Top Relaxation Techniques To Reduce Stress
Take a deep breath in, let go of the tension in your shoulders, and exhale out the stresses of the day. We all find ourselves facing stressful situations throughout our lives and, really, stress is part and parcel of being human! However, it can be hard not to get caught up in the daily stresses of work deadlines, financial worries and everyday responsibilities, and it can be even harder not to let it all get on top of you.
Stressors come in many forms, from a bad mood that you just can’t shake to more troubling and severe situations that can be more difficult to overcome. Unfortunately, life has a way of bringing the unexpected, and stress isn’t always something we can avoid. Nevertheless, the key to getting through these situations is learning how to cope with sudden stressors so that you’re always prepared for the unexpected.
For many of us, it can sometimes feel easier to ignore our stress completely rather than dealing with it head-on, but this is where we tend to go wrong. No matter how difficult you feel the stresses that you’re facing are, don’t fret: we’ve put together our top relaxation techniques and recommendations to reduce your stress. So, grab yourself a cup of tea, get comfy, and prepare to de-stress.
Stress Awareness Month
Our blog today is in appreciation of the poignant Stress Awareness Month. Spearheaded by the Stress Management Society, a not-for-profit organisation that offers invaluable free resources and materials to those finding it difficult, this annual event is centred around raising awareness about stress and breaking the stigma around it. Stress Awareness Month has been held every year since 1992 but, despite running for a long time, there’s still a long way to go. To help combat the modern stress epidemic and increase public awareness, the Stress Management Society has published a 30-day wellbeing challenge aimed at regaining connectivity, certainty and control.
The 30-day challenge focuses on implementing easy physical, mental and emotional actions per day, such as staying hydrated, going for a walk and keeping a gratitude journal. The list really is endless, and you get to pick which actions you prefer and enjoy, making it accessible for anyone to get involved. The idea behind the challenge is that it takes 30 days to turn these actions into regular healthy habits so that by the end of it, you’re armed with plenty of practical techniques to conquer stress.
Finding yourself in a sudden stressful situation without preparation can really take its toll on your body. In the moment, your heart begins to pound, your breathing speeds up, and you might experience headaches and find yourself becoming more irritable. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do when this happens:
Take a deep breath
It may sound a little too simple, but stopping what you’re doing in the moment to focus on your breathing actively stops those stressful thoughts from filling your mind. When we’re in stressful situations, our breathing tends to be shallow and hurried. By elongating our breathing, our body triggers a calming response which naturally decreases our heart rate and blood pressure. Take long, deep breaths in through the nose and slowly release your breath out through the mouth.
Take a nap
Good news for all the nappers out there - naps are great for when you really need a break! If you’re in a bit of a funk and need a quick fix to get out of it, or stress has been keeping you up at night, naps help you feel refreshed, rested, and in a better headspace to face the rest of the day. Naps are not only proven to lower stress levels and blood pressure, they also give a huge boost to your immune system. Just make sure that you nap no longer than about 20 to 30 minutes, so you don’t wake up feeling groggy or more stressed about time wasted!
When it comes to taking a restful nap, it’s important to be in a tranquil environment where you can fully relax. If you’re surrounded by anything remotely stress-inducing, such as clutter, noise and distractions, you’ll likely find it hard to properly unwind. Check out our 10 simple ways to revamp your bedroom for our top tips to create the ultimate zen zone. With a few of these penny-saving suggestions, it won’t be long before you’re blissfully napping away.
The power of pets
If you’re a pet owner, you already know how comforting and soothing it is to spend time with your four-legged friend. It’s no surprise that therapy dogs are becoming more common in the workplace, as spending just 10 minutes snuggling up with a cuddly companion can boost your mood and lower stress levels a significant amount. Therapy dogs are shown to decrease the production of stress hormones and boost moods across the office. And, not only will cuddling up to your pet bring you contentment - they’re sure to love the fuss and attention, too. You don’t need to tell us twice!
Be kind to yourself
Most importantly, always remember to give yourself a break. It’s only natural to get stressed from time to time, and being hard on yourself is only adding unnecessary stress. Practising self-love and acceptance is probably one of the most important factors you can do to minimise stress levels. This can be as simple as spoiling yourself with pamper sets and bath bombs for an evening of self-care, or going the whole hog and indulging in the ultimate at-home spa session with a bathtub caddy tray that holds a candle, your iPad, snacks, and even a glass of wine! A sumptuous soak, coupled with a chick flick and a cheeky glass of vino while the kids are in bed - what better way to unwind?
For all the stressed-out overthinkers out there, there are plenty of books that give advice and guidance on how to combat stress. We recommend Am I Overthinking This? by Michelle Rial for a relatable yet light-hearted take on everyday stressful situations. From Venn diagrams on how to sign off an email to the sudden realisation that you may or may not have left your hair straighteners on, this book is sure to have you laughing the stress away. For a relaxing evening without distracting tech, let your creativity flow with a mindful colouring book and colouring pencils - just what you need to de-stress.
Top relaxation tips
After a demanding day, it might be tempting to plop yourself down on the sofa and zone out completely, but this does little to really calm your mind. In fact, an overload of stimulation from the TV and your phone has been proven to actually increase stress levels even more! To help banish the blues and stubborn stress, small actions that put our mental health first while feeling that we’re still productive makes all the difference. So, from music that makes us feel our absolute best to simple exercises that have been practised for centuries, here are our top techniques to help you relax and unwind.
