Life in the modern world is full of tension. With society becoming more competitive, pressure to stay on top or be in the mainstream pushes one to over-exert. These excessive efforts, in turn, cause tension which manifests in emotional and psychological disorders. Clearly, the quality of life is negatively affected. Yet, rest and relaxation as an essential activity for a relaxed life is often ignored and simply pushed aside in the rush of things to do, real or imagined.
Taking time off for rest and relaxation is imperative for a more relaxed life as it re-energizes both body and mind, changes to a positive outlook, and improves learning and memory function. In addition, a more relaxed life leads to good health, which in turn, leads to productivity.
The Path To A Relaxed Life
Major Self-Relaxation Techniques
There are various ways of relaxation lumped into two general categories: The more active relaxation by way of sports, recreation, and leisure activities; and passive relaxation such as massage, biofeedback, and self-relaxation. In a busy world, self-relaxation offers the best opportunity anytime anywhere. Below are some techniques you can do yourself.
1. Autogenic Relaxation (AT)
A form of self-hypnosis, AT is a self-relaxation and self-regulation technique where you tell your body to do your bidding. This relaxation technique aims to reduce stress through the use of a standard formula using positive verbal cues (e.g. peace, love) and affirmations to relax the mind and muscle tensions. In this technique, you control breathing for a relaxed state, slow the heart beat, and be aware of different physical sensations from your arms and legs.
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
Tensed muscles indicate stress, anxiety, and fear that signal potential threatening situations. You may not be aware of tensing muscles as they are automatic reactions like clenching of teeth, tightening of jaw or shoulders.
One technique used to alleviate muscle tensions is PMR which is basically the tensing of the muscles, followed by relaxation and release of tension of one muscle group of the body at a time. This technique is effective and used by doctors to supplement therapies for headaches, insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, digestive disorders, and cancer pain. Obviously it helps to achieve a more relaxed life as well.
3. Relaxation response
Relaxation response is simply another name for meditation and a counter scheme for the “fight or flight” response. The idea behind this technique is to cut a disturbing train of thought that affects physiological responses before these thoughts cause tension, headache, accelerated heartbeat and breathing, upset stomach and other bodily discomforts.
This technique is easily done in minutes with the use of positive words or phrases, repetitive prayer, listening to music, and by concentrating on breathing. Doing this technique helps to calm the mind and body and when done on a daily basis, you will appreciate a more relaxed life.
4. Breathing relaxation technique
Also called abdominal breathing, breathing relaxation corrects the disrupted balance of gases in the body due to stress. When a person is under stress, breathing becomes shallow and the lower part of the lungs does not receive its full share of air. This results to shortness of breath and prolongs anxiety. On the other hand, deep abdominal breathing allows inhalation of oxygen and the exhalation of carbon dioxide, slowing heart rate and stabilizing blood pressure.
In doing this technique, find a place where there is no disturbance for a few minutes. Make sure you are comfortably seated. With one hand on your chest and the other hand on your abdomen, breathe in gently and slowly through the mouth and exhale through the nose. This technique should allow your diaphragm to work efficiently.
5. Visualization relaxation technique
This technique makes use of the power of imagination to alleviate anxiety and replace it with a general sense of well-being. It is similar to daydreaming; the difference is that in visualization, you are in control of what you imagine. Further, while imagination is mental, in visualizing, you use all five senses to bring about an effective imagery that is calming in its effect. An instance is when you imagine yourself to be in a beautiful scenic mountain where you feel the wind through your skin, smell the fresh green of grass, and hear the chirping of birds. Visualization is probably the easiest technique for achieving a relaxed life.
6. Preparatory activities
Before doing any of the relaxation techniques, commit yourself to a time you can own. Taking time for yourself is necessary, particularly when you feel stressed and over-burdened, and relaxing is needed for a restful day.
Schedule a daily routine you can religiously follow to prepare yourself when shifting from one activity of the day to the other. An ideal schedule would be in the morning when you wake up. Do a 10-minute stretching and breathing or any of the techniques that works with you best. Be comfortable in your relaxation position, whether you sit or lie in bed.
