Chapter 3: Relaxation
Learning the basics of these relaxation techniques isn’t difficult. But it takes practice to truly harness their stress-relieving power: daily practice, in fact. Most stress experts recommend setting aside at least 10 to 20 minutes a day for your relaxation practice. If you’d like to maximize the benefits, aim for 30 minutes to an hour.
Tips for making relaxation techniques part of your life
- Set aside time in your daily schedule. If possible, schedule a set time either once or twice a day for your practice. You may find that it’s easier to stick with your practice if you do it first thing in the morning, before other tasks and responsibilities get in the way.
- Don’t practice when you’re sleepy. These techniques are so relaxing that they can make you very sleepy. However, you will get the most benefit if you practice when you’re fully awake and alert. Avoid practicing close to bedtime, after a heavy meal, or when you’ve been drinking.
- Expect ups and downs. Don’t be discouraged if you skip a few days or even a few weeks. It happens. Just get started again and slowly build up to your old momentum.
- If you exercise, improve the relaxation benefits by adopting mindfulness. Instead of zoning out or staring at a TV as you exercise, try focusing your attention on your body. If you’re resistance training, for example, focus on coordinating your breathing with your movements and pay attention to how your body feels as you raise and lower the weights.
Don’t think you have time for a daily practice? If you feel like your schedule is already too packed for anything else, remember that many relaxation techniques can be practiced while you’re doing other things. Meditate while commuting to work on a bus or train, for example, or waiting for an appointment. Try deep breathing during your break at work or when you’re winding down for bed. Take a yoga or tai chi break in your office or in the park at lunchtime. Practice mindful walking while exercising your dog, walking to your car, or taking a neighborhood stroll.