Relaxation Techniques

Origami on beach that says work, life, balance

Work-Life Balance and Exercise

work life balance, exercise, motivation, self careBy Grahak Cunningham

We have all finished a tough day at work and then come home from a run or the gym and felt the benefits, both physical and mental. Sweating out the problems of the day, we can feel pleased with ourselves and leave the worries and problems of everyday life behind. Something about it invokes a clarity in our mind and hearts.

So what is the connection between exercise and stress management? Firstly let us look at situations where things just aren’t happening.

Mental stress causes real problems when we are attempting something. Everybody on earth has experienced the stream of endless and meaningless thoughts that crop up in the mind, not just people who exercise regularly. Think back to a time when you have been lying in bed unable to sleep. Never-ending banter and thoughts make you agitated and restless. As a result you toss and turn and cannot rest. The mind will do this all the time unless you learn to control it.

Any doubts or negativities will directly affect your mood and performance whether it is at work or in a fitness situation. I found it happened when training for an ultra-marathon: getting myself depressed about another run or the jog meant I would I lose all enthusiasm.

For example I went for a run the other day and just couldn’t get in the zone. There was no flow. I got every single traffic light on the way to the bush trails, everything ached and I wanted to walk. My mind kept telling me how torturous this particular run was and the best thing about it was finishing. It happens to us all.

When we hit the wall exercising, our bodies have reached tipping point and our minds will chime in with it’s It two cents worth. It’s funny, though, most of us will keep going. It would be much simpler to quit, easier to catch a bus home and sit on the couch, but we don’t.

Something inside us won’t give up and we keep moving forward trying to reach the goal. Stress management techniques involve touching on this something and help to maintain positivity, health and general well-being despite being in what could be considered a ‘stressful’ situation. During a run my heart rate is elevated, I am sweating and tired…just like a tough day at work.

Combining Exercise with Relaxation Techniques

If you have never tried meditation or stress management techniques formally it is probably not that foreign to you. Everyone has meditated sometime or another. Being under a canopy of stars, the simple smile of a child, the vastness of an ocean, the power of a mountain, they stir something inside us and make us feel uplifted. It is the same when exercising.

During strenuous physical activity it’s certainly possible to maintain clarity and peace. Nature helps carry you. Your mind and body feel purified. Fitness regimes push us to take that extra step, to move forward despite obstacles, to transcend ourselves, to make progress. The further or harder you go, the deeper you have to dig. Exercise is a simple thing. We are forced to be focused and positive. If we don’t it’s very noticeable and you have a tough run, just like I did.

It makes sense to combine meditation and sport on a more formal level. Many great sportsmen talk about moments of absolute conviction before a major victory or event. They feel at peace with the race, game, or task ahead. Nothing is forced and as a result, victory or achievement just flows.

Watch any professional tennis star about to receive a serve. They are deep in concentration. Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis meditated before his big races. “I would just go quiet and try to listen for the farthest sound away…just having my peace, where it all stops and you’re just aware of where you need to be.” He once commented. “Every record I set, I knew it was a record because it was the easiest race I ran.”

To do well in sport (or anything for that matter) you need focus, clarity, and concentration; skills that can be learnt through formal practice. The repetitive movement and regular breathing in running for example helps induce a calm and reflective mind, with it comes a positive power. I have been 1000 miles into an ultra and sometimes I felt like I had the strength of ten men coursing through my body.

A Relaxation Exercise

  • Do this exercise sitting upright in a chair
  • It is advisable to practice with your eyes open so you can use it while at work or excercising
  • Chose a quality like peace
  • Breathe in this quality into the mind and body, relaxing all your muscles
  • Breathe out the opposite, in this case anything that takes away your peace such as stress, restlessness and intruding thoughts
  • Try the same thing while exercising and try other positive qualities such as power, joy, or strength

grahak cuninhaamGrahak Cunningham is based between Australia and New York and is a motivational speaker and business speaker and four time finisher and 2012 champion of the Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race.

Woman relaxing on couch listening to calming apps

Best Stress-Relief Apps: Four Ways to De-Stress on the Go

For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.  ~ Lily Tomlin

Looking for stress relief on the go? You can find ways to control your stress with the very thing you have in your hand: a smartphone. One of the things I love to do is find new ways to kick stress to the curb quickly. I started to search for the best stress-relief apps that you can use immediately to break the cycle of stress.

Here’s a list of my favorite apps for stress relief:

GPS for the Soul is my new favorite stress-relief app that stops the fight-or-flight response in its tracks. This app measures your heart rate variability by placing your finger over the lens of your smartphone camera. The app rates your stress and directs you to solutions to deal with your stress with breathing exercises, music, pictures and more. It’s totally customizable, following Deepak Chopra’s personal GPS guide. The program will help you break the downward spiral of stress and start your day brand new. Currently the app is only on iTunes. Watch this video by Ariana Huffington to learn more.

