Relaxation Exercises to Reduce Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
Stress Relief: Yoga, Meditation, and Other Relaxation Techniques
The body’s natural relaxation response is a powerful antidote to stress. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and yoga can help you activate this relaxation response. When practiced regularly, these activities lead to a reduction in your everyday stress levels and a boost in your feelings of joy and serenity. What’s more, they also serve a protective quality by teaching you how to stay calm and collected in the face of life’s curveballs.
The Relaxation Response
The relaxation response is a mentally active process that leaves the body relaxed. It is best done in an awake state so don’t practice relaxation when you are very sleepy. The Relaxation Response IS trainable and becomes more profound with practice.
The stress response floods your body with chemicals that prepare you for “fight or flight.” But while the stress response is helpful in true emergency situations where you must be alert, it wears your body down when constantly activated. You can’t avoid all stress, but you can counteract its negative effects by learning how to evoke the relaxation response.
The relaxation response brings your system back into balance: deepening your breathing, reducing stress hormones, slowing down your heart rate and blood pressure, and relaxing your muscles. In addition to its calming physical effects, research shows that the relaxation response also increases energy and focus, combats illness, relieves aches and pains, heightens problem-solving abilities, and boosts motivation and productivity.
Starting a Relaxation Response Practice
A variety of relaxation techniques help you achieve the relaxation response. Those whose stress-busting benefits have been widely studied include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, visualization, yoga, and tai chi.
Learning the basics of these relaxation techniques isn’t difficult. But it takes daily practice to get full benefit of their stress-relieving power. Most stress experts recommend setting aside at least 10 to 20 minutes a day for your relaxation practice. If you’d like to get even more stress relief, aim for 30 minutes to an hour.