15 Ways to Relax & Rejuvenate Your Body
“No matter how much pressure you feel at work, if you could find ways to relax for at least five minutes every hour, you’d be more productive.”
- Dr. Joyce Brothers
Do you have a sore back and stiff neck after only a few hours at work? Does the rush to meet deadlines, constant talking on the phone or finishing off reports seem to wear you down hour by hour? Then maybe it’s time to relax for a few moments over the course of each day.
Stress seems to have become a constant factor in today’s fast-paced society. If left unchecked, it can wreak havoc upon our health. Learning how to effectively manage stress can mean the difference between being robust and full of life, or becoming susceptible to illness and disease. Stress can weaken the immune system and accelerate the aging process. The ability to relax and rejuvenate promotes wellness, vitality and longevity.
A healthy immune system regulates our body’s healing process and protects it against infections and diseases. When stress compromises our immune function, it can result in colds, flu, fatigue, cardiovascular disorders and premature aging. Stress increases heart rate, blood pressure, glucose levels, adrenaline, cortisol, free radicals and oxidative damage. This initiates the “fight or flight” response, places undue strain upon the heart, and can also increase the feelings of anxiety and depression.
Protecting the immune system is a vital part of living longer, feeling younger and being healthy. Here are fifteen ways to reduce stress and relax your body:
Focus on controlling your breathing; take slow, deep breaths on a 4:4 second count, in and out. As you exhale, imagine all the tension and negative energy slowly moving out of your body. Feel your muscles relaxing and, if you are lying in bed, growing heavier. Work your way through your entire body, focusing on relaxing one muscle group at a time.
Breathing this way will help to increase your mind-body awareness and focus your energy on muscle relaxation.
2. Yoga or stretching.
The slow movements and controlled postures of yoga improves muscle strength, flexibility, range of motion, balance, breathing, blood circulation and promotes mental focus, clarity and calmness. Stretching also reduces mental and physical stress, tension and anxiety, promotes good sleep, lowers blood pressure and slows down your heart rate.
And I’m not simply referring to the “lean back in your chair,” yawning, “boy I could sure use another cup of coffee” kind of stretching. Get out of your chair, find a little floor space, and work it like you were on the track team. Touch your toes, flex your calves, make little circles with your arms. The muscles of the body are interconnected so the more you stretch, the more the whole body relaxes.
3. Laughter and humor.
Laughter cuts stress and promotes relaxation. And there is truth to the saying that laughter is the best medicine. Laughing reduces stress hormones like adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol. It also benefits your immune system by increasing the number and activity of Natural Killer T-cells. These cells act as the first line of defense against viral attacks and damaged cells. Find the humor in things and engage in activities that make you laugh to increase your immune function and disease resistance.
Go to the gym, take a bike ride, go for a jog, or play catch outside with a friend. There’s no doubt that one of the best contrasts for draining mental exertion is physical exertion. Upping your heart rate a little will get your blood flowing more quickly.
5. Relax your facial muscles.
When we are tense we frown and squint which adds to the tension. Tell your facial muscles to relax and they will. Try to maintain this relaxed face throughout the day.
Also relax the tongue. Usually the tongue is held tightly against the teeth. Free it up in the mouth so it can just rest there without tension.
6. Listening to music.
Listening to your favorite music is a great method of reducing stress and relieving anxiety. Your individual preference in music determines which types of soothing sounds will best reduce your tension, blood pressure, and promote feelings of tranquility. Pay attention to how you feel when you hear a particular song or genre of music, and keep listening to the ones that produce a relaxing effect.
A massage goes a long way when it comes to relaxing your muscles. Look for a certified deep tissue massage therapist and book a full-body treatment. A deep tissue massage reaches muscle fibers that you aren’t able to target with everyday methods like stretching. During the massage, focus on the breathing technique described above to relax your muscles even more.
Meditation is great not only for stress relief, but also for muscle relaxation. Do it right before you go to bed, as it will focus your mental energy and prepare your body for rest. Find a dark, quiet area and either sit with your legs crossed or lie on your back and focus on your breathing.
