Do your mind and body need a break? Putting aside precious "me time" is the key to releasing stress. The benefits of relaxation techniques range from improved mindfulness and concentration to reduced blood pressure, better digestion, and a healthier heart.

Whether you're at home, in the office, or on vacation, finding a peaceful place in your mind is achievable. Turn off any electronic devices that may disturb your concentration, close your office door, or step outside to a quiet location. The more you practice mindfulness, the easier it will be for you to reach your desired level of relaxation.

Give yourself a breather with the following relaxation exercises:

Progressive muscle relaxation
Duration: 10-15 minutes
Frequency: 1-2 times a day

Progressive muscle relaxation is a two-step process that forces the brain to focus on the feeling of tensing your muscles, then slowly releasing them. By practicing this exercise, you will be able to recognize the difference between a muscle that is tired, tense, and fatigued from one that is free of tension.

Step 1. Begin by sitting upright in a comfortable chair. If possible, remove your shoes. Take a deep breath and apply muscle tension to your hands by squeezing them into tight fists. Hold for 10 seconds. While holding this position, focus on how the tension feels in your hands.

Your goal is to concentrate on the stress put on this muscle group, ignoring all other muscles in your body. It's normal for your hands to shake in response to the tension being applied.

Step 2. Exhale as you slowly relax your fists, releasing all the tension in your hands.

Slowly repeat Step 1 and Step 2 for at least 10 minutes.

 

Breathing visualization
Duration: 10-15 minutes
Frequency: 1-2 times a day

Deep breathing is the most powerful weapon when combating stress. When your breathing is shallow, your brain has a shortage of oxygen. This can result in feelings of dizziness, confusion — even a sense of panic. Breathing visualization is an exercise designed to increase the volume and quality of your breathing and, in turn, help reduce stress or anxiety. This exercise is performed with a mentally relaxing image in mind, such as a cloud floating across the sky.

In order to properly perform this exercise, you must first learn the correct way to breathe. With each breath, your abdomen should rise and fall, not your chest.

Step 1. Close your eyes. Pace your breathing by placing your right thumb softly on the outside of your right nostril. Take a deep, even breath in through your left nostril and out through your left nostril. Alter your fingers so the right pointer finger is plugging the left nostril and you're slowly taking a deep inhale and exhale from your right nostril. Continue this back-and-forth breathing sequence for 1-2 minutes.

Step 2. Once you feel comfortable with your breathing, think of an image that brings you peace. One popular visualization is the ocean's tide coming in and out on the shoreline. With each inhale, imagine the tide receding into the ocean, and with each exhale, envision the tide returning, washing over the sand. Continue this sequence for 10 to 15 minutes and feel the stress melt off your body.

Ashley Greenblatt

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

Earn it.

Ashley B. Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.