It is only natural to experience stress; however, chronic stress is damaging to our mind and body. You may be able to reduce your exposure to certain stressors; However, it is not possible to eliminate stress in its entirety. One way you can help offset the negative consequences of the chronic stress response is to practice stress reducing techniques. Below you will find a brief description of 5 stress reducing techniques, as well as, a guided audio link of each technique.
NOTE: It is recommended to consult your physician prior to implementing stress reducing techniques to ensure each activity is safe and healthy for you.
5 Stress Reducing Techniques
1. Abdominal or Diaphragmatic Breathing: For this technique, you will lie on your back, with your knees up, feet flat – a flat surface works best for this position. You will place one hand just below the lower part of your rib cage and the other hand on your chest. Take a deep breath in through your nose using a slow count of 1-2-3. As you breath in, only allow the hand below your rib case to rise. The hand on your chest should stay the same. Exhale through pursed lips while pulling stomach muscles tight.
Diaphragmatic breathing (3:00 minutes, activity begins 1:28)
2. Autogenic Relaxation focuses on producing a warmth and heaviness throughout your body, bringing it to a state of relaxation. Get into a comfortable position, often with your eyes closed and visualizing a calm environment. You will first focus on your breathing and then begin to repeat phrases or words that associate and support a sense of relaxation.
Autogenic relaxation (16:07 minutes)
3. Body Scan is a relaxation technique where you focus on relaxing individual parts of your body, head to toe while maintaining a focus on your breathing.
Body Scan exercise (2:44 minutes)
4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation takes you through each muscle group, tensing and then relaxing. This can be done seated or lying down. Breathing in, tighten a muscle group for about 5 – 7 seconds. Exhale as you release the tension from the muscle group. Relax for 10 – 20 seconds before moving to the next muscle group.
Progressive muscle relaxation exercise (30 minutes)
5. Visualization is a practice using your imagination to put your body into a more relaxed state. As with other techniques, get into a comfortable position and close your eyes. Visualize a positive space where you feel safe and relaxed. It could be the ocean, in the mountains – anywhere you can experience the feeling of calm. As your mind is focusing on your positive, safe, and relaxing space, your body will begin to relax as well.
Visualization (5:50 minutes)
Whatever positive stress management technique you choose to manage your stress, remember it takes practice. Schedule a time daily to aim for at least 5 minutes of practice with one stress reduction technique. Increase your time when you are ready or try a new technique. The benefits of incorporating stress reduction techniques into your daily routine will help reduce the negative risks of chronic stress. In time and with practice, I hope you will reap the benefits of using stress reduction techniques and begin to feel a bit more relaxed.