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Stress can come from home, relationships, work, or any other field in life. It is best that you learn how to de-stress and sail through tough times without compromising your health and wellness.
Stress is a feeling of emotional tension, and it is a normal human emotion that happens in daily life. In fact, the human body is designed to experience stress against harmful situations.
Stress can affect not only your body but also your thoughts and feelings. (1)
Experts have classified stress into different types, but the simplest ones are as follows:
This is a condition where the person’s touch or contact with reality is not broken. It can include:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Conversion disorders (2)
This is a condition where a person’s sense of reality or contact with reality is broken. It can include:
India’s Union Health Minister, Mr. Mansukh Mandaviya gave a statement on 10th October 2022 and explained that 3 out of 10 students suffer from mental health problems.
WHO calculates that the load of mental health issues in India is 2,443 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) for every 10,000 people; the age-adjusted suicide rate per 100,000 population is 21.1.
The financial loss that comes from mental health disorders, between 2012 and 2030, is calculated at USD 1.03 trillion. (4)
Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress
To cope with stress better, try the following methods of relaxation.
1. Try muscle relaxation therapy
Muscle relaxation involves two steps:
- Contracting the muscles for some tension
- Releasing the tension from the muscles
Studies have shown how progressive muscle relaxation can be good for reducing anxiety and thereby stress in the participants. It also reduces pain associated with prolonged stress.
Here’s how you can perform muscle relaxation: (5)
- Sit comfortably and take a few deep breaths.
- Relax and focus on your right foot.
- Tense the muscle in your right foot slowly and squeeze it tightly.
- Hold for 10 seconds and then relax the foot.
- Stay relaxed for 30 seconds and then start deep breathing.
- Do the same with your left foot and then the rest of the body, such as your muscles in the legs, buttocks, arms, and neck.
2. Perform tai chi
Tai chi, also known as shadow boxing, is an old form of Chinese martial art that is practiced worldwide. It is performed for self-defense and relaxation purposes.
Moreover, tai chi is a form of non-competitive, gentle physical exercise where a person performs different postures to fight stress. It is believed to harmonize the mind and body, and studies have shown the relaxing effects of tai chi. (6)
Tai chi involves the flow of body movements that are self-paced and good for managing stress. These movements help you concentrate and relax while circulating good energy in your body. They’re also great at calming your mind.
You have to focus on your breathing while you perform tai chi. It is advised to learn it from a professional for better results.
3. Practice deep breathing
Deep breathing can help reduce stress and anxiety. The stress is lessened when you consciously focus on your breathing and use your diaphragm.
Abdominal breathing also helps in getting good control of the nervous system. This deep-breathing practice is great when it comes to improving your focus and strengthening your mental clarity. (7)
It is important to let your breath go deep down into your belly without forcing it. Deep breathing will slow down your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. It increases oxygen in your blood and makes you less tense and anxious. (8)
Here’s how to perform a deep breathing exercise:
- Sit straight comfortably and keep your eyes closed.
- Put a hand on your belly and focus on your breathing.
- Inhale slowly through your nose and let your breath fill your abdomen.
- Count to 5 and then exhale via your mouth.
- Continue doing this exercise for a few minutes before you stop.
4. Go for a walk
Going for a quick little walk when you’re stressed is a good way to boost endorphin levels in your body and alleviate depression and reduce stress.
Walking has been shown to be very effective as it lets you be in the moment when you focus on your arms and legs. Focus your mind, not on any thoughts, but on how your breath goes with every step you take. (9)
5. Meditation can help
Meditation is very famous for its positive impact on mental wellness. It reduces levels of stress and anxiety. It also lowers the level of stress hormones in your body, known as cortisol.
Mediation takes away a lot of negative thoughts and aspects of one’s psychological stress. Studies have shown that mindful meditation is helpful in managing anxiety in anxiety disorder and increases the ability to cope with stress. It’s also good at lowering anxiety, depression, and pain. (10)
6. Listen to music
Listening to music relaxes the mind and body. Soothing music especially plays an important role in decreasing the levels of stress hormones in the body. Moreover, music can distract you from negative things and help you focus on where you need to put your thoughts in.
There are specific kinds of music such as relaxing music, healing music, etc. which can be great for inducing a relaxation response in the body. (11)
7. Do yoga regularly
Yoga has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety as it promotes feelings of peace throughout your mind and body. It has a relaxing effect on your mind.
Yoga promotes better sleep, prevents headaches, and reduces symptoms of depression. It also lowers your chances of chronic issues such as hypertension and heart diseases.
Here’s how you can relax with yoga: (12)
- Lie down comfortably with a slight distance between your legs.
- Keep your hands by your side with palms facing upward.
- Breathe deeply and focus on your abdomen and how it moves as you breathe.
- Keep your eyes closed, and keep doing this exercise for a few minutes.
Some yoga poses to de-stress include:
- Child’s pose
- Downward-facing dog
- Standing forward bend
- Legs up the wall
8. Try guided visualization
Also known as guided imagery, guided visualization is a great way to reduce stress. This technique involves the creation of detailed imagery in your mind where you see yourself in a peaceful environment.
