No one enjoys feeling stressed, but it’s important to remember that in short-term situations, stress can actually help you cope with potentially serious events. Your increased heart rate and readied muscles ensure that you’re able to act fast and efficiently. However, frequent or chronic stress can seriously affect your well-being, causing anxiety, depression, headaches, and insomnia. It can even increase your risk of having a stroke or heart attack! If you frequently feel stressed, use the following relaxation techniques for stress to keep calm and manage your stress levels.
Relaxation Techniques for Stress
Use breathing exercises to calm your breath.
Whenever and wherever you are, you can focus on your breathing. Take long, slow, deep breaths and make sure you’re breathing from your belly instead of your chest (place a hand on your belly to check that it’s rising and falling). As you breathe, let negative thoughts and worries slip away and focus on your body and your breath. This is especially calming in a quiet, natural environment, where you can listen to the gentle sounds of nature and your deep breaths.
Relax your body one step at a time.
Once you have the deep breathing technique down, try combining it with a “body scan.” Whether you’re sitting or lying down, start by taking deep breaths. Then, focus on relaxing one part of your body at a time, mentally releasing the physical tension in that area. For example, you might start by relaxing your feet, then your legs, then your hands, then your arms, moving all the way up to your head. This process may also boost your awareness of the mind-body connection (source).
Take a journey in your mind.
Once you’ve mastered the deep breathing technique, you can also try adding visualization on top of it. Close your eyes, take long breaths from your belly, and imagine that you’re taking a journey to a more relaxing place. Incorporate as many of your senses as possible, thinking about the sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and things you might touch in that setting. Focus only on the positive aspects of your “happy place.” For example, you might imagine that you’re sitting on a comfy chair at a warm beach. Visualize the gentle waves and the blue sky and pretend you’re smelling the fresh ocean air, tasting a bit of the salty water, and feeling the soft sand between your toes . . . Feeling relaxed yet?
Engaging in regular physical activity releases endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers) and has been proven to reduce stress and improve sleep. So long as it gets you moving, you can choose whatever form of exercise you like. Walking is a foolproof choice for seniors, but here are some other options: swimming, yoga, tai chi, dancing, strength training, aerobics class, etc.
Who wouldn’t like to feel a little less stressed? Use these relaxation techniques for stress management and share them with anyone you know who’s suffering from chronic stress. It may take a little time to master these techniques, but with practice you can become a (very relaxed) expert!
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