Below are some simple stress management tips and relaxation exercises that have proven useful to adults whether or not they are a parent. By taking a moment to consider which stress management tools will work for you and then putting them into practice immediately will help to provide the stress management approach you are looking for and the stress relief you deserve.
Take Time to Learn to Relax
When we are worried, anxious, hurried or harried our body begins to feel tense. Actually, this is a natural reaction. Our body is preparing us for flight or fight. Our body has been given the signal to prepare to respond to a threat. If a real physical danger were present, we would be able to protect ourselves by attack or retreat. When the emergency was over, an “all clear signal” would be given and our body would relax and return to its normal state.
In our modern existence, our mind is often bothered by many things. We call this stress. Constant mental stress keeps our body in constant tension which itself becomes a form of stress. We can handle stress by learning to cope with thoughts and events so they no longer are stressful. We can also learn to relax. When we practice relaxation, we are giving the “all clear signal.” As we become better at giving the signal, we are able to trigger the relaxation response so our body will return to its normal state.
Chronic tension affects each of us differently. Depending on the person, it can cause sleep disturbance, increased or decreased appetite, headaches, stomachaches, poor concentration, or irritability. Some diseases may be caused by or made worse by chronic tension. Also, our immune system can be weakened, thus, making us more susceptible to colds and other infections. Our section titled 52 Proven Ways to Reduce Stress gives some tips on coping. This section will help you learn Three Proven Ways to Relax. The are: (1) Progressive Relaxation, (2) Deep Breathing, and (3) Pleasant Images.
Use of positive mental images can be useful. Many parents have benefited from listening to a relaxation tape such as [Being A Happy Effective Parent].
We will start with your feet and lower legs. Tighten those muscles just as hard as you can. Feel the tension. Then gradually release the tension. Let your feet and lower leg muscles relax just a little bit at a time. Repeat this with your upper leg and hip muscles. Again, experience first the tension and then the gradual relaxation as you slowly release all the tension.
Next, tense the muscles in your hands and lower arms. Make a fist. Tighten them as tight as you can. Then gradually let them relax. With each muscle group, the relaxation feels good. As you relax one group at a time your whole being will be begin to feel relaxed, calm and peaceful. Repeat the tension and then gradual relaxation with your upper arms and shoulders. Remember to tense and hold before relaxing.
Next, tighten your stomach muscles. Hold the tension and then gradually release. Then, move to your chest muscles. Take a deep breath. Hold it while tensing your chest muscles. Gradually let out your breath while gradually letting go of the tension in your chest muscles.
As you have now progressively relaxed most of your major muscle groups, you may feel a tingly sensation. You will find that your breathing has become slower and deeper. You are now relaxed. Try to practice on a daily basis. When you have followed the above for about 10 to 15 sessions, try it without tensing the muscles. See if you can just relax one muscle group at a time while breathing slowly and deeply.
When we are tense, our breathing is often shallow and rapid. If fact, most of us do not breathe properly, tense or not. Improper breathing robs us of oxygen, which purifies our body as well as helps our body produce energy. Fortunately, learning to breathe properly is not difficult. Find a comfortable place to lie down. Place your hands on your abdomen just below your ribs. Begin breathing slowly and deeply. If you are breathing properly, you will feel the expansion in the abdominal area before your rib cage expands. Spend 5 to 10 minutes several times a day practicing your deep breathing. You will notice that as you become more proficient, your breathing will improve during your normal activities.
How to take a mental vacation
How to take a mental vacation When we think about things that are upsetting, our body tenses up. This is because the lower centers of our brain, which regulate body functions, does not distinguish between real images and those, which are imagined. If you think about being in an uncomfortable situation, your body will begin to respond as if you were in that situation. Since you have probably had lots of experience thinking about things that cause tension, you actually have all the skills necessary to do just the opposite. Imagine something that makes you feel good.
To prepare for your mental vacation, relax your muscles and take a few deep breaths. Then close your eyes and imagine you are some place you enjoy. It could be the beach or the mountains or enjoying a favorite activity. Try to fully experience this imagined event. See the sights. Hear the sounds. Feel the air. Smell the smells. Tune in to the sense of well-being. At first, you should allow 10 to 15 minutes for this exercise. As you become more adept, you will find that you can feel like you have been on a long vacation or just come back from a good time in just a few moments.
Some other ways to feel relaxed
Listening to music is very relaxing. Reading can be rewarding for many. Enjoying a hobby can make life more fun. Research has shown that exercising several times a week (even just a walk) can reduce stress and tension. Research has also found that regular church attendance and daily prayer result in lower blood pressure and better coping.
Avoid too much caffeine or alcohol. Both of these are thought to be relaxing but they can actually make things worse. Avoid watching the news before going to bed. Try to take one day at a time. Look for the good things that happen each day and be thankful. Reach out and touch someone. Giving IS better than receiving. Be forgiving. Don’t hold grudges. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. As you learn to forgive others, use a little on yourself. Tomorrow is another day.
Remember the AA serenity prayer:
Grant me the courage to change the things I can change.
The ability to accept the things I cannot change.
And the wisdom to know the difference.
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