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Feeling stressed? These relaxation techniques, such as colouring in and practising relaxation meditation, will show you how to de-stress.
Unpredictability is inherently stressful – and our current times are nothing if not unpredictable. But given the right tools and relaxation techniques, we can learn how to de-stress (or, at the very least, try to practise de-stressing techniques!). Here are a few of the best ways to relax.
Although it’s become a recent trend for relaxation, mindfulness has its roots in ancient Buddhist and Hindu relaxation techniques. Simply defined as a “moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment”, mindfulness helps us to shift focus out of the thinking mind and into the feeling and observation mind, helping to reduce stress and resulting in a generally more positive outlook.
If you’re new to the practice, search “mindfulness” on your app store to download an app to help you observe your surroundings mindfully. Some apps integrate relaxation meditation or relaxing music with mindfulness to help quiet anxious thoughts.
Somewhat separate to mindfulness is the idea of “flow”, conceptualised by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi , which describes the mental state of being so engrossed in an activity that you lose the concept of time and effort, resulting in a hyper-relaxed state. Flow is particularly effective in inducing relaxation:
this Swedish study captured classical pianists during flow and found that their heart rates slowed, smile muscles were activated and breathing deepened. Getting into your flow can be as easy as finding activities that you love to do but that aren’t particularly challenging. Try these flow-inducing activities:
Art Therapy Grabbing art supplies like canvas and paints or paper and charcoal isn’t only about flexing your creative muscles. These kinds of creative projects have real mental health benefits.
It’s engaging, absorbing and the finished product can deliver a real sense of pride – no wonder kids love colouring in. For adults, a set of coloured pencils and an intricate picture book could be just the ticket for experiencing flow.
Sorting the pieces, finding the edges, methodically working through colours and shapes – puzzles are the kind of satisfying activity that demands focus but without stress. There are documented health benefits and it’s the engrossing nature that makes them ideal for relaxation.
We all know the physical benefits of exercise for the body but what about for your state of mind? In addition to reducing the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, exercise also helps the body produce mood-boosting, pain-killing endorphins, resulting in a more positive outlook. These benefits aren’t limited to keen runners or dedicated weightlifters.
Harvard Medical School advises that just a 20-minute stroll around the block can do the world of good when you’re looking for an easy, effective way to relax.
Your breathing can give away a lot about how you’re feeling: classic hallmarks of stress are shallow, quick breaths, as opposed to long, deep and thoughtful ones. Paying more attention to your breathing and taking steps to remedy its shallowness can help lower your heart rate and reduce feelings of stress.
“Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange – that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide,” explains Harvard Health Publishing. “Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilise blood pressure.”
Start to become more aware of your breathing and whether you’re getting enough oxygen. Mimicking the relaxation of deep breathing helps to signal to the body to do the same, resulting in a more relaxed mood overall.
Often when you feel stressed, your body emits a similar physical reaction in the form of muscle tension. Not only is this uncomfortable, it can also contribute to the retention of stress: with your muscles tense,
your body perceives you’re stressed and so the cycle continues. Progressive Muscle Relaxation , a technique that involves the deliberate tensing and relaxation of muscle groups, helps you to recognise the difference
and release uncomfortable tension that could be causing pain, headaches and other physical strain. It can also be treated as a different method of mindfulness,
if you focus on the sensations and feelings of the technique. You can practise this technique alone by following the set sequence, or with a friend or partner.
You could also rely on the guidance of an app, which takes you through the specific body parts to tense and relax.