Please consult your doctor before you try any of these relaxation techniques to lower blood pressure.
Much can be done to lower blood pressure besides using medication including exercising, changing one’s diet and avoiding stress. Stress is a normal part of life, however, and cannot always be avoided. What’s more important than avoiding stress is learning to deal with it, and one way to deal with stress is with relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques are an important skill for anyone, but for someone who suffers from high blood pressure, they are particularly important to health.
There are a few informal relaxation techniques that most people can turn to quickly in an emergency. One of these is regulating breathing. When people become anxious, their breathing often gets shallow and fast. Taking deep, slow breaths can be effective in these situations.
However, there are a number of solutions and relaxation techniques that take practice but which result in good long-term success in reducing both stress and blood pressure numbers. Most good relaxation techniques have benefits that are twofold. They help in reducing stress, but they also teach the practitioner to recognize signs of stress in the body.
5 Relaxation Techniques to Lower Blood Pressure and Reduce Stress
1. Muscle Relaxation
In this exercise, muscles are tightened and relaxed throughout the body. This is an excellent way to become more mindful about the difference in feeling in a muscle that is knotted with tension and one that is relaxed in addition to teaching one to release that tension.
Muscle relaxation can be done from head to toe or vice versa. A person begins with the toes or the head and neck and tenses the muscles. It’s important to hold the tension for a few moments and notice how the body feels. Then, the muscle should be released. This should be repeated throughout the body. The main muscles should each be tensed for at least 5 to 10 seconds and released for at least 30.
Visualization is another effective relaxation technique to lower blood pressure. Everyone knows the feeling of closing one’s eyes and wishing to be on a beautiful sunny beach on a miserable day. This is basically visualization, although to do so effectively, one should try to imagine this as thoroughly as possible. This means thinking in terms of the other four senses, not just the visual: hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. Or maybe one’s ideal place is a deserted mountain in the snow or a busy city street. Whatever the place is that brings one calm, focusing on imagining that place can result in relaxation and lowered blood pressure.
Read also: How to Visualize What You Want
3. Autogenic Relaxation
Autogenic relaxation is similar to muscle relaxation. Autogenic relaxation can be practiced in blocks of fifteen minutes or so and also involves raising one’s awareness of body sensations and how the body changes in response to stress. In fact, autogenic relaxation is considered one way to short-circuit the fight-or-flight stress response.
In autogenic relaxation, one should sit in a relaxing position and notice how the body feels. Then, one should begin working one’s way through the body. One can begin by repeating the phrase “My left arm is warm and heavy” several times while imagining that this is true of the left arm. Then, one should switch to the right arm. One should work one’s way through the body in this manner paying particular attention to areas where tension is held. One can also include phrases like “My breathing is steady and regular” and “My heartbeat is calm.”
4. Relaxation Response
Relaxation response involves focusing one’s attention on breathing and on a single word. Like most of the above techniques, relaxation response can be practiced in sessions of ten to fifteen minutes.
Once again, one should choose a comfortable, quiet space. Relaxation response begins in a similar way to muscle relaxation. The body should be scanned and tense areas identified and relaxed. Next, one should focus on breathing in and out. A word should be chosen to repeat on the exhalation of breath. Dr. Herbert Benson, who developed the relaxation response, suggests the word “one” but it can be a different word as well. With each breath, the word should be repeated.
Practicing all of the above techniques will better prepare one for meditation. Meditation is a technique that not only relaxes in the immediate moment. Studies have shown that it produces both relaxation and lower blood pressure in general throughout the day, not just at the time of the practice. Anyone who is already practicing or has mastered the above techniques will be in a great position to begin meditating, but it is not necessary to work up to meditation using the previous exercise; it is another useful technique that can be practiced on its own.
The practice of meditation is often misunderstood. People feel that they need to do it for long periods of time, that one is a failure if it doesn’t work immediately or that one must clear one’s mind entirely for meditation to be effective. In fact, none of these are true. It’s best to begin meditating for about five minutes at a time. A timer can be used. One should sit quietly and focus on breathing. A word or phrase can be repeated, or the mind can simply be observed. During meditation, stressful thoughts may rise up, but the key is to let them go. With further practice, meditation can be extended for longer periods.
All of the above relaxation techniques will produce more effective results over time. Anyone who uses them once or twice and doesn’t notice a dramatic difference should not be discouraged. Practice does increase their efficacy. Also, while all of the above techniques call for a quiet, calm environment, those who regularly practice relaxation responses will also find that eventually they can “turn on” the response even in the midst of chaos. In other words, on crowded public transportation, during a meeting or in the middle of a busy shop, it will become possible to close one’s eyes for just a few moments and summon some of those sensations of calm and relaxation.
Lowering one’s blood pressure and improving one’s overall health is an important goal, but the relaxation techniques learned along the way will do more than that. They will bring an overall better quality of life.
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