Relaxation techniques can really help you with your everyday stress.
Our schedules have become a series of running from one task or activity to the next. Demands on our time are really quite outrageous!
We do not get enough sleep; we are inhaling caffeine and energy drinks to keep our energy levels up; we are downing fast food as if it were our only option and eating it in our cars while we drive to the next appointment. Yes, life is exhausting much of the time. And with that frenzy and exhaustion comes lack of productivity.
Two days on the beach would help, but that’s not going to happen; even 30 minutes at the gym might renew some energy and productivity, but there are days when even this is not possible. So, how can you renew yourself in the short term? How can you get back into that productive mode?
Here are six relaxation techniques you can use throughout your day – short little things to do that will help you renew and refresh.
If you have been sitting at your desk agonizing over a report that is due, just stop for a few minutes. Get up, get away from that desk, and do something physical just for 5-10 minutes. What this accomplishes is taking your mind and your body away from the stressful environment, putting them into a different environment that is only physical, not mental. That change in environment completely “re-boots” both mind and body, so that you can return to the task at hand, as if you were just beginning it. You have a number of options here:
- If you have an office with a door that closes, close that door. Find some music that is energizing and uplifting and that you can dance or sing to. A lot of people have this pre-programmed into their computers so that they can just access it when necessary. One executive stated that he loved to “pretend” to conduct orchestras. He had symphony orchestra music ready to go, played it and conducted the orchestra as he listened. Another states that he turns on music from the 80’s and dances.
- You can leave your desk and take a walk. Go anywhere, it does not matter. Just get out of that physical environment for 10 minutes and move for that entire amount of time. If it is a crisp day, go outside. The fresh air that you take in as you are moving is a great brain “booster.”
- Have a 10-minute (or less) routine of exercises that you can do right in our office – jumping jacks, stretches, some aerobics. Get that blood flowing through your body and into your brain. Blood carries oxygen and oxygen results in higher energy levels.
Actually, that’s the name of a song, but it is an important reminder. Here is what happens when you are stressed. Your breathing becomes very rapid and shallow. You are expanding your lungs with each inhale, but not fully. And when you breathe this way, less oxygen is taken in. So, less oxygen gets into your blood stream to the rest of your body. When that happens you feel “draggy” and you certainly are not productive. The physiology is this:
- Below your lungs is a muscle called a diaphragm. When you lungs expand, that diaphragm drops down to allow your lungs to expand fully.
- When your breathing is shallow, that diaphragm does not move – it doesn’t need to. So, when you are told to “breathe from your diaphragm,” all that means is that you need to expand your lungs to the point that the diaphragm moves and that maximum amount of oxygen is taken in.
- When you breathe and only your chest expands, you are not moving that diaphragm. When you breathe and focus on your diaphragm, your entire stomach expands with each breath, not your chest.
This art of deep breathing is one of the most powerful relaxation techniques that can also work when a crisis looms. We all experience failures that may feel like total catastrophes from which we cannot recover. When you learn to practice this breathing, you can put your failures into perspective and give your mind the opportunity to work toward solutions.
That snack machine is right down the hall, and it is filed with tempting things – chips, cookies, candy. You need a burst of energy, so you head for the machine. Here is the problem with that. You can put some carbs and sugars into your body and get a pretty quick energy response. But the operative word here is “quick.” You will have a burst of energy but it will be so short-lived, and the “crash” of coming off it is so strong, that you will lose the energy you had before and then some. You need long-term energy “fixes.” These come from different types of food. You may have to stock these items in your desk, if they are not offered in the snack machine. Here is your plan.
- Keep a cache of high protein snacks that will give you long-term energy. Focus on nuts, raisins, yogurt, cheese, granola bars, etc.
- Do not gobble the snack while you continue to work. Stop, get up from your desk, get your snack, and eat it while physically away from your work. Wait at least 5 minutes before you return to your work.
- If you are “on the run,” leaving the office to pick up kids, transport to activities and practices, etc., keep these types of snacks in your car.
Learning to Relax your Muscles
You feel it a lot – pain in your shoulders and neck area. This is where stress hits the most. Mental tension manifests itself by causing you to tens up the other muscles in your body, and those closest to your head seem to fare worse. But your entire muscular system is involved, so the solution lies in learning some relaxation techniques to remove physical tension from every muscle in your body not just those that are giving you pain right now. This takes about 5-10 minutes, and goes faster the more you practice it.
- Sitting at your desk, turn off your computer screen or turn over anything you are working on.
- Start with your feet. Tense them up and then relax them. Go up to your calve muscles and do the same.
- Work up through your entire body, tensing up muscles and then relaxing them. You should tense for probably about the count of ten and then relax. Don’t worry if you involve other muscle groups as you are tensing and relaxing some- it’s all good. Sometimes, when you focus on your thighs and butt, for example, you will feel your stomach muscles tense too. This is just fine.
One final thought on those muscles. Taking a complex B-vitamin will also really help with muscle health and will help keep the tenseness out.
Get Some Humor into Your Life
We have all heard of the literary term “comic relief.” Writers use it to diffuse really horrible or tense situations in novels and plays they write. The purpose is to give the reader a “breather” from the tension and suspense or horror of the events. We should all practice what these authors know – humor is, in fact, one of the best relaxation techniques, as it renews us and allows us to tackle anything with better results.
One of the things that laughter does is release endorphins, a chemical in our brains that makes us feel better, more optimistic and more positive. When you can find something to laugh about in times of overload, you will get those endorphins released and refresh your whole attitude. This will make you more productive, for certain.
A lot of people avoid this activity, because they think it has something to do with weird mystics or alternative spirituality of some type. Actually, it is one of the relaxation techniques that therapists use all the time with patients, and it has research-based benefits. Here is how it works and how you can use it to diffuse a potentially stressful situation or to increase your productivity right now.
- You are the writer and the director of you own movie – a movie that you will play in your mind.
- Sit back in your chair, relax, and write your movie in your mind. Is it a task you have to complete today? Is it a long-term project that is really causing you so much stress that you can’t get started?
- Run your movie showing yourself tackling whatever it is you need to tackle and see yourself moving through it, getting it accomplished and then reaping the praise for a job well done.
Just telling yourself, through your “movie” that you can get it done will give you a renewed energy and focus that you did not have before.
Pick one or two of these relaxation techniques and start right now to see the difference they will make for you.
Have you ever tried any other relaxation techniques that work for you? Let us know in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you.
Author Bio: Alice Calch is a former athlete and healthy living blogger who writes about happiness, healthy eating, work-life balance and productivity at Examiner and her blog at topwritersreviews. Get in touch with @Alice and read more of her articles at Google+.