How to relax when you’re all wound up
How do we handle stress? When our moods loom large in our lives, we may react with anger, defensiveness, irritability, depression and anxiety. And, when we’re tense and anxious, we find it hard to concentrate or sleep.
Lifestyle or emotional stressors can trigger our “fight or flight” response, resulting in an acceleration of our pulse rate, respiration and blood circulation, and an increase in muscle tension, resulting in physical discomfort and health problems.
Learn to gain more control over your anxiety, anger and depression with these relaxation techniques.
- Listen to calming music. Slow, quiet classical music or recordings of nature sounds can relax our minds and bodies. Listen in your car as well as at home.
- Practice diaphragmatic breathing when you feel anxious: While lying on your back, place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Let your belly rise easily when inhaling and fall when exhaling. Use the hand on your chest to prevent breathing from your chest. Try for about 6 breaths per minute. This is a slow relaxed process; don’t force it.
- Eat a healthy diet: Don’t skip meals.
- Exercise: Go to the gym. Go for a walk. Practice yoga. Even a little exercise can reduce tension.
- Focus: Select a small, special object. Focus all your attention on this object as you inhale and exhale slowly and deeply for one to two minutes. Try not to let any other thoughts or feelings enter your mind. This exercise can make you feel calmer and more peaceful.
- Get a massage by a trained massage therapist, a friend or partner.
- Drop your shoulders: When you’re tense, you’re likely to lift your shoulders, which limits the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. Relaxing them restores circulation, and you’ll feel more relaxed and clear-headed.
- Meditate to relax and revitalize.
- Socialize: Stay in touch with friends, do volunteer work, develop a support network.
- Make time for enjoyable activities, like a warm bath or sipping herbal tea outside in the morning sun.
- Talk it over: Reach out to your friend, family member, romantic partner or therapist when you’re feeling stressed.
- Avoid alcohol. While temporarily soothing, it depresses the central nervous system, which creates more anxiety and can even trigger panic attacks. Caffeine, nicotine and unprescribed drugs can also aggravate anxiety.