Feeling overworked and exhausted? You’re not the only one. In a 2016 study, 77 percent of people in the U.S. said they regularly experience physical symptoms of stress. Half of those people said they experienced fatigue and irritability. While it’s almost impossible to avoid stress completely, there are many easy relaxation exercises you can do to reduce stress.
Breathing Relaxation Exercises
A common relaxation exercise is simply paying attention to your breath. Mindful breathing can be an immediate form of natural stress relief. It increases awareness and brings your focus to your physical space, rather than your mind.
One exercise to put your mind at ease is to focus on the balance of your breath. Inhale through your nose for four seconds, then exhale through your nose for four seconds. This reduces stress, increases focus, and provides a sense of calm. It’s most effective before bed or if you’re having trouble falling asleep.
There’s also a breathing technique to prevent stress. Inhale deeply through your nose with one hand over your belly and the other on your chest. This way, you can feel your lungs fully expand. You should aim for six to 10 deep breaths per minute for 10 minutes. You can download the app Breathe Strong to help you keep pace. This works best before a particularly stressful event, such as an exam or presentation.
Natural Stress Relievers
Relaxation exercises aren’t just limited to breathing techniques. Here are other stress-relieving techniques to start including in your daily life.
In addition to stretching your muscles, yoga releases dopamine, the happiness chemical. It focuses on both mental and physical strength, which can control your stress response. Yoga also involves learning how to control your breath.
When beginning yoga, it’s best to learn in a group class with an instructor who can modify your movements to prevent injury. Look for classes with slow, gentle movements, and never force yourself into a pose if you feel pain or resistance.
Focusing on the present moment, rather than future deadlines or past mistakes, can relieve stress. When we think of meditation, we often picture ourselves in a quiet space with eyes closed, chanting a single word. This is one traditional practice, but you can also meditate while on your commute to work.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This relaxation exercise teaches you to relax your body as well as your mind. It involves tensing a muscle group, then releasing. The slight fatigue allows your body to relax. Start by squeezing the muscles in one foot as tightly as you can, and hold for five to 10 seconds. Slowly release, breathe, and repeat on the other side. Work your way up through your legs, core, chest, back, arms, neck, shoulders, and face.
Get Enough Sleep
A good night’s sleep is crucial to managing stress. When your body and mind are fatigued, your senses are on high alert and can overstimulate easily. The deepest and most revitalizing sleep is thought to be between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Start and maintain a routine where you are in bed before then.
These techniques may seem easy enough, but they take intentionality and practice. Like any lifestyle change, it takes regular repetition to feel natural. Practicing these skills daily for at least 10 to 20 minutes strengthens these new healthy habits, giving you the maximum stress-relieving benefits.