When we are feeling stressed, escaping routine and lying on a sandy beach with a cocktail in hand might seem like the only means of calming our nerves. Unfortunately, this option isn’t always possible - *sigh* - so finding a relaxation technique that works for you is crucial not only to your sanity but also your health. Sure, we have methods of coping, such as over-eating, sleeping, general procrastination or hiding in the bathroom on our phone. These may seem like the best quick fix but they aren’t sustainable and tend to leave us feeling even worse afterwards because we haven’t dealt with the issue. To help with this increasingly common issue, we’ve rounded up some proven relaxation tips that you can easily introduce into your routine when you feel like it’s all about to go wrong!
Take a break | Taking a moment to temporarily step away from a stressful situation can give you enough space to calm the mind. This involves taking a break from your normal routine or clearing your mind from an overload of stressful thoughts. This can be achieved by distracting yourself with a different activity, such as going for a walk, reading a book, cooking a new recipe or watching a film.
Focus on your breathing | Breathing is a natural function we tend to do on autopilot, however, there are certain techniques that we can apply to get a relaxation effect out of each breathe. In times of stress, our breathing tends to get shallow, and then when it gets shallow, it causes more stress. Long-term shallow breathing can seriously affect our health, bringing on fatigue, respiratory problems and cardiovascular issues. The most effective breathing for feeling calm is deeply and from our diaphragm. Close your eyes and take a deep breathe in, hold it for a few seconds, and then exhale. Doing this simple activity can ease stress within a few short minutes. The great part is, it can be done anywhere and at any time. Remember to not only breath but to focus on your breathing. Follow the breath in and out fully 10 times each, attempting to focus on nothing other than your breath and watch your feelings of stress melt away. Hopefully, by the time you come back to your day, things will seem that little bit better.
Have a warm bath | Relaxing in a warm bath can do wonders for your mind and body. Warm baths have been linked to a reduction in stress levels, enhanced mood and better sleep. Studies show that after approximately 5 minutes in a warm bath, your pulse rate and blood pressure start to drop. Pairing this with candles, music, and a good book, you’ll have the perfect ingredients for treating yourself to some well-deserved you-time.
Exercise | The word ‘relaxation’ might not spring to mind when you think of exercise but it really does have many calming effects on the body both during and after exercise. Focusing on one physical task can distract your mind from thinking a million different thoughts. Physical activity also produces endorphins which trigger a “feel good” sensation. These chemicals act as natural painkillers and provide a feeling of calmness and optimism. Keeping consistent with an exercise routine has been linked to an increase in overall wellbeing, leaving you feeling accomplished and considerably happier.
Keep Hydrated | Taking a moment to have a glass of water, a cup of tea, or a cold beverage can help your entire body run more efficiently. Drinking water makes us feel so refreshed that it actually improves our state of mind. It also makes us feel more energised. So, the next time you’re falling asleep at your desk, try drinking a couple glasses of water and you will instantly feel more alert.
Click here to check out our blog on hydration and how our water intake affects the body. Drinking herbal tea is a great relaxant that many people use as a chill-out moment. Although it does not appear to reduce the actual levels of stress we experience, tea does seem to have a greater effect in bringing stress hormone levels back to normal. For an extra boost of calm, try using homeopathic relaxing herbs, such as chamomile, lavender or lemon balm.
Spend time in nature | Spending time outside can be great for your physical and mental health. Being surrounded by beautiful flowers and the sound of singing birds can instantaneously make you feel at ease and forget the worries of our internal world. Whilst taking in the scenery, breathe in some fresh air as this can help regulate your levels of serotonin and allow your mind to relax and think more clearly. Sunlight also increases serotonin levels so if you’re lucky enough to be in England on a warm and sunny day, step outside and soak up some natural Vitamin D.
Adaptogenic Foods | The foods that we eat also play a huge part in the way that we cope with stress and worry. Adaptogens are a group of herbs that are known to have a balancing effect, allowing the body to better handle stress, whether physical, chemical or biological. These plants have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions and are still widely acclaimed in the world of wellness and vitality. Some can be eaten as part of a meal but others are generally consumed as supplements.
Popular Adaptogens include the ashwagandha root (India) and maca root (Peru). Here you can find our organic ashwagandha powder, organic ashwagandha capsules, organic maca powder and organic maca capsules.
Ashwagandha root, otherwise known as 'Indian Ginseng', can be found in both powder and capsule form and is used as a natural source of energy and vitality. People take ashwagandha to help ease them into peaceful sleep, relieve feelings of stress and to create a harmonious balance between mind, body and spirit.
Maca root, is another adaptogenic herb which has a reputation for being one of the most mineral-rich superfoods. It does a great job of maintaining the body’s alkalinity levels, balancing hormone levels, relieving stress and can even improve libido. Maca was originally taken by the Incas to increase fertility and is used as a remedy for the symptoms of menopause.
Hydrotherapy | Hydrotherapy, or applying different temperatures of water to the skin, has been shown to have great benefits in raising mood and promoting a relaxed state of being. Hydrotherapy is a recognised form of stress-relief that is often a prescribed treatment by the NHS for both depressive and physical illnesses. Try ending your shower or warm bath with a 30-60 second rush of cold water. After the initial temperature shock, you’ll notice an immediate sense of calm, alertness and decrease in stress hormones.
Practice Meditation | Meditation has tremendous benefits on a person’s overall health and well-being. It offers a sense of balance, peace, and calm, helping people to manage their thoughts and feelings towards stressful situations. It is extremely practical as it can be done in just minutes and can be used just about anywhere. You can introduce meditation to your daily routine by finding a moment to sit or lie comfortably, closing your eyes, resting your hands on your stomach and focusing your attention on your breathing. Pay attention to the way your body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Practising this each morning allows you to mentally prepare for the day ahead and mindfully allow yourself to better manage stress as it arises. Though it may be hard to sit still during stressful times, making a habit of practicing meditation on a regular basis can have profound health effects such as reduced anxiety, increased blood flow, slowing the heart, and improved immunity.
The preceding techniques are all designed to provide you with tools to help calm the mind. Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, director of the Integrative Medicine Program at the University of Texas explains that “Managing stress is not like taking antibiotics, where you take all the medication and then you’re done and cured. It’s a lifelong process, so you have to find something you can engage in regularly and indefinitely.” From this we can see that finding our tools of calm is an essential part of living a happier life and that there is not really a ‘one-size-fits-all’ practice when it comes to stress-management. So, if any of the techniques discussed here don’t work for you as well as others, please don’t worry - just enjoy the ones that do and try to practice them as often as possible until they become your natural response to stress.