The start of spring can be a wonderful time to shed off the worries and stresses of the winter season and look forward to new beginnings. Sometimes, it can be hard work to start fresh for a new season. Balancing the stress of work and home life can make it hard to carve out time for ourselves. Don’t worry – we’ve made it easy to take care of yourself, a few minutes at a time, with these exercises and activities that help to manage your stress.
Your breath is the link between your mind and your body. When you are feeling relaxed, you tend to breathe more slowly and fully. But when you are feeling stressed, your breath becomes faster and shallower. Deep breathing exercises can help you when you want to relax. It is easy to learn and can be done almost anywhere, anytime and in any position.
Try to practice basic deep breathing for a few minutes each day and do it more often as you start to feel more comfortable with the exercise. Here’s how you can start off:
- Find a comfortable position, like sitting in a chair or lying on your back.
- Put your left hand on your stomach and your right hand on your chest.
- Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. When you breathe in, your stomach should push your left hand out and your right hand should not move.
- Breathe out slowly and gently through pursed lips, like you are blowing out candles. Your left hand should slowly move back in as you blow air out of your lungs.
- Repeat this exercise 3 to 10 more times, doing this once a day or more as needed.
Take your time with each breath. You may even choose to use pictures in your mind to help you focus and breathe. For example, when breathing in, imagine you are smelling a batch of freshly baked cookies in through your nose slowly and deeply. When breathing out, imagine you are slowly blowing out candles on a cake. Remember to keep your body relaxed throughout this exercise and stop if you feel dizzy. You can always try again another time.
Repeat calming phrases
You can use specific words to relax certain parts of your body. This technique is called autogenics, and is known to relieve anxiety and stress. Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes if possible. Repeat the following phrases, taking pauses in between to let your body take in the feelings of warmth and heaviness.
“My hands are heavy and warm.”
“My arms are heavy and warm.”
“My shoulders are heavy and warm.”
“My feet are heavy and warm.”
“My calves are heavy and warm.”
“My legs are heavy and warm.”
Relax your muscles
This way of relaxing may help you lower your anxiety and stress by actively tensing and then relaxing your muscles. This is done, one area of your body at a time, moving slowly up or down your body. Sitting or lying comfortably, start by slowly tightening the muscles in your feet and toes for 10 seconds until you are squeezing as hard as you can. Slowly relax the muscles as you count for 20 seconds. You will be able to notice all the tension melting away. Remember to keep breathing slowly and evenly. Work your way up, moving onto your legs, arms and hands, neck and shoulders, jaw and finally your forehead. Try to do each step slowly, letting your muscles fully relax in between steps. Once you are done with an area of your body, try to keep it relaxed.
As the weather gets nicer, find an excuse to go outside and move more. As you get out of your winter slump, it’s important to be physically active. It’s a great stress-buster and can boost your heart health as well. Meet up with a friend and go for a walk, play an outdoor sport or go for a hike. Even something like doing outdoor house repairs or gardening is a great way to change your environment and give you an opportunity to move in the fresh air.
Use available resources to find more ways to manage your stress
Sometimes it can be hard to completely eliminate stress from your life, but you can control how much it affects you. Managing stress depends on the supports you have and how ready you are to make the conscious decision to take some time out of your day to work towards relaxing. There are many free mobile apps that are easily accessible like Calm, Headspace, and Insight that can help you on your journey towards better managing your stress.