In today's 24-7 world of smartphones and overflowing inboxes, it's even more important to learn how to relax -- for your health and well-being. While stress can be great in small doses, we know feeling depleted and frazzled can have a knock-on effect on decision-making, quality of relationships and physical health. And though taking time for a session at your local spa or yoga studio is great in theory, nipping to a class in between meetings or before picking the kids up from school can seem like just one more thing to fit in, right? But learning to diffuse tension and feel more self-assured doesn't need to take hours. Below are six stress-busting techniques that you can do solo in a matter of minutes.
1. Take A Deep Breath -- Or Ten
Just breathe - it's that simple. Slow, deep breathing has been found to counter the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure. "When you begin to concentrate on your breath, you reduce stress and help detoxify the body," said Amanda Graci, Yoga Instructor and Co-founder, Bondi Yoga House.
"Deep and slow inhalation sends messages to the nervous system to relax, while focusing on the sound of your breath gives the mind a distraction." Graci recommends sitting upright -- which can easily be done at your work desk -- closing your eyes and placing your hands on your thighs, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and then working its way upwards. "Inhale for four counts," she said. "Hold for two, exhale for four and hold for two. Repeat ten times."
2. Try Ten Minutes Of Zen -- Twice A Day
Research suggests that daily meditation can actually alter the brain's neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress and infinitely more relaxed. But you don't need to relocate to a Buddhist monastery in Tibet to find your Zen. According to Nikki Janks -- co-founder of Centered Meditation -- a few minutes of practice each day is enough to dramatically reduce anxiety.
"It's simple," she said. "Sit comfortably, either cross legged or in a chair and bring your attention to a sound or image of your choice -- this could be a candle flame or the sound of birds if you're outdoors -- and focus. When thoughts appear, acknowledge them but give preference to the image or sound you're meditating on. Do this for 10-minutes twice daily."
3. Learn DIY Massage
When we experience anxiety, our "fight or flight" response is triggered, which leads to our body tensing muscles in preparation to respond to danger. To alleviate this tension when there's not a professional masseuse to hand, there is a simple DIY alternative -- self-massage.
If deadlines or demanding work colleagues are making your head pound, then a head massage could be the solution. "Close your eyes. Using your index and middle fingers, make small circles on each temple," said Giovanni Zanoni, Massage Therapist at on-demand massage service, ZenNow. "Let your fingers 'walk' up your hairline, making small circles along the way, until they reach the middle of your forehead. Then take them down until you reach your eyebrow line and make the same circles outward heading back to your temples."
Similarly, hands can carry a lot of tension - particularly in people who spend a lot of time typing on a keyboard. "Use the thumb and forefinger to massage the soft area between the thumb and index finger," said Zanoni. "Do one hand with the other and then switch."
4. Close Your Eyes -- And Channel Your Inner Athlete
Picture a place you like. A tropical beach, a lush, green forest, or even an endless field of corn swaying in the breeze. It feels good, right? Visualisation is a relaxation technique that involves imagining a scene you regard as safe and calm. "It can be an effective way to help us relax," said Dr Yuliya Richard, psychologist at Blue Horizon Counselling. "It's also a tool that can be used in a variety of situations -- athletes use it to help them achieve better performance results, and people suffering depression use it to alleviate symptoms."
Dr Richard recommends practicing the technique in a quiet space during a time of day when you won't be distracted. "Picture in your mind the place and then conjure the place in your mind," she said. "Feel the wind, smell the aromas and hear the sounds. Maintain this for 10-minutes and you'll soon feel your body relax."
5. Become Mindful Of Your Body -- Even At Work
Be Present. Slow down. In this age of rampant multi-tasking, mindfulness has understandably garnered serious column inches. "When you spend time in the moment and focus on your senses, you feel less tense," said Judith Lissing, principal, Mind Coaching Australia. "You might be standing beside a stage waiting to make a speech in front of colleagues, feeling anxious. By becoming mindful of your feet -- the connection they have with the earth and their weight -- your attention will be brought back to your body and shifted away from your anxiety. "It works because the mind is capable of self perpetuating thoughts, whereas the body can only focus on one sensation at a time,' Lissing said.
6. Take A Step Back In Time -- With Alternative Therapies
Aromatherapy has been used for centuries as a cure for a myriad of different ailments, including relieving stress. "It's believed that the inhalation of essential oils -- true plant-based essential oils -- stimulates the part of the brain connected with smell," said Jacinta Meyers, manager, Essential Essence Aromatherapy Oils. "This causes chemicals to be released, which can make you feel relaxed, calm and or invigorated."The oils can be added to bath water -- used in a diffuser -- or added to a homemade room spray. But for a quick fix when stress hits, Meyers suggests applying a few drops onto a tissue and inhaling directly or diluting with a carrier oil as essential oils shouldn't be applied directly to the skin. You can then apply to your wrists and behind your earlobes. "There are major arteries right underneath the skin," she said. "So applying here can help calm the whole body."While the most common oils associated with relaxation include lavender, sandalwood and ylang ylang, according to Meyers, there's no 'one size fits all' solution in aromatherapy. "Not everyone will respond the same way," Meyers said. "It's important to experiment to find what essential oil works best for you."
Reducing stress and increasing happiness helps us all live healthier, more fulfilled lives. It enables us to feel confident in the decisions we make about our homes, lives and well-being. Get Confidence by your side with NRMA Insurance.