Relaxation is defined as the state of being free from tension and anxiety. Relaxation has many health benefits, both mental and physical. Some examples include reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, lowering heart rate and blood pressure, improving concentration and mood, reducing fatigue, reducing anger and frustration, and boosting confidence to handle problems. So, what are some simple things you can do to help feel more relaxed? Here are some ideas!

1. Breathe

We’re always breathing, but sometimes when we’re stressed or overwhelmed our breathing rate is affected. You may find yourself holding your breath, taking shallow breaths, or even hyperventilating. When this happens, you’re most likely adding to the stress response in your body, or in other words, making things worse.

Breathing exercises are one of the easiest relaxation strategies and there are many different ways to do them, but here’s one example. Sit or lay in a quiet, comfortable space. Breathe in to a slow count of three, hold for a slow count of three, and then exhale to the same slow count of three. Repeat this five times, or as long as you need to feel relaxed.

2. Meditate

During meditation, the goal is to focus your attention and eliminate any jumbled thoughts that may be causing you stress.  Meditation is a great way to bring yourself to a deep state of relaxation. And thanks to the internet, tips and resources for meditating are always readily available at your fingertips. Check out some guided meditations on YouTube, or research some apps like “Calm” and “Insight Timer.” There’s also a series on Netflix called “Headspace” where you can find some useful information about meditation and being mindful!

3. Write Down Your Thoughts

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your own thoughts, it may help to get your mind off things by writing them down. If you prefer handwriting, get yourself a notebook or some scrap paper, but you can also do this on a computer or smartphone if that’s easier for you. When you’re feeling stressed, take a few minutes to write down short notes about how you’re feeling or how your day is going. And you don’t have to worry about things like grammar and spelling. Just focus on expressing yourself to help release some of that stress!

4. Get Outside

Being outside in nature has many health benefits, and helping us relax is one of them. When you’re feeling stressed, spending even a few minutes outside can help you feel better. You can go for a short walk, read a book at the beach, or simply find a comfortable place to sit outside and take in all of nature’s beauty. 

5. Listen to Your Favorite Music

Music can affect our emotions in different ways, and it has been shown that just listening to music has relaxation benefits. If we listen to calming music, we can expect our mind and body to follow suit and feel more relaxed. It has also been proven that upbeat, cheerful music causes our brains to produce chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, which makes us feel happy. So if you’re feeling stressed out, put on your favorite playlist and turn it up. Go ahead, sing along! You know you want to.

6. Laugh

We’ve all heard the quote, ‘laughter is the best medicine.’ But why is that such a popular phrase? Science has shown that laughing not only decreases stress hormones, but can also increase immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies. Quite literally medicine! Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. So, if you’re not feeling so good, call up a friend who you know will make you laugh, or put on a funny video that you know will get a few giggles out of you.

7. Start Planning a Trip

Take a break and start browsing some vacation spots. We all need to take a vacation from work every once in a while, but taking a break from life is just as important! Even if it’s just a day trip somewhere local- schedule some time to disconnect from all of life’s stressors and be in the present moment. You won’t regret it!

-Jennifer Tietjen, LMSW

Rest and relaxation is a large piece of self-care needed to keep our mental health in check. The saying “you can’t help others unless you help yourself” is really true. We need to restore ourselves and fill our cups before we can take care of those around us. But for many “resting” can seem like a luxury or even uncomfortable. This post is a reminder of the many different ways we can “rest” and restore our mental wellbeing.

1. Physical

Physical rest can be as simple as getting adequate sleep. It can also mean taking a nap, engaging in yoga or even just taking a few deep breathes. Rest does not have a time requirement. Sometimes all we need is just 5 minutes to focus on our breath or do some stretching to re-center ourselves. 

2. Mental

Mental rest is like first aide for your mind. This includes meditation- silent or guided your choice. It can also be listening to calming music or your favorite music.  Mental rest can also be writing down or looking up some positive affirmations to keep your self in a good mental state.

3. Emotional

Emotional rest means to allow yourself to really explore and work through your emotions. You know by allowing yourself to feel, rather than bottling it up and pushing them aside. This could be by calling a friend, speaking with a therapist or attending a support group. 

