Monday, March 5, 2012

Ways to Relax

     According to a report by ABC News, Americans are working longer days, taking less vacation, and postponing retirement. When added to the daily onslaught of emails, scheduled activities every night of the week, and constantly vibrating cell phones, it’s little wonder we’re all stressed out.

     Constant stress can wear on your immune system and up your chances of developing high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, or a heart attack. Relaxation techniques can help reduce stress and its effects on the mind and body.

     Depending on your personality style and comfort zone, there are many ways to get to a less anxiety-filled you.

Calm the Mind and Body
  • Think calming thoughts and be aware of your body. Practice slow breathing while visualizing being on a beach in Maui. 
  • Use enhanced imagery to picture yourself camping. Smell the campfire, earth, and surrounding fir trees. 
  • Relax one body part at a time. Start with your toes and move up to the head—all while tensing and relaxing muscles. 
  • Inhale and exhale slowly, feeling your breath come and go. Repeat at least 10 times. You can add to this experience by inhaling lavender or rosemary scents. 

Use “Active” Meditation
  • Practice repetitive activities like swimming, knitting, shooting baskets, painting, or cutting the grass. Some experts believe repetitive tasks are a form of meditation as they force you to be in the present. 
  • Stop and smell the roses. Take a walk and be completely aware of your surroundings. The exercise will help produce endorphins and if it’s sunny, you’ll get a much-needed dose of vitamin D. 
  • Laugh. Watch episodes of The Office or Seinfeld and enjoy some classic, everyday humor. 
  • Play with your pet. Experience unconditional love—no questions asked! 

Follow the Leader
  • Massage therapy reduces stress and discomfort and contributes to muscular healing. 
  • Yoga involves physical poses, breathing, and possibly meditation—with the added benefit of improved flexibility, strength, and balance. 
  • Tai chi uses gentle, flowing movements and coordinated breathing to help achieve an inner calm. Some forms of tai chi focus on health, while others offer a martial arts flavor. 

     Whether you pretend to be an oak tree or schedule an ongoing appointment with a massage therapist, when your body is relaxed your breathing slows, blood pressure drops, oxygen consumption decreases, and you’re happier.

By Anne Gill

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