High-anxiety situations create racing thoughts that stick with you for hours or even days. If you don’t know how to relax your mind, your worries can make it difficult to enjoy what’s around you.
When you’re stressed out, you never really enjoy the present moment. Not to mention the physical harm that comes from stress — increased blood pressure, intense muscle tension and erratic heart rates. A chronically stressed out mind is not good for your overall wellbeing.
That’s why learning how to relax your mind is essential to stress reduction. You don’t have to let these thoughts control you or take over your life. Letting go of anxious thoughts will help relax your body and relieve the tensions in your muscle groups. There are many methods you can use to clear your mind of negativity. Try some of these ways to relax your mind to see what works best for you.
How TO RELAX YOUR MIND
Have a Calming Meal
Food and emotion have a strong connection. When we’re stressed, we reach for comfort foods to help us stay calm. It’s no surprise that food is a great way to reach a state of relaxation.
One of the best ways to relax is with a cup of tea. Many herbal tea blends were created specifically to help you de-stress and find a state of calm. Chamomile, Linden, Valerian and green tea are some of the best blends when you need a cup of relaxation. Substitute honey for sugar to benefit from its anti-inflammatory effects, which in turn can help reduce depression and anxiety.
Chocolate is also a great way to deal with your racing thoughts. A few ounces of dark chocolate will reduce the levels of cortisol and epinephrine in the body after a particularly stressful event. These hormones are known as stress hormones, and when left unchecked, can create health problems like anxiety, depression, sleep problems, weight gain and memory impairment.
One of the most effective ways to relax your mind is by using meditation. Many people think of meditation as a quest for transcendence or some other high-minded philosophical or spiritual pursuit, but meditation is really whatever you want it to be. Any quiet introspection with a focus on mindfulness can be beneficial to anyone.
The type of meditation that will be best for you will depend on your needs. You’ll likely want to find a meditation that is designed to help reduce stress.
- Breathing meditations can be done in any circumstance, and don’t require you to find a new area to practice in. If you haven’t done breathing meditations before, practicing deep breathing is a great way to reduce your anxiety and help you become more relaxed. Simply breathe in deeply through your nose, and exhale through your mouth until you begin to feel more relaxed. Focus on a mantra or a phrase of kindness for yourself and repeat it with each breath.
- Yoga creates a connection between your mind and body by utilizing poses, meditation, and breathing techniques. Moving your body with the intent of relaxing can help you burn off some of the stress that tends to build up during your daily routine. Yoga is a form of meditation for both your mind and body; a meditation with deep breathing that has wonderful calming effects that happen in the brain. Yoga practices designed for rest and relaxation can help reduce the amount of mind chatter that often comes with stressful thinking patterns. So consider signing up for a regular yoga class to help unlock this connection.
- Finally, guided visualization meditations are a great way to bring your mind to a state of relaxation. This technique uses auditory cues to help the brain visualize peaceful environments or reach a goal. Many of these meditations are created by those who have experience in the field so you don’t have to worry about what to do; all you have to do is follow along. Most of these guided meditations are done in person or offered in a YouTube video. These meditations encourage imagination and often try to speak to the subconscious in order to promote relaxation. Close your eyes and let the audio guide you into a more relaxed state of mind.
Acupressure is an ancient Chinese therapy technique which involves using pressure points to unblock life energy, or for the less spiritually minded, to work tension out of the body. This energy release encourages relaxation and a state of calm. The great thing about acupressure is that you don’t have to rely on someone else to start using beneficial techniques. However, if you don’t want to perform it on yourself, there are many trained practitioners who will do their best to bring you some sort of relief. If you want to try acupressure on your own, there are several pressure points that help reduce anxiety, encourage a state of calm and improve other facets of your health. You can use hand pressure points in almost any situation to relax in minutes.
There are two pressure points on the hand that help promote a state of calm. The first one is three finger widths down from the top of your wrist. Use your thumb and apply pressure until you feel a little bit of discomfort, but don’t cause pain. Hold for two minutes on each wrist. The second is where your wrist creates a crease with your hand. Apply a good amount of pressure for two minutes.
Get a massage to relax after a stressful week. Massage therapy has many health benefits on top of reducing stress and anxiety. It helps soothe soreness and releases tension in muscles. Massage techniques can also decrease cortisol and other stress hormones that build up when our brains receive constant fight or flight signals from everyday stresses. This signals to the brain that it’s time to rest and recharge. Most massage studios strive to create a relaxing environment, with calming music and dimmed lights to help their clients relax more fully.
If you’re stressed or anxious, chances are good that you’re caught up in your own head. Thoughts of the upcoming bills or future deadlines at work take you out of the present moment. Use tactile sensations to bring you to the present moment. Connect to how your body feels right now to help calm your nervous system. You can connect to the sensations in your hands, feet or head and pay attention to the tactile information you are receiving. Do you feel a breeze? Are there different surfaces you can touch to provide a contrast? These differing sensations are a good way to force yourself to focus on what’s directly around you, instead of the sources of stress you were thinking about before.
Change Your Environment
Sometimes the biggest source of stress can be the environment you are in. If your immediate environment is a mess, it is probably contributing to your stress in some way. Clutter can distract you from the things that need your attention, and give you more things to worry about. If you find yourself in a mess, take a bit of time to clean up. If you aren’t able to clean, go to a different place. Get outside to change your environment and reduce stress. Your mood can be improved when you increase your vitamin D by being out in the sun.
Exercise provides a reliable and healthy way to burn up some of the anxious energy that might have collected in your mind and body. Moving around makes it possible for you to release the tensions and stress you’re carrying. Studies show that exercise helps increase mental function and creates endorphins to perk up your mood. It is also an incredibly effective anxiety treatment and can be as effective as medication. Something as simple as a 10-minute walk can be an effective way to kick anxiety to the curb.
Take a Nap
Sometimes, we just need to hit reset on our brain. Taking a quick power nap during the workday can help with that. The optimal time for a power nap is 10 to 15 minutes. Find a cool, dark place to lie down. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Make sure to set an alarm — sleeping too long during the day could ruin your sleep routine at night. A quick nap will put your mind at ease while your body recovers.
Controlled Breathing Exercises
For a simple yet powerfully effective stress reliever, try controlled breathing exercises. This relaxation technique allows you to clear your mind, release tension in your body and ground yourself in the present moment. There are many breathing exercises you can choose from so you can find one that works for you.
To utilize that two-way connection between mind and body, a breathing exercise like progressive muscle relaxation is the perfect place to start. Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and then stretching big muscle groups while taking deep, even breaths throughout. If you have the time, do a full progressive muscle relaxation exercise by lying down and closing your eyes. Run through the big muscle groups in your body — legs, lower body, chest, arms and facial muscles. If you don’t have the time, you can do a condensed version of this technique by clenching your hands into fists, releasing, and repeating as you inhale and exhale.
A Relaxed Mind is a Healthy Mind
For each worry and anxious thought, there’s a method to work out your anxiety and lower your stress levels. It’s a great mental health decision to pick out a method to relax your mind. Try out one or more of these relaxation tips the next time you feel your mind overwhelmed with racing thoughts and stress.