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6 Relaxation Exercises to Feel Better Now

These 6 relaxation exercises are sure to help melt away stress. Remember, stress management is a process!


Relaxation Exercises: 1. Fidget or Doodle

Fidget spinners, cubes and the likes are the latest trend when it comes to keeping your hands busy. While they are the latest and greatest trend, fidgeting is nothing new. We all do it. We fidget with pens, buttons, keys, and anything else we can get our hands on. When we're not fidgeting with our pens and pencils, we're using them to doodle. I'm sure you've found yourself doing this during a meeting, a class, or a phone conversation.


Fidgeting helps you focus and it is a great stress reliever. If you're not in the habit of fidgeting or doodling right now, give it a try. Handcrafts like knitting are another great option. The rhythmic motion of playing with any type of doodle device tends to slow down your heart rate and makes your blood pressure go down: all signs that fidgeting helps you relax.


Now that we've established that fidgeting works, it's time for you to give it a try. Keep a pen and scratch pad close by so you can doodle while you wait, listen, or think. This works great in meetings, at conferences, or while you're on the phone. Of course, doodling for a few minutes just to give yourself a mental break and relax is always a good idea.


Next, look around the house or office and see what kinds of fidgeting devices you already have and are carrying with you. Pens and keys will work, as will stress balls for example. Make a small pile of everything that looks like a good fidgeting device and give it a try while you're sitting around having conversations, watching TV, or just resting for a few minutes. Figure out what works well for you. Some devices will work great and feel like a lot of fun, while others may frustrate you to no end. Make a short list of the fun and relaxing ones.


Then simply make sure you have them easily accessible wherever you may need them. You can also try some of the inexpensive devices made specifically for fidgeting. Fidget spinners are the hot new trend right now, but they can get a bit annoying and distracting to others. Fidget cubes may be a better alternative. Trial and error will show you what works well for you and what doesn't. Then simply get in the habit of using them as de-stress and relaxation devices.

When it works best: Meetings, talking on the phone, etc.


Relaxation Exercises: 2. Abdominal Breathing Technique

How it’s done: With one hand on the chest and the other on the belly, take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the diaphragm (not the chest) inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. The goal: Six to 10 deep, slow breaths per minute for 10 minutes each day to experience immediate reductions to heart rate and blood pressure, McConnell says. Keep at it for six to eight weeks, and those benefits might stick around even longer.

When it works best: Before an exam, or any stressful event.


Relaxation Exercises: 3. Nadi Shodhana or “Alternate Nostril Breathing”

How it’s done: A yogi’s best friend, this breath is said to bring calm and balance, and unite the right and left sides of the brain. Starting in a comfortable meditative pose, hold the right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it off with the right thumb and exhaling through the left nostril.

When it works best: Crunch time, or whenever it’s time to focus or energize. Just don’t try this one before bed: Nadi shodhana is said to “clear the channels” and make people feel more awake. It’s almost like a cup of coffee!


Relaxation Exercises: 4. Kapalabhati or “Skull Shining Breath”

How it’s done: Ready to brighten up your day from the inside out? This one begins with a long, slow inhale followed by a quick, powerful exhale generated from the lower belly. Once comfortable with the contraction, up the pace to one inhale-exhale (all through the nose) every one to two seconds, for a total of 10 breaths.

When it works best: When it’s time to wake up, warm up or start looking on the brighter side of things. If alternate nostril breathing is like coffee, consider this a shot of espresso.


Relaxation Exercises: 5. Progressive Relaxation

How it’s done: To nix tension from head to toe, close the eyes and focus on tensing and relaxing each muscle group for two to three seconds each. Start with the feet and toes, then move up to the knees, thighs, rear, chest, arms, hands, neck, jaw and eyes — all while maintaining deep, slow breaths. Having trouble staying on track? Breathe in through the nose, hold for a count of five while the muscles tense, then breathe out through the mouth on release.

When it works best: At home, at a desk or even on the road. One word of caution: Dizziness is never the goal. If holding the breath ever feels uncomfortable, tone it down to just a few seconds at most.


Relaxation Exercises: 6. Guided Visualization

How it’s done: Head straight for that “happy place," no questions asked. With a coach, therapist or helpful recording as your guide, breathe deeply while focusing on pleasant, positive images to replace any negative thoughts.

When it works best: Pretty much anyplace you can safely close your eyes and let go (e.g. not at the wheel of a car). ~ parts adapted via Greatist.com


Relaxation Exercises:
BONUS

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