Following my earlier blog about why relaxation is important for our mental health I have created 5 simple ways you can start relaxing now!
Hopefully these ideas will trigger others for you, bare in mind that when I speak of relaxation, I'm referring to time for yourself with yourself. You don't need to go on holiday to relax, a belief like that serves nothing but to put barriers in the way.
1. Give yourself a hand massage
When you do this, you are focusing on your own body and the task will direct your cognitive energy onto you too. This creates a physical sensation and, so long as you don't do it so it hurts, then it will also release endorphins which is great for lowering those stress hormones!
I found this step-by-step guide on how you can do this effectively and you can do this anywhere. I would invite you however, to do it somewhere that makes you feel relaxed, so you can reap full benefit.
2. Focus on your breathing
Generally, we have no need to focus on our breathing but if you do this with mindfulness, you can increase the oxygen flow to your brain which will stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for slowing your heart rate, increasing digestive activity and relaxing some stomach muscles.
When you're stressed or anxious, your breathing becomes much more shallow which is why doing this is so important; not to mention easy.
Take deep breathes in through your nose and take the air all the way to your tummy (this may feel strange at first and take some practice) and then breathe out slowly and fully. For extra effect, pay attention to the sound of your breath, the sensation of the air as it enters your nose and travels through your body and the same for when it leaves.
This is one of my favourite pastimes! Ever since I started to do yoga and realised how easily I breathe and move when I've stretched; I now do it daily!
Two really simple ways you can stretch:
- With your fingers interlocked and arms stretched above your head (if you want to go further, stand on your toes too) and reach as high as you can. Focus on your breathing and your balance, repeat this until you're feeling tired.
- Touch your toes or fold your arms and bend towards your toes. Go as far as is comfortable and allow yourself to move/sway so that your muscles are being stretched in various directions.
Stretching increases blood flow and both these positions require for you to connect with your own body to stay safe and do it effectively.
Here's the science - by exercising and changing your posture you can increase a brain protein called BDNF which helps nerve fibres grow, this is great if you're wanting to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.
4. Have some quiet time
I can imagine what your response is to this, but it can be a life-line!
When you spend time on your own and you have silence, you can become connected with your thoughts and then you also have time to process them. To all of you who are so busy, you don't know what you enjoy doing anymore; take some time to think about it.
To all of you who work with people all day, how often do you factor yourself in and what would it look like if you did?
To those of you who think 'what's the point' - sit and work out the answer to that question!
Taking time out to be by yourself can feel overwhelming for some, but it can be the only way that others gain clarity and set direction.
5. Get creative
If you were to count how many thoughts you had every single day, what would you guess?
Out of those 60,000 (yes really!) research suggests that 95% of them are the same day in and day out. By being creative i.e. colouring, cooking, photography and music, our brains engage in a similar process to meditation; you stop the familiar cognitive pattern and focus your mind elsewhere. When we're creative, the brain releases dopamine which is the brain's natural anti-depressant.
If you need further encouragement, here's what creativity can offer your mental health:
- Increased positive emotions
- Reduced stress
- Reduced intrusive thoughts
- Reduced anxiety
- Boosts immune system
- Improved concentration and focus
Now is a good time to take that quiet time alone and think about how you can get knee deep in creativity, take the deep breathes to send the oxygen to your brain and stretch tall to increase blood flow, and whilst you contemplate, you can give yourself that hand massage too. And just like that you have used all 5 strategies, but will you?
Many put barriers in the way of taking care of themselves, if that's you and you want some support getting on the right track, get in touch and inquire how I can help.