Practical tips to achieve a more relaxed life
Often, the flurry of everyday happenings is so overwhelming that the contributing factors causing one’s restlessness and anxiety are not obvious. The tendencies are to do activities believed to be relaxing but are draining. When you go to the root of the matter and act on what you find, the feeling of relaxed life may surprise you.
7. Declutter your environment
By conceding to the inclination to possess, unnecessary things accumulate at home and the work space fills with clutter. You realize you don’t actually need all those things, or may have needed them at one time and now serve to suffocate you. The physical clutter becomes a clutter in your mind and the resulting confusion is stressful.
Go over these things and throw away what you do not need, leaving only the essentials.
A clear and organized environment makes for a clear and organized mind that leads to a relaxed life.
8. Organize and prioritize
Every day, you confront a heap of things to do, be it at home or at work, and you tackle whatever comes into your mind first, regardless of its importance. Unaware, you create your own confusion and gradually, stress mounts followed by headaches and digestive disorders.
Set aside some time to organize your work and check which should come as top priority, working down by degree of importance.
9. Attend to yourself
Usually, the last person one gives attention to is one’s self. At home, attention is done for family members; in social gatherings friends and colleagues come first; at work, tasks are done for others. Failing to take a break for self, you end up a total wreck.
Tending to your self is doing what you want to do and doing it without guilt or regrets.
10. Writing on a journal
Making a habit of keeping a journal has its unexpected rewards as evidenced by studies on the therapeutic benefit of writing. It helps in removing mind blocks and releases your brainpower, allowing you to clearly see yourself, others, and your environment.
With understanding comes an improved opportunity for a more relaxed life. The benefits of writing on a journal are effective when you write freely for 20 minutes daily without thought of spelling, punctuations, ‘ought’, and ‘should.’
11. Talk to a trusted friend
Having a friend who can listen attentively to your woes is an effective way to release stress. The friend is there to listen and not to judge or to solve the problem for you. The point is for you to talk to release all the tension inside. And when the time comes for you to be a listener, return the favor.
12. Make a list of achievements
Not all days are bleak. Recall those days of achievements and list them down. By returning to them when you feel low restores confidence in yourself, makes you feel good, and reduces anxiety.
13. Identify what you can and can’t control
Not everything that happens is within your control. Focusing your attention on what lies beyond your capability is a futile exercise which can lead to frustration and anxiety. Be clear on what you can and cannot act on and focus on the doables.
14. Redefine your problems
Oftentimes, problems are not really as big as you would like to believe. It is fear and anxiety that bloats the problem. Take a slow and deliberate breath; see the problem for what it really is and dwell on alternative solutions instead of focusing on the problem solely.
15. Find opportunity behind a problem
Another way to view a problem is to search for an opportunity behind it. At the flip side of a problem is a learning opportunity. A problem may be a signal to be patient, or to have courage, or to look for greener pastures. What this technique means is to look for the positive side of a problem.
16. Play and have fun
As people grow into adults, the wonder and pure joy one felt as a child at play is lost. Living in the midst of a highly competitive society, one becomes absorbed with work. Nevertheless, it is the fun and elation of play that makes one creative. Further, it is at the peak of play that one loses self and becomes relaxed in the moment of fun.
17. The power of acceptance
Fighting a negative feeling results to prolonging anxiety and fear. Surprisingly, once a negative feeling is accepted and recognized, it loses its power and shifts control over to you. And having control of yourself means having a more relaxed life.
18. Set achievable and realistic self-expectations
The wish to achieve in whatever one does results to setting high and unrealistic expectations of self. The danger in this is frustration when the actual act falls short of one’s expectations. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses; use your strength and accept your weaknesses.
19. Learn to say no
The desire to conform, to be accepted, and to belong pushes one never to refuse a favor asked or a request made by another – favors and requests that fill an already busy day, leaving you overstretched and exhausted. In this state, you are of no use to anybody.
You owe it to yourself to be assertive and say no whenever you feel you are in no condition to accept requests. You may even earn the respect of others if you are honest enough to refuse a request you cannot deliver.
20. Faulty lifestyle
Living an improper lifestyle leads to insufficient sleep and a much needed rest, hyper-reactivity, inability to control emotions, and poor inter-relationships. What you need is to make a commitment to change the lifestyle and aim for a productive and a more relaxed life.