With news of wars, natural disasters and economic troubles, not to mention the day-to-day of living, it is no surprise that many people have difficulty relaxing. My mother was recently lamenting that she can’t relax enough to fall asleep at night. And I still remember some of my battles with anxiety and stress. Being able to relax is an important of maintaining a health lifestyle. Being able to unwind helps you on levels that are both mental and physical. (For believers — in whatever capacity — relaxation can also help your spiritual health.) In a world that seems increasingly fast-paced and stressful, the importance of daily relaxation should not be ignored.
The good news is that there are several things you can do to unwind, refresh yourself and generally improve your outlook on life. Plus, once you start a daily habit of relaxation, you will find that it becomes progressively easier to unwind.
Eight things that can help you unwind and enjoy the benefits of relaxation
Here are eight of my favorite ways to relax:
- Take a hot shower: Water can soothe and relax you at the end of the day. I like taking a hot shower and closing my eyes and letting my worries sort of wash away. For those who enjoy baths, a warm soak can be beneficial. I have low-flow shower heads, and I try to keep my relaxing showers fairly short. But it never ceases to amaze how much relaxation can be achieved during an eight-minute shower. I try to move slowly and deliberately as I towel off and slip into something comfy, in order to retain those relaxed feelings.
- Yoga or Tai Chi: Gentle exercises like Tai Chi and Yoga are often repetitive and methodic. When you move slowly and deliberately, flowing from one pose to another, you can release some of the tension that has built up during the day. Plus, if you familiarize yourself with a Yoga or Tai Chi routine, you will soon be able to accomplish the exercises without much thought, allowing you to enter a state that is similar to meditation (which is also calming). Gentle stretching can also have a similar effect — while helping you increase your flexibility.
- Massage: When you enjoy a massage, tension is released from your body, and you can enjoy some health benefits, including lower blood pressure and increased circulation. You can even self-massage. You can do your own shoulders, legs, feet and hands, taking some to reflect and relax as you do so. I like to use an aromatherapy foot lotion each night after my shower and massage my feet.
- Scents: I love scents. I often have some sort of soothing scent in my home, or a scent that reminds me so much of “home” that I can’t help but relax a little when I come through the door. There are some scents that can refresh and relax you naturally. Some of those include peppermint and cinnamon (which also aids in concentration while making you less irritable), lemon and other citrus scents, lavender and flower scents. People vary, so what is relaxing to you may require a little bit of research and trial and error.
- Deep breathing: This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Take deeper breaths. However, you want to be deliberate about it. Instead of thinking about whatever it is that has you anxious and upset, move into a more relaxed state by concentrating on your breathing. Take a slow count of three, five or seven for each inhalation and each exhalation. Closing your eyes can increase the effect.
- Power nap: You’ve probably heard about how a 15 to 20 minute power nap can help you feel refreshed and relaxed on a stressful afternoon. I don’t often power nap, but when I do, I feel much better and more productive when I wake up. This can help relieve accumulated tension, as well as help you refocus. Many sleep experts warn, however, that you should not take a nap that lasts longer than 20 minutes. Otherwise, you just end up groggy. I find that 15 minutes is about right for me. You might only need 10 minutes, or the full 20. You can use slow breathing to help you drift off.
- Music: Your mood and your ability to unwind can be affected by music. You can use guided meditations set to music to help, or you can choose some calming music that you enjoy. I like Baroque music to help me relax. I also find that guitar and piano music helps, as does folk music. Everyone is different, and you should choose something you enjoy, and that helps you lower your heart rate and clear your head. As with many other relaxation techniques, closing your eyes and breathing deeply can enhance the effect of music.
- Reading: For some people, reading is a chore. For me, it is an essential relaxation technique. I like to read after I have taken my shower and massaged my feet. However, when I am having a particularly hard time, I don’t read anything new, or particularly deep or complex. I instead turn to some of my favorite novels. Choosing something familiar can help you unwind and settle in for a relaxing evening if you are having an especially difficult time trying to unwind.
As you can see, it is possible to take half an hour to an hour each day to create a routine that combines a number of relaxation techniques in order to truly have a fulfilling experience.
Do you have a favorite relaxation technique or routine? Share it in the comments!