5 Tips for Relaxation You Can Do Today!

We’ve all been there. The day starts promptly at 6:00am, and we are out of the gate running. Getting kids ready, traffic jams, meetings and presentations, homework, after work appointments, dinner, the list keeps on going. At the last minute we fall into bed exhausted but with eyes wide open, unable to fall asleep after a lack of “unwinding” from our stressful day. Hopefully these exceptionally busy days are just that: the exception. However, for many people, the demands of job and home are all to often overwhelming, and “rushing” has become the new normal. What are some things that can be done to make relaxation a regular and feasible part of our overextended days? Here are 5 tips on relaxation to get you started.

1. Give yourself permission to not be a superhero.

We are all human, and every one of us gets only 24 hours in a day. That means there is a limited amount of stuff we can accomplish in a day. Give yourself permission to be human. Prioritize your time, and let things go that don’t have to get done immediately. The same goes with allowing yourself time to relax. Even 5 minutes of uninterrupted relaxation can make a big difference in reducing stress, so ask your spouse to help out giving the kids a bath while you enjoy reading a chapter in a book or sip on some hot tea. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to things that would push you or your family to the limit. There will always be more demands for your time. You hold the power to draw the line of when enough is enough.

2. Build in rituals.

Our bodies and minds benefit from having clear transitions between the different activities we take part in. Consider establishing a set ritual or routine for when you arrive at or leave work or home. Chances are you probably already have some that you might not have taken notice of. Simple things like lighting a candle upon arrival, organizing your desk in a particular way, or reciting a phrase or inspirational word to yourself can help signal to the mind and body that its time for the work day to start. Similarly, at the end of the day blowing out a candle, washing your hands and forearms, or taking off your shoes when you arrive home can help in the transition from work to home. Think intentionally about what you are doing as a ritual, and you will notice a difference in smoothly transitioning from one place to another.

3. Regularly practice deep breathing.

Stress and anxiety often lead to taking short, shallow breathes, which can cause a host of problems for our physical bodies. Get in the habit of deep breathing. You don’t even have to carve out extra time to practice this. Do it while you are driving to and from work, during your lunch break, when you get up to go the bathroom or get a drink of water, and when you lie down to sleep at night. Practicing deep breathing regularly throughout your day will help you minimize the effects of tension on your body throughout your day, and will develop a healthy coping habit that will be more easy to engage in when stressful situations arise.

4. Develop an attitude of gratitude.

Often stressful situations are made worse by the attitude we have about them. Instead of only focusing on the negatives, thoughtfully shift your focus to what is working, what is going well, and what you are thankful for. You could even make this a part of your daily rituals, reflecting on 3 things you are grateful for as you drive to and from work or before you go to sleep. Turn this into a habit or game with partners or family members, setting aside time to share highs and lows of everyone’s day together (make sure to share more highs than lows), or taking turns telling each other something you appreciate about them.

5. Eat calming and nutrient dense foods.

Instead of grabbing the cookies or ice cream at the end of a tough day, intentionally reach for foods that will replenish what was lost during a stressful day. Consider drinking a cup of hot peppermint tea, which is known to combat stress. Grab a handful of almonds or sunflower seeds which contain mind-calming vitamin E. A stressed body is more prone to sickness, so eat foods rich in vitamin C like papaya, berries, and red bell pepper to keep your immune system strong.

About Liz Fava, LPC

Liz provides individual and couples therapy for adults, including counseling for dating, engaged, and married couples. She also conducts couples workshops, and training and supervision for therapists.