Easy relaxation exercises to banish stress

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Woman practicing relaxation exercise
Deep breathing is one of the easiest of all relaxation exercises — a set of as few as five breath cycles may be sufficient to leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed
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Say 'goodbye' to stress in minutes.

Crash. Slam. Bang. Sound familiar? They're sounds that pack a sensory punch in the nose that's a nightmare to anyone's nervous system. Add some high-pitched nagging, incessant whining and the shrill whistle of the train you just missed and what do you have? You have a recipe for stress that could win a prize—if the contest was held in hell. Luckily, there are many easy relaxation exercises that anyone can learn—fast.


Deep Breathing


One of the most important aspects of stress control is breath control. Close your eyes while seated comfortably in a room that's warm enough to be cozy. Inhale slowly through the nose. Breathe in; notice the way the air cools the back of the throat. Continue the slow inhale; feel the lungs expand.


The breath will fill the uppermost part of the lungs first, and then flare through the middle of the ribcage. Now, push out the belly a little bit. Feel a gentle suction as the lower portions of the lungs expand to suck in the remainder of that wonderfully full breath. When little more air can be taken in, begin to exhale slowly—in reverse order—through the nose, or the mouth.


Exhale slowly. Let the belly retreat into its normal, at-rest position. That will help squeeze out the air in the lowest regions of the lungs. That portion of air will be followed by the air in the mid-section, and finally the air at the top of the lungs. Breathe in and breathe out gently and fully.

Deep breathing is one of the easiest of all relaxation exercises. A set of as few as five breath cycles may be sufficient to leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed.


Listening to Each Breath


Few people regularly utilize their lungs' full capacity. Those who master the technique of deep breathing—or at least become more mindful of it—find that purposeful breathing is a stress blaster of the first magnitude. Add an additional benefit by listening to the rhythmic, steady breath sounds. Notice the whoosh of each inhale. Listen to the slightly deeper tones of each exhale.


The practice of listening to the sound of the breaths—flowing in and flowing out—provides a focus for the mind that tends to eliminate distractions—noises from the outdoors, intrusive thoughts, awareness of a ticking clock, etc. Loyola College in Maryland offers some easy relaxation exercises that include deep-breathing techniques blended with meditation—and several more variations.

Muscle Relaxation


Another easy relaxation technique includes purposeful muscle relaxation. It's a technique that can be used at home, in the office or aboard the train that came along—shortly after the one you missed went zooming off into the distance.

Mindful muscle relaxation focuses on relaxing individual muscles—or groups of muscles. During a hectic day at the office, check your posture. Relax the shoulders every so often while doing computer work. Catch yourself in a tense moment, and then go soft and pliable to quickly reduce tension in the neck, shoulders and lower back.


Guided Imagery and Music


The University of Wisconsin offers an uplifting set of six guided relaxation techniques using MP3 audio that can be downloaded to a portable MP3 player. A relaxation technique is called guided when the exercise is led by a facilitator—a narrator who gives instructions in a soothing tone of voice.


The guided-relaxation exercises offered by the University of Wisconsin include a sleep technique, a breath-awareness exercise and an exercise focused on visualizing warmth and heaviness as a way to relax. Add a background of harps or nature sounds, if desired. Or, choose a voice-only version.


You'll find that adding even a few easy relaxation techniques to your roster of daily activities presents far-reaching benefits. Relaxation aids all the body's intricate systems. A relaxed person's rewards are physical, emotional and mental. In addition, being relaxed can help make the crash-slam-bangs mere annoyances, rather than major headaches.

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