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Mindful Living

3 Creative relaxation techniques for stress reduction

Young woman with her eyes closed, breathing deeply at her desk.
Camryn Rabideau
Camryn Rabideau August, 13, 2019

Baker, green thumb, living well with anxiety

Let's talk about stress. We all experience it now and then — usually at the worst times possible!

Stress can be the result of growing pressure at work, your relationships with friends and family, issues with money or because of undue responsibilities (among many other things). All these stressors can ramp up your anxiety, ruin your sleep and give you a splitting headache, as well as other negative side effects.

When stress comes knocking, it's best to turn it away immediately — but that can be easier said than done! Thankfully, a few relaxation techniques for stress reduction can keep stress-related symptoms from ruining your day (and your life).

Reducing Stress Through Relaxation

With few simple relaxation exercises in your arsenal, you'll be better equipped to alleviate stress. You can use one of the following three techniques anytime (and anywhere) you're feeling stressed, whether deadlines are looming at the office or finding that weirdly specific ingredient at the grocery store turned out to be way more complicated than expected.

1. Escape with guided imagery

Sport woman posing on Trolltunga. Happy woman enjoy beautiful lake and good weather in Norway.

Some people joke about finding a "happy place" you can mentally escape to when you're stressed, but don't laugh! It's actually an effective relaxation technique.

Guided imagery is the process of using your imagination to create a mental escape from stress. Start by sitting in a quiet place and closing your eyes. Conjure up a location where you'd feel totally relaxed, whether it's a secluded beach, a picnic with your family, a cabin in the woods or somewhere else completely.

Give the scene depth by imagining the sounds, tastes, smells and feelings you'd experience. Are you sitting on a beach sipping on a tropical cocktail? What does the sand feel like? How does the drink taste? Are there birds chirping, or can you hear your kids laughing? Are they nearby or far away? Engaging your senses with these details will help you immerse yourself in the experience and truly relax. This practice may be challenging at first, but studies have shown relaxation imagery can reduce blood pressure and lower stress.

2. Stitch through the stress

Impossible day at work? Just hung up from a less-than-pleasant call with a relative? Stressful times like these call for some knitting. Yes, really. Studies have shown knitting can reduce stress, anxiety and blood pressure, as the repetitive motion helps put you in a meditative mindset. Aside from those benefits, it's a great creative outlet, and you can keep yourself (and all your friends) stocked with cute beanies.

"The repetitive motion of knitting induces your body's relaxation response, lowering your heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension," Toni D. Kim, a licensed psychotherapist, explains to The Zoe Report. "Repetitive activity also lowers brain-wave frequency and can have the same effects on the brain as meditation."

It might sound a little hokey, but why not try carrying a small knitting or crocheting project in your purse for those times you're feeling overwhelmed? Chances are your purse is big enough, and it's a great way to hit the mental pause button, even if just for a few minutes.

3. Try alternate-nostril breathing

Also called a "channel-cleansing breath," this practice is one of the surprisingly effective relaxation techniques for stress reduction, as it can help sooth frayed nerves and calm your mind. You don't need any extra equipment or tools, so this can be done anywhere at anytime!

Here's what you do: Start by blocking off your right nostril by putting a finger on the side of your nose. Take a long, purposeful inhale through your left nostril, and when you get to the top of your breath, switch your finger so you're blocking off the left nostril. Then exhale your entire breath through the right nostril.

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