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Lower Stress With Relaxation Techniques

By Paul Rothbart

Busy schedules, financial concerns, family. It seems sources of stress are never ending. We know it's not good for us, but how can it be reduced?  Relaxing is obviously a good idea. But it's not just about naps, breaks and vacations. There are relaxation techniques that, when practiced, can slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure and slow respiration rate. Other benefits are less fatigue, anger and frustration, better digestion and improved sleep. Relaxation lowers stress hormone activity. Here are some techniques you can try.

Autogenic Relaxation

This technique involves a heightened awareness of the body to reduce stress. Start by sitting or lying comfortably, eyes closed. Envision a calm, peaceful setting, your happy place, if you will. Repeat words out loud or in your mind that are relaxing. Focus on a slow, steady breathing rate and a still relaxed body. Think of the stress draining out of you. This is a good one for athletes and those with a strong mind to body connection.

Relax the Muscles Progressively

This one is my favorite. It aids in feeling the difference between tense and relaxed muscles. As before, lie down or sit comfortably and close your eyes. Starting with the toes, focus and the muscles relaxing. I find it helpful to imagine them as rubber bands, loosening up. After the toes relax, move on to the feet, calves and so on all the way to the head. You can also tense a muscle group for 5 seconds and then relax it for thirty. This technique is very refreshing to the mental state as well and can be a very good way to fall asleep.

Visualization

Despite the name, this technique utilizes all of the senses. Sit, lie, eyes closed, you've got it by now. Back to the happy place. Focus on seeing it and being there. Use all five senses. Perhaps it's a beach. See the blue sky and the ocean. Smell the salty breeze, feel the sand and the warmth of the sun. Hear the waves. Breathe slowly and feel how the tension is released. People with good imaginations generally do well with this one.

Other techniques worth exploring are yoga, meditation and massage. Whichever method you choose to relax, remember, it will take time and practice to develop the skill. Keep at it and it will become easier to relax the muscles and slow the breathing. Find 5 minutes each day to practice your relaxation. Right before sleep or just after waking up are good times for it. You're already in bed and hopefully comfortable. It's a great way to start or end the day. 

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Porter Ranch, Calif.

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