learn to relax

Relaxation is a critical part of stress management.

The “relaxation response” helps counteract the physical toll of daily stress–it decreases heart rate, muscle tension, and the release of stress hormones, as well as improving sleep and immune functioning.  By practicing daily relaxation, you’re better equipped to deal with stress because you’re starting from a calm baseline.

The type of relaxation I’m focusing on today is different from leisure activities like television–the relaxation response focuses on deep breathing and muscle relaxation.  Here are a few suggestions:


  • Remember the diaphragmatic breathing you learned in Add A Healthy Habit and Improve Your Stress Response?  Practice your deep breathing for a minute or two, several times throughout the day, and add some shoulder shrugs/neck rolls to release stress in your neck and shoulders.  Even a minute or two a few times a day can make a big difference!


  • Dedicate 15 minutes today to the relaxation response–spend 5 minutes on gentle stretching of your neck and shoulders, then ten minutes on deep breathing.  Try to think positive thoughts.
  • Or, if you prefer, here’s a 10 minute Guided Relaxation session, posted by Ekhart Yoga on youtube.  She sits up during the video, but you may prefer to lie down.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is another great way to elicit the relaxation response–click here for a 10 minute PMR tutorial posted by innerhealthstudio.com on youtube.


Try to fit daily relaxation into your routine–it’s worth it!