Between world events, natural disasters, and our kids’ education, there’s plenty out there to make you stressed. With so many things vying for your attention, slowing down to relax can almost seem unimportant, even careless. But stress can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health, making it difficult to face and resolve the issues that are causing your stress. That’s why finding relaxation techniques to reduce stress is more important than ever.
Mindfulness is a term that’s thrown around a lot these days. Simply put, mindfulness is a practice that invites you to slow down and come into a calm state of awareness of your current physical and emotional realities. This includes things such as your breathing, the way the sun feels on your face, the sounds of the wind through the trees, the smell of the air, and any fear, sadness, joy, or frustration you may be coping with.
You’re not supposed to become aware of these things in order to fret about them, but to simply acknowledge their presence. When you’re stressed, you may get stuck in thought patterns of worry that are difficult to break. Coming out of your thoughts and focusing on what’s in front of you with no purpose other than to notice it can break these cycles.
Meditation is often seen as a deeply complex process, but the word “meditate” simply means to think deeply about a topic. This may seem counterintuitive, since stress often comes from thinking too deeply about distressing topics. But mediation, like mindfulness, invites you to shift your focus and to think about the things that are important, about your value and your purpose in life.
Massage is often associated with a luxury or spa-related experience, but it has been providing relaxation for at least 5,000 years. Massage has been known to reduce the level of cortisol—the hormones that causes many of the negative effects of stress—by up to 30%. Beyond this, it also eases some of the other effects of stress, such as muscle tension, reduced immune system, blood pressure, and trouble sleeping. And if going to a masseuse causes you more stress, choosing a massage chair for your home will give you the same benefits.
Music (and Other Arts)
There’s a reason for music therapy’s popularity. Research has shown that music is highly effective in providing stress relief. The rhythm of music works with your brain to relax you, and, as with a massage, it can reduce cortisol levels. This is true of both listening to and playing music.
But music isn’t the only art associated with relaxation. Creating visual arts, writing, or doing any activity that uses your creativity has been shown to reduce stress levels. Even if you don’t think you’re “good” at an art, you can use it as a technique to relax and reduce stress.