Setting aside time for relaxation is important for maintaining good mental health and decreasing stress levels. Today’s post will offer a range of suggestions – from simple, quick activities to more complex exercises. In my previous post on The Healthy Mind Platter, Rock and Siegal refer to this as ‘Time In’.
Simple activities that can reduce stress:
- Go for a walk – Taking a break for as little as 20 minutes (or ideally more) and going outside for a walk can be a fantastic stress reliever. The combination of exercise and being outdoors can do great things for the mind, and the benefits of walking are numerous. It can help to clear your mind; reduce anxiety and aggression; relieve headaches, high blood pressure and digestive problems; and boost energy and endorphins and reduce fatigue. This isn’t about pushing your body to the limits; it’s more about taking a time out. Having a dog to walk can also be a real bonus!
- Listen to music – music is a great distraction from stressful situations and can have a very relaxing effect on the mind and body. Classical music is considered to be very calming, but every individual gets to choose the music that makes them happy. “To incorporate music into a busy life, try playing CDs in the car, or put the radio on when in the bath or shower. Take portable music with you when walking the dog, or put the stereo on instead of the TV”. Classical music can also help stimulate the brain during study.
- Read a book – for many people, reading can quickly become a chore because it is required that they do so for their study or job. For that reason, it is important to sit down and make time to read for leisure – stories rather than text books.
- Take a nap – Naps can help to ‘restart your brain’ if you are tired but need to keep doing work. See how long you should nap for to get the most benefits from it.
- Talk to someone – Taking a break to socialise or talk about your problems with a friend can help to be a vent for your anxiety and stress, allowing you to stop seething about the issue(s) and get some advice or see it from a different perspective.
- Meditation – Meditating can help to reduce stress and anxiety, especially when practiced regularly over a long period of time. It “produces a clearing of the mind in ways that promote a sense of calm and heightened awareness”. It can also help to improve concentration, relaxation and inner awareness, and help to clear the mind. Many people find meditating difficult at first because their mind will wander, but this will improve over time and it will be easier to slip into a meditative state. Practice will improve your ‘mental fitness’. See this guide for more information on how to meditate.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) – This is extremely beneficial in alleviating the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as tense muscles and pain. Over time, an individual will become aware of their body and physical state, and be able to distinguish more clearly between ‘stressed’ and ‘relaxed’. Another guide on PMR can be found here.
This is really a very short exploration of relaxation methods, and there are plenty more ways to relax. It also depends on each individual, who understands what can help them relax.
Do you make enough time in your busy schedule for relaxation? What are your favourite ways to relax and enjoy ‘time in’?