This is a way of distracting yourself from what is causing your stress as you relax in a calm situation imagined in your mind. (13)
Guided visualization is great for improving cognitive processes such as: (13)
- Motor control
It also improves self-confidence and motivation while reducing stress and psychological complaints.
9. Aromatherapy can help
Aromatherapy has become very famous over the years because of its relaxing effects that help relieve stress. Aromatherapy can be done using candles or diffusers and essential oils. Bath products are also available that help with the same.
Aromatherapy is known to give a soothing and relaxing effect to the body. Research on aromatherapy is not a lot, but some study findings claim that it is good enough to reduce the perception of stress and decrease the level of the stress hormone cortisol.
Aromatherapy has also been shown to promote good quality of sleep. It can have beneficial effects on those who suffer from mental issues and mental fatigue. (14)
If your symptoms do not become any better even after 2 months, a visit to your mental health expert or counselor/psychiatrist is the way to go. You should not be nervous when it comes to seeing a counselor. Also, do not create any stigma around people who go to counselors or psychiatrists.
In mental health disorders, going to counselors should be as ordinary as having diabetes and going to an endocrinologist.
Somatic Symptoms of Stress
Somatic symptoms imply that a person has a significant focus on physical symptoms, such as pain, weakness, or shortness of breath.
The somatic symptoms of stress include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Sore eyes
- Sleep issues
- Muscle pain
- Digestive issues
- Sad mood
- Lack of pleasure
Note: For symptoms to be taken as a manifestation of mental health issues, they should last for over 2 weeks. Also, panic attacks are a disorder and not a symptom. (1)
In multiple cases, prevailing complaints are constant and distressing pain, such as backache or headache. Quite frequently, patients also share their issues of self-diagnosed sexual weakness, and by the time the patient catches up with a certified counselor or psychiatrist, he/she would have paid a lot of money for various treatment options, such as “magical” herbal syrups or painkillers, that do not provide much relief.
These symptoms are referred to as somatic symptoms that have become extremely common in all regions of the planet.
Other examples of such symptoms include:
- Lump in the throat
- Unexplained vomiting
- Neurological symptoms
These symptoms are often accompanied by appeals from patients for medical analyses even after constant negative test results and recommendations by doctors that symptoms have no physical basis.
Additional Tips and Expert Advice
A lot of patients avoid social gatherings or stay away from talking in class when the professor asks them questions. If you’re one of them, relax and do the following exercise four times every day.
- First, perform breathing exercises for 5 minutes. Then, start thinking like you are filming a short movie about you leaving the home and reaching the place where the social gathering is being held. Think about how you will dress up and whether you will travel on foot, take a bus, or choose any other mode of transportation. Then, think about the people you’ll meet at the gathering including all your friends and others, even strangers. Imagine that when you reach the gathering, everything goes well – you experience no palpitations or break a sweat. Lastly, think about how your trip will end on a positive note. You can also write all this down instead of just simply imagining it all.
- Try the 5–4–3–2–1 method to decrease your anxiety levels. This involves working backward from 5, using your senses to list certain things around you. For example, you could start by sharing 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This can really decrease your anxiety and you can repeat it again till you feel better.
- If you are sitting on a chair, press your body against the floor. You can start by pressing your feet against the ground and your hands against the chair, and similarly, all possible body parts must be pressed against the chair. Pick up and touch items near you to stay in connection with your surroundings. This is called the grounding technique.
- Take a short walk while singing, or walk in a zigzag pattern. You can also enjoy a scent you like.
- Some pupils or workers will be scared to sit in exams or meet their boss for conferences or attend any event, but keep in mind that by sitting at home and not going for exams or meetings, you have a 0% chance of passing or doing well in the office. But by going or taking the exam, you already have a 50% chance of passing or ending the meeting on a successful note.
- Make a list of situations, areas, or things that you are scared of. Then, make a Fear Ladder by arranging everything you have listed from least scary to most scary. Start facing your fears one by one, starting with the situation that causes the least distress. This is called exposure therapy.
Most-Asked Questions About Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress
Is Tai chi safe?
Yes, tai chi is absolutely safe since it is only a low-impact exercise. It is important to not push yourself over your limits.
Here are some tips to remember when performing tai chi:
- Practice in a safe environment.
- Stay hydrated while performing this exercise.
- Warm up before doing tai chi and cool down after it.
- Practice when it isn’t too cool or hot or windy outside.
How do I perform guided visualization?
- Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
- Perform deep breathing and imagine yourself to be in a peaceful location.
- Continue the same as you start to relax and rejoin reality once you feel better.
Is laughter therapy effective in reducing stress levels?
Laughing can lighten your mood and help you reduce your stress levels. When you laugh, endorphins are released in your blood that keep your stress hormones controlled. (11)
It is important to control stress by performing relaxation techniques. This helps keep your body and mind out of stress. Positive coping methods while you de-stress are also important. Coping mechanisms include:
- Positive thoughts
- Time management
- Self-care – It is important to remember that you cannot take care of others if you do not care for yourself first. Not caring for your mental health is the same as planning to run a race with a fractured leg. Self-care is not being selfish; it is being practical.
- Good sleep quality
- Right diet
- Talking to friends and family