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10 Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress

Posted: September 20, 2010

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Is your mind too talkative to meditate? Try creating a peaceful visualization, or "dreamscape." To start, simply visualize anything that keeps your thoughts away from current tensions. It could be a favorite vacation spot, a fantasy island, that penthouse in New York City -- or something "touchable," like the feel of your favorite silk robe or cozy sweater.

The idea is to take your mind off your stress, and replace it with an image that evokes a sense of calm. The more realistic your daydream -- in terms of colors, sights, sounds; even touch and feel -- the more relaxation you'll experience.

3. Breathe deeply

Feeling stressed evokes tense, shallow breathing, while calm is associated with relaxed breathing, says Michael Lee, author of Turn Stress into Bliss and founder of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy in Bristol, Vermont. So to turn tension into relaxation, he says, change the way you breathe.

Try this: Let out a big sigh, dropping your chest, and exhaling through gently pursed lips, says Joan Borysenko, PhD, director of Harvard's Mind-Body Clinical Programs. Now imagine your low belly, or center, as a deep, powerful place. Feel your breath coming and going as your mind stays focused there. Inhale, feeling your entire belly, sides and lower back expand. Exhale, sighing again as you drop your chest, and feeling your belly, back and sides contract. Repeat 10 times, relaxing more fully each time.

4. Look around you

"Mindfulness is the here-and-now approach to living that makes daily life richer and more meaningful," says Claire Michaels Wheeler, MD, PhD, author of 10 Simple Solutions to Stress. It's approaching life like a child, without passing judgment on what occurs. Mindfulness means focusing on one activity at a time, so forget multitasking! Staying in the present-tense can help promote relaxation and provide a buffer against anxiety and depression.