The thought of meditating can quite easily feel a little out of reach, but the truth is you don’t need to be an expert meditator to reap the benefits! In fact, there are probably several times you’ve already meditated without even realising it. Whether you’ve gone for a walk without your phone, taken a relaxing bath or pretty much any moment you’ve taken a moment of peace with your own thoughts, you have meditated on some level.
Meditation is made increasingly accessible through mobile apps such as Calm or Headspace, calmly guiding you through meditation when you need it the most. If you’re not sure meditation is your bag, we recommend meditative journaling, as it allows you to process your stressors while putting them down on paper. All you need is a notebook and pen, and you can start writing your way through your day-to-day stresses.
Spend time in nature
For those days where everything feels a little too much, nothing beats spending some quality time surrounded by the beautiful scenery and calming sounds of the natural world. Whatever you have access to will do - an alfresco picnic at the local park, breathing in the sea air at the beach, or even sitting in your own garden are all great examples of how easy getting back to nature can be.
If your garden space is in need of a revamp, our ultimate guide to garden seating will give you all the seating inspiration you need to get out there and enjoy the space you have. Whether you enjoy a bike ride in the great outdoors or prefer a leisurely stroll, being outside and surrounded by nature helps lower your blood pressure and heart rate, slowing down the production of stress hormones like cortisol. Connecting to the beauty of Mother Nature by walking through the woods, watching the sunset or observing the birds in the trees are all things that help to take us out of our own thoughts and focus on the world around us instead.
Listen to relaxing music
Listening to soothing music has a tremendous impact on reducing stress. As music absorbs our attention, it distracts us from stressful thoughts and situations, allowing us to fully relax and unwind. Music taste is a personal preference, and what works for you may not work for the next person. But, even if you're not an avid classical music listener, it may be worth giving it a try - hey, if heavy metal calms you down, then great!
For personal listening sessions, you can’t beat a pair of high-quality headphones to sit back, envelop yourself in the music and let your stress melt away. For the surround sound experience, Hi-Fi systems allow you to listen to music and podcasts anywhere in the house, no matter if you’re catching up on chores or relaxing on the sofa.
Interested in how music can affect our mood, the team here at OnBuy conducted a language study to find the top music genres that leave us feeling happier than ever - and the results were surprising, to say the least!
Gentle exercise is known for its numerous benefits to our health and sense of wellbeing. Focusing on the body's slow and calm movements gives you the mental focus that can help distract you from racing thoughts. Combining steady breathing with postures and flowing motions, yoga and tai chi boast a range of different benefits for the mind and body.
In fact, even 10 minutes of regular, relaxing yoga can minimise stress while encouraging a good mood, increased mindfulness, and a healthy dose of self-compassion. Due to yoga's various benefits, it's no surprise it's had such a rapid rise in popularity! While class-based yoga lessons are great for beginners looking to perfect their postures, it's an easy exercise that can be done from the comfort of your own home. All you need to get started is a yoga mat and space big enough to stretch out fully. A firm favourite among regular yogis, practising along to 'Yoga With Adriene' on YouTube is a great place to start.
The art of tai chi was first practised in ancient China for self-defense and is a low-impact, gentle form of exercise, safe for people of all ages and fitness levels. While there are many different tai chi styles, they all involve the same principles: slow, relaxed movements, careful postures, concentration and focused breathing. For a simple first lesson, check out the below YouTube video for beginners.
When our minds feel overcrowded and overworked, even the smallest of tasks can become a little too overwhelming. While we don’t recommend ignoring your ever-increasing stress levels, taking some time to temporarily switch off when you truly need it can only be a good thing. And, whether we like to admit it or not, our phones and social media are huge contributing factors to our day-to-day stress. What might start as simply opening the app and checking what your friends are up to can quickly turn into hours upon hours of needless scrolling - it’s a slippery slope! Learning to step away from our screens for a couple of hours or taking screen detox days gives us more time to spend on ourselves, while also combatting continuous comparison and needless consumption.
How you choose to spend your downtime is entirely up to you and what you enjoy! Whether you decide to watch a movie or prefer to play a video game, as long as it soothes the soul and makes you feel happy, it’s a good choice. If you’re an avid gamer, there are more than enough games out there that will get your pulse racing and blood pumping. However, if you’re looking for something more relaxing, social simulation games may be more to your liking. Replacing combat with community, these games allow you to potter around at your own speed and let you relax and unwind while still enjoying your favourite hobby.
Telling someone to ‘just relax’ when they’re going through a stressful situation is an easy enough thing to say but not exactly helpful. You have the power to make a huge difference to your own wellbeing and the mental health of those around you. Talking openly about your stress can take courage. Not only does it reduce your stress levels (a problem shared is a problem halved!) but it encourages those around you to share their stressors, too. So, whether they’re a friend, relative, colleague or neighbour, reach out and start the conversation!
Showing that you’re there for someone in times of need can really help them feel understood and supported. If you’re looking to treat your loved ones and show how much you care, surprise them with a relaxation hamper that includes books to keep their minds distracted, bath salts to help them switch off, and massage oil for the full relaxing experience. For more information on reaching out to those around you, take a look at our blog all about Time to Talk Day with advice on how to start the conversation and what a difference it can make.
Remember, the activities and advice synonymous with events such as these aren’t restricted to the dates alone - by integrating them into your everyday life, you can make a huge difference to yourself and those around you.
Putting it into practice
Once you start incorporating relaxation techniques that promote calm and wellbeing into your daily life, they’ll become habits that will better prepare you for all the unexpected stressors that may come your way - and that’s when you really start to reap the benefits. Try out a few of our techniques and see which ones work best for you!