Woman relaxing on couch listening to calming appsStress Tracker is a free app that helps you pinpoint the cause of your anxiety and manage your stress. This app allows you to identify your stress level, reason, symptoms in real time. Over time, you can trend over days, weeks and months what is contributing your stress. This app is easy to use and can be customized by adding stressors specific to you.

Stress tracker was developed by a team of leading psychologists using cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness principles. I like the fact you can view stress trends to bring greater awareness to your stress response.

Relaxing Sounds of Nature Lite is a great app where you can combine different nature sounds to create a unique outdoor experience. Whether you want to relax or you are preparing to meditate or sleep, this app is perfect. Add relaxing music and you have created your own private Zen experience. You can save your favorite mixes for future use. The app also has a timer so you can even relax on a break at work or set for sleep at night.

Relax Melodies: Sleep and Yoga is another app that you can mix music and sounds. Named one of Amazon’s Top Best Apps of 2012, Relax Melodies has 46 different ambient sounds to mix. You can easily save your favorites or use the premixed sounds for total relaxation. This is available for both iPhone and Android.

Try these apps and tell me about your favorite to help with stress relief.

The Art of Deep Breathing: A Sanity-Saving Strategy

deep breathing, stress relief naturally, relaxation technique, relaxation recordingBreathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure. ~ Oprah Winfrey

Have you ever had one of those days where you were so stressed that you felt like you could use some help to save your sanity? If so, you’ll be happy to discover a strategy you can use to reduce stress and improve your health at the same time. This strategy is easy and convenient, and it’s called “deep breathing.”

One response to stress is shallow breathing. This type of breathing is not the best way to draw air into the body, since you are mostly filling the upper part of your lungs. On the other hand, diaphragmatic or deep breathing fills the lungs with life-giving oxygen. This type of breathing fills the lungs to their capacity.

Here is a deep breathing exercise. While lying on your back or sitting in a chair, place your hands on your abdomen near your naval. Take deep breaths, feeling the rise and fall of your abdominal area. Taking a few deep breaths will not only oxygenate your body but also will help improve circulation, decrease anxiety and increase alertness.

We automatically breathe without thinking about it too much, unless a medical condition affecting breathing is present. The moment we bring breathing into awareness, we begin to control how we breathe. The beauty is that it doesn’t cost you anything to breathe. But when is it appropriate to do breathing exercises? And how often can they be done?

When To Do Deep Breathing Exercises

There are no hard-and-fast rules stipulating when to do breathing exercises. It really depends on what you’re wishing to achieve by doing them.

You can use breathing exercises at any time to:

• Achieve a state of calm
• Feel alive, invigorated, and ready for your day
• Reduce stress in tense situations
• Wind down at the end of the day

When you wake up in the morning, you may wish to do some quick deep breathing exercises to feel invigorated and ready to go. You can go outside, take a deep breath, and then breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth.

This breathing exercise can serve as a workout for your abdominal muscles and lungs. It can make you feel quite refreshed at the beginning of your day and provides a similar effect to taking a morning jog.

When you’re having a rough day at work or dealing with conflict, you can use a few calming breaths to help reduce stress. Sit back, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Hold it in and then let it out. Repeat the process until you feel relaxed.

Health Benefits of Breathing Exercises

If you just need a quick lift, then you’ll only need to spend a short time here and there doing some deep breathing exercises. On the other hand, if you’re looking to have a significant impact on your health and serenity, you can form a routine of several breathing exercises throughout your day.

Whatever the duration, breathing exercises may bring you many health benefits, including:

• Reduce your blood pressure
• Calm your nerves
• Tighten your core muscles
• Aid in better digestion
• Aid in the elimination of waste and toxins
• Bring you higher levels of energy
• Increase your awareness of the functions within your body
• Reduce stress

Your own results will depend upon the type and frequency of breathing exercises you use.

Anyone Can Benefit From Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises can benefit virtually anyone. The only individuals who should take extreme caution are those with respiratory issues. Always check with your physician before attempting these exercises.

Nevertheless, sit back, close your eyes, and enjoy the relaxing effects that deep breathing can provide. It’s an effective solution to reduce stress, bring you peace, and improve your life.

Ten Natural Ways to Reduce Stress

How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then to rest afterward.  ~Spanish Proverb

Stress is something that affects everyone. Stress does serve a purpose and there’s even such a thing as good stress. However, when you feel like your stress is getting out of hand, the best thing you can do for your body is to look for natural stress relievers. It can be very tempting to handle stress in unhealthy ways.

Here are some techniques you can use to reduce your stress level:

1. Practice yoga and meditation. Yoga and meditation are ancient arts that have been proven to work for stress relief. When you connect the mind, body, and spirit in a healthy, peaceful fashion you feel more relaxed and rejuvenated.

2. Enjoy the benefits of green tea. Green tea is a natural herb that you can drink or take in capsule form. It’s loaded with beneficial antioxidants to help you achieve a healthy lifestyle. It’s a natural stress reliever and helps boost metabolism to energize you. It may even help with weight loss.