4. Social

A rest can also mean taking some time to be social. A social rest is when you let go of work and everyday chores and worries and going to someone who brightens your day. This can be a friend, mentor or non-stressful family member.

5. Creative

Creative rest is another way to take a mental break. For you creative people this is engaging in art, crochet, macramé, knitting, writing poetry and/or stories. For those who don’t identify as creative this can be reading, walking in nature or looking at artwork. 

6. Sensory

A sensory rest means taking a break from the things causing us sensory over-load or anxiety. This can mean shutting your phone off or taking a break from watching the news. 

7. Spiritual

Reconnecting with your spirituality is another form of taking a rest. This can be in the form of prayer, reading scripture or volunteering your time to help others. 

If you feel you need more help to restore your mental wellbeing and start enjoying your life give our office a call. We'd love to help you.

Stay Shining,

Jamie Vollmoeller, LCSW

Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. Stress is an unavoidable, normal bodily reaction to the challenges of daily life. Stress is a sign that you are alive; that you are pushing yourself and have care and concern for the people and situations that surround you.

Stress becomes a problem when the amount and severity of stress exceeds your capacity to cope. Some signs that stress may be taking a negative toll on your body and mind include exhaustion, chest pain, headaches, muscle tension, excessive worry, panic attacks, hopelessness, feeling overwhelmed, irritability, sadness, or engaging excessively in unhealthy behaviors (i.e. drinking/drug use, shopping, overeating, sex, or gambling).

Stress in unavoidable. However, consistent practice of healthy coping skills can reduce the detrimental impact stress can have on your overall well-being. Here are five 5-minute stress busters; 5 simple things you can do in 5 minutes or less to reduce the negative impact of stress in your life.

1. Jump!

Engage in 4 sets of jumping jacks for 45 seconds on, and 15 seconds of rest. Intense cardiovascular exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) while increasing the feel-good endorphins (dopamine and serotonin). Exercise also forces you to be fully engrossed the present moment, giving your mind a welcome reprieve from your current worries.

2. Breathe.

The breathing method known as the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique has been scientifically proven to regulate cortisol, which controls your body’s fight or flight response. Find a comfortable position, and set a timer for five minutes. If you can, close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, and exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. By doing so, you are teaching your body to counteract the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system that occurs during stressful situations, which will help you to feel calmer and more at ease.

3. Write.

Writing is extremely therapeutic. Writing down the often big, scary, and chaotic thoughts that accompany stress can result in these thoughts becoming more tangible and less frightening than they were when they only existed in your head. Once you can see the problem more clearly, the solution doesn’t seem so daunting and out of reach. Try writing try a stream of consciousness style of writing, in which you write what is causing you stress for 4 minutes. Next, reread your writing and sort out what you can versus what you cannot control of the what you have written down. Recommit to doing your best towards what is within your control, and crumple up the paper to symbolize letting go of the worries that are out of your control.

4. Be Mindful.

Mindfulness is defined as engaging in a set of practices that anchor you to the present moment. Most stress results not only from the events themselves, but the negative projections into the future about how overbearing or overwhelming the stressor will be once we experience it. Being mindful to stay in the present moment can help you to slow down and clear away unnecessary, self-induced stress. Many of our worries never actually come to fruition. Take five minutes to pay attention to the sights, smells, sounds, touches, and tastes that surround. Repeat the positive affirmation “You are where your feet are” in an effort to remind you that you don’t have to be ten steps ahead of yourself; all you need to be is right here, and right now. 

5. Laugh!

Many of us are guilty of taking ourselves far too seriously. Luckily, we live an era where we have endless entertainment at our fingertips, so why not take advantage of it? Type in your internet search engine, “Funniest animal videos”, “funniest TV bloopers” or “funniest stand-up comedy clips,” and give yourself 5 minutes to watch and laugh. Laughing helps to relieve your body’s stress response, relieve tension by relaxing your muscles, enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart and lungs, and increases endorphin production. It’s no wonder that they say laughter is the best medicine. 

Stress can be crippling, but it doesn’t have to be.

Take preventative measures to manage your stress with these helpful techniques, and you will be able to cope effectively with whatever life throws your way. If you need help managing stress give our office a call, we'd love to help you start living a life you can enjoy!

– Alexandria (Alex) Fairchild, LMSW

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