Try to completely relax your mind, freeing it of all thoughts. Once your mind is clear, visualize your muscles tensing and relaxing, and all the energy moving out of them. Once you’ve worked your way through your entire body, take a few deep breaths and slowly get up. Your muscles should now feel relaxed and your body should be in a state of calm.
This ancient Chinese treatment can be used not only to treat a number of diseases, but also for muscle relaxation. A trained acupuncturist knows all the target pressure points in the body and will focus on those that will relax the muscles that need it most. You can get acupuncture whenever you are feeling tense; just be sure to find a certified acupuncturist to ensure the treatment is performed correctly.
10. Bath or sauna.
Relaxing in a hot bath relieves sore muscles and joints, reduces stress and tension, and promotes a good night’s sleep. Add some soothing music, soft lighting and naturally scented bath salts, bubble bath/bath foam to create an inexpensive and convenient spa experience in the privacy of your own home.
A bath or a sauna can warm up your core body temperature and increase your blood circulation, transporting more oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. Stay in the bath, sauna or steam room for about 10 to 15 minutes – enough time to fully relax but not so long that you begin to feel lethargic. If you want, you can also perform some stretching exercises during this time, as your muscles will be very warm and at their most flexible state.
11. Have a cup of tea.
Regularly drinking tea throughout the day can help strengthen your immune system and your body’s ability to fight off germs and infections. Both green and black teas contain a beneficial amino acid called L-theanine, which can increase the infection fighting capacity of gamma delta T cells. L-theanine also promotes a sense of relaxation, calmness and well-being by influencing the release and concentration of neurotransmitters (like dopamine, serotonin and GABA) in the brain.
So in order to fully reap the benefits of this herbal beverage, include a cup or two of green tea in your daily diet
12. Hanging upside down.
It may seem like an unconventional way to get your muscles to relax, but by allowing gravity to do its work, you can achieve a deeper state of relaxation. Find a bar that you can reach comfortably, lift your knees and wrap them around the bar. Then, slowly release your arms and let yourself hang for a minute.
Concentrate on completely releasing any tension in your muscles and letting gravity pull you downward. Do not stay in this position for an extended period of time, however, as excess blood accumulation in the head can cause many health concerns.
13. Positive thinking.
Optimism can counteract the negative impact stress, tension and anxiety has on your immune system and well-being. Often it is how you perceive things that determine if you get overwhelmed, both mentally and physically. Having a positive attitude, finding the good in what life throws your way and looking at the bright side of things enhances your ability to effectively manage stress.
14. Taking a walk.
It’s best to get outside for some fresh air, but if limitations keep you indoors, even a stroll around the office will help you break the monotonous routine. Focus on moving parts of your leg and arm muscles that have been stationary all day. Even climbing a flight of stairs can do the trick.
Performing some light cardio work is a great way to relax and loosen your muscles. This will help increase your blood circulation, enhancing muscle recovery and preventing muscle stiffness.
Getting enough sound sleep has a profound impact on your stress levels, immune function and disease resistance A chronic lack of sleep can leave you feeling sluggish, irritable, forgetful, accident-prone, and have difficulty concentrating or coping with life’s daily aggravations. Long-term sleep loss can also result in heart disease, stroke, hypertension, depression, and anxiety. Sleep time is when your body and immune system do most of its repairs and rejuvenation.
Skimping out on sleep not only reduces your rate of recovery, it also increases stress levels in your body (due to an increased release of cortisol), making your muscles tight and tense. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep every night, and if your schedule allows it, take a 20-minute power nap in the afternoon. Remember rest and relaxation go hand in hand.
If you spend your entire workday stressed out, then your last hour of work will be considerably less productive than your first. Maintain productivity by taking a quick break here and there. In fact, the general idea of distancing yourself from your professional thought processes can be beneficial on any level. For example, exercising for half an hour at lunch almost feels like a vacation sometimes – after all, the best break from mental exertion is physical exertion.
So take a break! It will remind you that you’re a human being, and you will return to work refreshed.
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