Stressed Out? Some Solutions You Probably Haven't Tried
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We all experience stress in our lives. Some of us thrive on it. Some of us muddle through. And for others, the stress causes serious health and work problems. As life has gotten faster and more complex, it gets more and more difficult to thrive. Apart from the usual stress management "suspects", like eating well, exercising and so on, there are some techniques you can use to reduce the stress in your life (or at least make your reactions more constructive.) We're going to cover some of these techniques, AND, help you find free online help (including audiobooks), to help you learn them. Most of them fall into the category of relaxation techniques.
Relaxation techniques have been around for a long time and well explored by psychologists. None of the things we're going to talk about are strange or weird, they are just based on straight-forward science. While the actual process of learning how to relax deeply vary and have different names (eg. self-hypnosis, meditation, or just relaxation), they have one thing in common. You use them to put yourself in a deep relaxation state, where your heart rate, breathing rate, and "thinking rate" slow down.
Before we describe the different techniques, here are a few things to keep in mind. What works for one person may not work for another. One technique may work for you, and another may not. So, you may have to experiment. Second, since that's the case, it can get expensive to buy audiobooks, books or tapes since you won't know in advance what will be most effective. For this reason we've gathered together some free audio material you can listen to online in streaming audio format at [sorry, unavailable] . If you find something that works it would be nice if you purchased it from the producer (that's not us). But the programs are free online. Third, to benefit from learning relaxation techniques you must practice (or relax) regularly.
The Different Relaxation Techniques
In no particular order:
There is autogenic relaxation. This is a form of passive relaxation (you don't move anything). You listen to a tape (or once you've learned to do it, you can do it without the tape), where you imagine different parts of your body becoming heavy, warm and relaxed.
Progressive relaxation is a bit different in that it involves physical movement. It works like this. You tense particular body parts, one at a time (your hand, your forearm, etc), hold the tension and then let it go (either quickly or slowly). You attend to the feelings of tension and relaxation so you can become better at identifying your tension, and learning how to release it.
Guided imagery relaxation is different yet again. It involves imagining yourself in soothing, calm surroundings (on the beach, for example), and attending to the details of the experience (eg. the sand on your feet, the warmth of the sun.
Self-hypnosis is really quite similar to some of the approaches above. Often self-hypnosis involves the use of affirmations (positive or relaxing statements) once you have achieved a deep sense of relaxation.
Subliminal Techniques are supposed to work this way. Buried in music or other sounds are various statements that you can't consciously hear, but, supposedly, your unconscious can hear. Unfortunately, there is little or no proof that these work the way they are supposed to, but as we said, it may work for you, and if it does, go for it.
Meditation techniques used to be drawn from Eastern philosophy, but people have found that it's possible to use mediation techniques without subscribing to the religious tenets that used to be associated with them. Meditation for relaxation usually involves focusing your attention on a word, your breathing, or a simple object. It's purpose is to calm the mind.
Finally, some people find it relaxing to listen to certain kinds of music (usually classical) or nature sounds. It doesn't turn my crank but maybe it will work for you.
Also, in the event that you are experiencing severe stress, don't go the self-help route without also contacting your doctor to see if he or she can help. this is particularly important since stress can affect your physical well-being.