6 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress
When you’re busy, it’s easy to think that tackling that next thing on your to-do list is more important than relaxing.
But it’s harder to take care of those things — or the people in your life — if you don’t take care of yourself first. You’ll have more energy and patience when you’re relaxed.
These simple relaxation techniques won’t get rid of all the stress in your life, but they can help you think through positive ways to make changes.
Focusing your awareness on breathing is an excellent way to settle your mind and relax. Breathing often mirrors your emotions, and changing your breathing can shift your attention and mood.
Your brain often can’t distinguish whether you’re imagining something or you’re actually experiencing it. That’s why your imagination can be a very powerful resource in relieving stress and pain.
You can use guided imagery to help:
- sleep better
- reduce anxiety, fear, and panic
- make it easier to manage chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma, and lung or heart disease
- speed healing from surgery, injury, and skin conditions
- reduce pain and the need for pain medications
- change bad habits and maintain healthy ones
Children breathe from their bellies. Their bellies rise as they breathe in and fall when they breathe out. Adults, especially when they’re stressed, breathe shallowly and rapidly from their chests. When you’re mindful and keep your focus on your breathing, you can help yourself relax. Just 5 minutes can help improve your mood!
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
If you’re like most people, you probably carry stress in your muscles. After a while, these tense muscles feel normal to you. Progressive muscle relaxation helps you learn the difference between how it feels when your muscles are tense, and when they’re relaxed. Muscle relaxation works on the idea that whatever relaxes your muscles can also help relax your mind.
Tai Chi and Yoga
Tai chi and yoga are traditional exercises that combine movement and meditation. They can help you relax, improve your posture, balance, coordination, and flexibility, and boost your health and quality of life.
Take a Class
Explore the possible causes of your stress and learn new ways to relax.
Source: Adapted with permission from the Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Handbook (as published under the title Mind & Body Health Handbook), David Sobel, MD, and Robert Ornstein, PhD, 1996
Reviewed by: Andrew Bertagnolli, PhD, November 2015
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers
©2015 Kaiser Permanente