When things start to get too much, relaxation exercises can be a very useful way to destress and unwind. The great thing about these exercises is that they do not have to be exactly the same for every single person. In fact, aside from a few tried and tested strategies, the best type of relaxation exercises are those that feel natural and relaxing to you specifically. If you do not find yoga very relaxing, you will likely not get much out of it and if you find that getting out into nature is what makes you feel calmer, that is what will help you relax.
With that said, there are a few strategies that are almost always effective for most people. These strategies are a great addition to your self care toolbox, in times of crisis and stress or after a long day at work when you need to unwind.
Slow Down With These Relaxation Exercises
Slowing down is often easier said than done. When we are dealing with major stress or facing burnout or simply having a really bad day, we often forget about the things that make us relax. Instead, we might turn to quick fixes such as chocolate or booze. Although there is nothing wrong with treating yourself, unhealthy coping strategies don’t do much in the long term. Instead, try one or more of these relaxation exercises to find your peace again.
Stay clear of the intense books or anything that requires brain power or effort (unless those books actually help you unwind). Light reading is always a good way to help the brain rest. A fun book that gets you involved in a plot and immersed in the characters’ lives for a while is the ultimate escape. Add some tea and you will be sorted.
Getting out into nature is an effective way to destress and relax. You can head to the woods or simply sit in your garden for an hour or two. One of my favourite things to do after work is to sit outside on my patio and have tea or kombucha. I love sitting outside, watching birds and the odd squirrel, enjoying some fresh air and easing into the later part of the day. I also sit on the lawn with my cats, spotting teeny grasshoppers in the long grass and lying back to soak up the final rays of sunshine.
Take a walk.
You can go one step further and take a walk. Go somewhere pretty and scenic. Take a stroll around your hood. Stop and smell the flowers. Smile and greet people. Take a friend or go on your own. Walking is a gentle exercise that is good for you physically, mentally and emotionally. You don’t have to power walk, either. Getting out and about will help you clear your head and get into the moment rather than getting stuck into your thoughts.
Shallow breathing is the furthest thing from relaxing, making you feel more anxious and tense. You’d think breathing fully would come naturally to humans but in reality, most of us have to actually focus on our breathing. There are a number of breathing techniques that help you breathe fully and deeply. Conscious breathing such as belly breathing helps you get in maximum air, which helps you feel calmer.
Try some meditation.
Another effective strategy is meditation. I began meditating about seven or so years ago. Initially, I used to simply lie in bed at bedtime with fairy lights on and soft music on. I came across the Relax My Cat channel on YouTube and found that along with relaxing felines, it relaxed humans, too. Later, with the help of Insight Timer, I started meditating in the morning. I have times that I am a little lazy and skip my morning meditation. It has still been an effective way for me to centre myself, even when I don’t do it every single morning.
Do you know what one of my ultimate stress-busters is when I am feeling very tense? Knitting. As weird as that sounds, knitting is amazingly soothing. I think it comes down to being creative and also doing something that requires very little thought. When you get into the rhythm of knitting, you can start to let your hands do their thing while your mind focuses on knitting and purling stitches. This is basically mindfulness. The same applies to adult colouring, painting, drawing, sewing, crochet or any other type of creative activity.
Listen to something.
I grew out of the Relax My Cat but I found some other stuff that I use when I need to unwind. I love folk music and indie music. Iron & Wine is one of my favourites (The Creek Drank the Cradle is my go-to album on bad days). I also have a playlist of comfort songs that I know all the words to and can sing along to when I listen. Jazz soothes me, too. Listening to music that makes you feel good (that means no sad music that makes you cry) is a simple way to bring about a state of peace.
How do you relax when you are feeling like things are getting too much? Share your relaxation exercises below.