Seven instant relaxation techniques

Instant relaxation

The following techniques can be used to help you deal with stress in situations where you need to be cool and calm on the spot – for example, when giving a presentation or attending an important interview. Quick relaxers can also recharge your resources when you are feeling tired and under pressure – stroking a passive pet can reduce tension in no time, as anyone who owns a cat will know.

It is important to know that the beneficial effects of these techniques is only temporary. For long lasting results, you should practise them in conjunction with the techniques covered here

1. Shrug your shoulders
Stress caused by anxiety, frustration or worry, most often affects the body in the shoulders and neck. Muscles tense up and headaches invariably follow. This exercise can promote relaxation, not just in the neck, but throughout the body

• Simply, shrug your shoulders – once quite quickly, then again slowly. Repeat the exercise as often as you need to loosen muscles and relieve their tautness.

2. Stretch
Like the shoulder shrug, a good stretch can release tension in your whole body, possibly more so. If you have a tendency to hunch your shoulders, a healthy stretch is often what you need to ease muscles.

• Stand up straight and raise your hands above your head. Hold your breath as you stretch your hands towards the ceiling. As you breathe out, let go of the tension and allow yourself to flop down like a rag doll. You should only need to do this once.

3. Cue phrase
Make up a positive phrase that is easy to remember, such as ‘I feel calm and relaxed’ or, ‘I can do it.’ Use this phrase as your personal ‘coping motto’.

• In your moment of crisis, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. As you breathe in, repeat your chosen phrase and, as you breathe out, say the words again. Repetition of the phrase will boost your confidence and relieve stress – it is a technique often used by top track athletes before major events.

4. Listen to music
It is a well known fact that music can help people to relax and also change mood. What kind of music you listen to is relevant to the way you are feeling.

• For total relaxation, choose sounds of the sea or bird songs. Alternatively, you might like to listen to some soothing classical music or bebop jazz.
• For energy, opt for upbeat music, be it pop, inspiring classical music or rock-n-roll.

5. One year from now
If you are in a situation where you know you have made a mistake, you have said something stupid, or made a fool of yourself, it can help to release tension by thinking about what the consequences of your action will mean in the future.

• Ask yourself, ‘Will all this matter one year from now?’ It is a simple statement but an effective one. You will be surprised at how quickly your problem, and how to deal with it, falls into perspective.

6. Foot massage
Your poor feet carry a burden day in, day out. Is it any wonder that they occasionally feel the strain? Tender feet invariably carry an equally tender body and gentle massaging can help to relieve tension right the way up, through the spine, to your skull.

• Take off your shoes and socks and place a small, firm ball – a squash ball is ideal – beneath your right foot. Roll it gently around in small circles, making sure you cover the whole of your sole. Do this for about three minutes, closing your eyes as you enjoy the massage. Repeat the massage on your left foot to balance up the treatment.

7. Take time out
This is a quick and easy way to clear your head in the midst of chaos. Simply leave the crisis environment – your office, the house, whatever – and take five minutes to walk around. This will create a physical and mental distance between you and your stress situation. You can then return refreshed and ready for action.

In the next section, we’ll discover how laughter can help reduce stress.

See the funny side >>

Text Copyright © Alix Needham
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