’s, so adjust your volume to an appropriate level.
If your stress comes from a particular fear or phobia, then hypnosis maybe able to help you with your problem.
7. Feeling Stressed Out?
If stress and tension are getting the better of you right now, here’s some suggestions for quick fixes to make you feel a little more relaxed:
- Take a deep breath of fresh air and breath out slowly
- Take control of your breathing – put one hand one your abdomen and one hand on your chest. Concentrate on the hand on the abdomen, ensure it rises and falls with each breath.
- Take Bach Rescue Remedy
- Do some physical exercise
- Check your body for tension and let it drain out
- Close your eyes and recall a moment of relaxation and happiness from another time.
- Remember your funniest memory. If someone asked you now to think of the funniest anecdote you have, what would it be? Tell it to yourself now, out loud if possible.
- Think of the problem that is stressing you out – now think of your favourite cartoon character telling you why that problem should not be causing this anxiety to you.
8. Check Body For Tension
You will often use this exercise as a precursor to any kind of relaxation, meditation or self hypnosis.
Relax into a comfortable chair and close your eyes. Now, clench and squeeze your toes together, holding for ten seconds and then releasing. Now move of your legs and do the same thing. Calves, thighs, buttocks – Clenching each for ten seconds and releasing. Do this throughout your whole body.
Visualize the tension inside you as a blue liquid. Imagine it leaving your body whilst you do this checking exercise, trickling out of your fingers and toes, building up to a gushing waterfall of tension. This will subside and then just imagine the last droplets of stress and tension dribbling from your digits like a dripping tap.
By this point you should be fully relaxed, and maybe even not be able to feel where the edges of your body meet the chair you are sitting in.
From this state of relaxation you can proceed to use any number of advanced relaxation techniques and methodologies.
Autogenic training is a relaxation technique developed by the German psychiatrist Johannes Schultz and first published in 1932. The technique involves the daily practice of sessions that last around 15 minutes, usually in the morning, at lunch time, and in the evening.
During each session, the practitioner will repeat a set of visualizations that induce a state of relaxation. Each session can be practiced in a position chosen amongst a set of recommended postures (e.g. lying down, sitting meditation, sitting like a rag doll, etc.).
The technique can be used to alleviate many stress-induced psychosomatic disorders. Schultz emphasized parallels to techniques in yoga and meditation. It is a method for influencing one’s autonomic nervous system. Abbe Faria and Emile Coue are the forerunners of Schultz. There are many parallels to progressive relaxation.
10. What is Shiatsu?
Like Acupuncture, Shiatsu comes from Ancient Oriental principals. It is a Japanese therapy that utilizes pressure of the fingers, thumbs, elbows and hands around the body to stimulate Ki energy.
This will support the internal systems of the body and stimulate your circulation. Many beneficiaries of Shiatsu treatments say it brings with it a feeling of deep tension release and leaves them feeling very calm.
Shiatsu practitioners are available around the world. Treatments will usually be given through your clothing whilst you lay on a futon.
11. Leverage The Power Of Hypnosis
Hypnosis is a powerful technique that allows you to achieve a state of deep relaxation, in which the the subconscious mind can be reprogrammed without any interference from your conscious thought processes.
Self hypnosis and hypnosis with the aid of a hypnotherapist are both extremely powerful ways of dealing with stress and anxiety which may be causing you to have difficulty relaxing.
We will developing our section on hypnosis soon, as well as creating a directory of hypnotherapists, so please come back soon for more information on this intriguing subject.
You might also be interested in these hypnosis downloads, which you can listen to and guide yourself into deep relaxation.
12. Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Remedies were discovered and studied by Dr Edward Bach. He discovered 38 natural remedies and curatives that could deal with all manner of ailments, many of which were related to stress.
The individual remedies can be mixed (a max of 5 individual remedies) to create a personal solution, or the read-mixed Bach Rescue Remedy is available, taken in water or sprayed into the mouth, and is designed as a catch all remedy for moments of high stress and anxiety.
The remedies are available health food shops, supermarkets and chemists or you can order them individually online via each highlighted blue Amazon link below or view to whole selection here at Amazon .
- Agrimony – mental torture behind a cheerful face
- Aspen – fear of unknown things
- Beech – intolerance
- Centaury – the inability to say ‘no’
- Cerato – lack of trust in one’s own decisions
- Cherry Plum – fear of the mind giving way
- Chestnut Bud – failure to learn from mistakes
- Chicory – selfish, possessive love
- Clematis – dreaming of the future without working in the present
- Crab Apple – the cleansing remedy, also for self-hatred
- Elm – overwhelmed by responsibility
- Gentian – discouragement after a setback
- Gorse – hopelessness and despair
- Heather – self-centredness and self-concern
- Holly – hatred, envy and jealousy
- Honeysuckle – living in the past
- Hornbeam – procrastination, tiredness at the thought of doing something
- Impatiens – impatience
- Larch – lack of confidence
- Mimulus – fear of known things
- Mustard – deep gloom for no reason
- Oak – the plodder who keeps going past the point of exhaustion
- Olive – exhaustion following mental or physical effort
- Pine – guilt
- Red Chestnut – over-concern for the welfare of loved ones
- Rock Rose – terror and fright
- Rock Water – self-denial, rigidity and self-repression
- Scleranthus – inability to choose between alternatives
- Star of Bethlehem – shock, neutralize grief
- Sweet Chestnut – Extreme mental anguish, when everything has been tried and there is no light left
- Vervain – over-enthusiasm
- Vine – dominance and inflexibility
- Walnut – protection from change and unwanted influences
- Water Violet – pride and aloofness
- White Chestnut – unwanted thoughts and mental arguments
- Wild Oat – uncertainty over one’s direction in life
- Wild Rose – drifting, resignation, apathy
- Willow – self-pity and resentment
We recommend the following books if you want to further explore the subject of relaxation and ways to relax.
The Breathing Book: Vitality and Good…
When I told a friend I was reading about how to breathe, they laughed, which shows how much people take for granted breathing. He thought breathing was breathing and couldn’t distinguish good from bad. This book will teach you about the importance of good quality breathing and how it can benefit your health and well-being.
Structural Yoga Therapy: Adapting to the…
This title begins by providing an overview of yogic spiritual philosophy. It then explains the anatomy and kinesiology involved, and teaches how posture reveals muscular imbalances. The reader should learn to optimize health and healing through a synthesized, personal program.
- Essential oils. Find your favorite essential oil (mine is lavender) and put a drop in your hands, rub them together then cup them and breathe in slowly.
- Chew some gum
- Close your eyes for a minute. Not tightly, just gently closed
- Sip some green or herbal tea. The act of making the tea is itself relaxing too
- Remember to breathe. Consciously take a few deeper, slower breaths for a few minutes
- Candles. Take a bath with the lights off and a few candles lit. Scented candles are even better!
- Squeeze a stress ball
- Give yourself a massage