Relaxing is all about getting your mind off of the stresses
of life. Anything that will accomplish this can be helpful in making you feel
calm and at peace. Here are some easy ways to feel more relaxed in your daily
Meditation can be a great way to relax, especially if you
are under a lot of stress. Research has shown that meditation can be helpful in
lowering heart rate and blood pressure, and even improving cognitive
And meditation is pretty simple to do: Just find a
comfortable place, close your eyes, relax your muscles and focus on one thing,
whether it's your breathing, an object (a flower, or a painting)—or even a
picture in your mind—perhaps you are sitting on a beach in the Caribbean. You
can do this for as little as 10 minutes to experience benefits. The key is
staying focused and not letting any distractions or thoughts enter your
mind—being mindful is key. If you have a bit more time, take a yoga or tai chi
class—both incorporate mediation, along with physical movements.
Drink Green Tea
Green tea is very soothing—it contains theanine, an amino
acid that gives flavor to green tea and also promotes relaxation. It is also
thought that theanine is a caffeine antagonist, meaning it counters the
stimulating effects of caffeine. So, drink green tea, and avoid caffeinated
beverages, since caffeine can worsen the stress response.
Many of us crave indulgent carbohydrates like cookies,
candy, ice cream, pretzels, and other sweet and starchy foods when we're
stressed, anxious or tense. These foods can have a soothing effect in some
women, and it may have something to do with low serotonin levels during these
mood states. Serotonin is a brain chemical responsible for feelings of calmness
and relaxation. It's thought that consuming these carbohydrates helps boost
serotonin levels, which results in feelings of contentedness and relaxation.
So, enjoy these treats if they provide some instant satisfaction, but do watch
your portion sizes! I recommend 100 calorie portions—4 Hershey Kisses, or a small
handful of pretzels. You may want to pre-portion out pretzels, for example, and
take them with you as a snack when you leave the house. The 100-calorie packs
work well, too.
Many spas have relaxation rooms to sit in before and after
treatments, and it's a great thing to create at home, too. A relaxation room
doesn't have to be a "room" per se—it can be a space in your bedroom,
for example, but the key is having an area or room at home, solely devoted to
relaxing. You can have a really comfortable chair or daybed, with dim lights,
or candles nearby—whatever it is that you enjoy and find relaxing. This will
give you an opportunity to decompress, with very little stimulus—this is key.
Forget the BlackBerry, cell phone and laptop—this is a time to kick back and
relax. You might want to read a book or magazine, but the idea is to clear your
mind of distractions and stressors.
Listening to soothing music can be very relaxing—and slow
tempos in particular can induce a calm state of mind. (It can also slow down
breathing and heart rate, lower blood pressure and relax tense muscles, too).
This can be particularly beneficial when you're getting ready for a tough day
at work, or if you're in your car stuck in traffic, or if you're lying in bed
trying to free your mind of stressful thoughts. Interestingly, music therapy
has been shown to be helpful in decreasing anxiety associated with medical
procedures: One recent study found that heart rate and blood pressure decreased
significantly among individuals who listened to music during a colonoscopy (the
control group did not experience any changes). The music intervention group
also required less sedation during the procedure.
Getting a massage is a great way to free yourself of tension
and relax, and adding aromatherapy oils such as chamomile or lavender can be
particularly beneficial: One recent study found that emergency room nurses
experienced reduced stress levels with aromatherapy massage. The study,
published in the Journal of Clinical
Nursing, found that 54% of the emergency room staff in summer and 65% in winter suffered moderate to extreme anxiety. However, this fell to 8%, regardless of the season, once staff received 15-minute aromatherapy
massages while listening to music. If you don't have a lot of spare time, you
can get aromatherapy oils and massage tools to use at home.
Heat relaxes muscles—and taking a long bath can be soothing
for the mind as well. Stock up on your favorite bath salts and soaps, get a
bath pillow, and decorate the room with candles. You can even create an in-home
spa, by incorporating spa treatments like facials.