3. Go for a walk. Many people think that going for a walk is only good for your physical fitness. However, walking can benefit you spiritually and mentally as well. Staying even moderately active increases oxygen levels in your brain, which also improves your mental state. Plus, a 20-minute walk gives your mind a chance to reflect and rejuvenate.

4. Keep a diary or journal. Keeping a diary can help you unload your thoughts in a private manner. You have the benefits of knowing that your secrets are safe and you can still vent in the process. Venting on paper just might prove to be a great stress reliever. Writing with pen and paper is more effective in self-expression than using a computer.

5. Try aromatherapy. Many essential oils can be used in aromatherapy to help calm you in a natural way.

6. Get a massage. A massage is a great way to relax your muscles. It also helps to get blood flowing properly throughout the body, which naturally reduces stress.

7. Listen to music. You may want to try some traditional relaxing music such as classical or world music. However, everyone is different, so experiment with different types of music that you might find relaxing.

8. Eat Healthy. There are so many benefits from eating a diet rich in healthy proteins and fats and fresh vegetables. It’s sometimes difficult to make the right food choices. Ask your nutritionist, dietician or physician what the best foods are for you. Also, check your local wellness center for ongoing nutrition classes, too.

9. Take a warm bath. Taking a warm bath is beneficial to your body and mind. The warmth will help your body relax while the peaceful time to yourself will help you achieve a balanced mindset. Warm water will also reduce muscle tension.

10. Do something funny. The saying “laughter is the best medicine” is no joke. Laughing can definitely help you to relax and therefore reduce stress. Just smiling and hanging out with a good friend can shift your mood and make all the difference in the world in your stress level.

You’ll soon find that there are endless possibilities for natural ways of reducing your stress. Your job will be to find out what works best for you personally. As long as you take time out of each day to take a break and unwind, you’ll be well on your way to reducing your stress.

Stress Relief: Four Simple Ways to Go From Tensed Up to Relaxed

feeling tension, stress tension, all tensed up, muscle pain , stressMuscular tension is a common sign of the effects of stress in the body. A sore neck, shoulder, low back and tension headache can possibly be telltale signs of chronic stress. Learn to ease muscular tension from stress with these helpful tips and techniques.

Chronic stress can physically take a toll on the body. Neck or back tension can become the commonplace. Constantly running in distress mode can shift a once healthy perception of bodily tension. As a result, the body has a more difficult time distinguishing between what truly is a real psychological or physical stress response. The “flight or fight” mode operates at full throttle, which places the body at risk for illness or injury. Learning to reduce muscular tension is vital for your health and well-being. Here are four simple ways to go from tensed up to be relaxed.

1. Body Scanning.

Denial is a strong defense mechanism when dealing with the effects of stress. Oftentimes people learn to operate in day to day activities ignoring the symptoms of stress. Body scanning is a technique that helps bring awareness back problem tension areas. This technique can help nip muscular aches in the bud before chronic problems arise.

Scan your body for areas of tension. Is your jaw clenched? Check your posture for hunched, rounded shoulders, tight back leg and calf muscles. Note any other areas of discomfort. Gently stretch or reposition the tense body part. This practice may seem to take time at first but should take 10-20 seconds when performed regularly.

2. Breathing

A response to stress is shallow breaths, or chest breathing. On the other hand deep breathing fills the lungs with life-giving oxygen. Here is a method to practice diaphragmatic or deep breathing. While lying on your back, place your hands on your abdomen near your naval. Take deep breaths, feeling the rise and fall of your abdominal area. This technique will not only oxygenate your body but also will help improve circulation, increase alertness and help decrease anxiety.

3. Relaxation Techniques

There are a variety of relaxation techniques that can simply be practiced each day. Recordings and smart phone applications are readily available to reduce muscular tension quickly and easily.

The progressive muscle relaxation technique gently tenses up and relaxes muscle groups. This method is similar to body scanning, recognizing the difference between muscle tension and relaxation. Most pre-recorded material begins tensing and relaxing muscle groups at the feet and ending at the head. Tense each muscle group for five seconds, and then relax for a total of 30 seconds. If you feel pain and soreness ease up on the tension or stop immediately. Never force the movement.

This practice uses body awareness to help regulate the stress response by switching your nervous system from “flight or fight” to “rest and digest” mode.  In a reclined position, imagine each body feeling warm, heavy and relaxed. Then progress to the next body part and repeat.

4. Massage

Massage and bodywork can be a powerful opportunity to address stress relief and muscular tension. Massage therapy can ease tension headaches, improve posture and help strengthen the immune system. Regular massage therapy appointments are an imperative part of stress management. A massage therapist can also instruct in proper stretching techniques to reduce tension between massages. Find a skilled and knowledgeable massage therapist to be a part of your stress and tension relief toolbox.

Was this helpful? Learn how to reduce stress and get on with life using the power of essential oils.

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