Many of us experience feelings of stress, anxiety and being overwhelmed. Relaxation doesn't have to take hours, even just 10 minutes of dedicated relaxation practice is very helpful in promoting a calmer mind and body. Jean Hailes psychologist Dr Mandy Deeks describes some simple relaxation techniques to help in your daily life.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR):
Progressive muscle relaxation (sometimes called deep muscle relaxation) not only reduces the physical tension in your body, it also helps teach you the difference between the feeling of tension versus relaxation. This increased awareness of tension in your body can be very useful in times of stress.
Progressive muscle relaxation can be done by tensing a specific area of your body such as your hands, arms, or shoulders, holding that tension for 10 seconds and then letting go. The aim is then to work through the different areas of your body tensing and letting go and then moving to other areas. The effect is to create a feeling of warmth and heaviness in the relaxed muscles.
There are many different ways to meditate and no one way is right for every woman. While some meditation techniques ask you to focus on your breathing or a chant, mindfulness meditation provides a connection with your mind and thoughts. As a very basic explanation: mindfulness meditation can be learnt by first establishing slow breathing techniques, then as a thought pops into your head, acknowledge 'this is a thought' and let it go. The aim is not to connect or 'buy' into your thoughts, rather become more like an observer of your thoughts. Recognise 'oh, that was a thought' and then let it go.
More and more thoughts will keep popping into your head and the aim is to have greater space and time before the next thought pops in and it becomes easier to let them go. This is a really helpful strategy for those of us who get caught up in our thoughts and get carried away worrying about every little scenario or likelihood. Being able to let thoughts go has a very calming effect and we feel more able to concentrate and take control of our thinking. This is a really helpful technique to be able to call upon when you are stressed and anxious.
According to Mandy, "Relaxation is a skill that can be learned and is best done with practice. It is important to remember that like most things, relaxation is very personal and no one technique will suit every woman. In fact, some women find that certain relaxation techniques make them feel more stressed! Find a technique that works for you and consider attending some initial classes to learn the technique properly as this may mean you are more likely to stick with it."
Published with the permission of the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women's Health
Tollfree number 1800 151 441 for women seeking further health information www.jeanhailes.org.au