Feeling tense and stressed out? Then it’s time to try out a few different ways to relax and introduce some calming practices into your life. These stress management techniques and meditation tips are a great place to start – you don’t need any special equipment or skills, just a few minutes a day to take some time out.
Also called belly breathing, this is a really simple yet very effective way to relax when you’re feeling strung-out. Concentrating on your breathing allows you t take a few minutes out and bring yourself into a calmer frame of mind.
- Sit up straight on a chair; place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
- Breathe in through your nose and feel your tummy rise.
- Breathe out through your mouth, using your abdominal muscles to force all the air out.
- Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, noticing that the hand on your chest is moving very little. Try to breathe deeply enough that your lower abdomen rises and falls
TIP: count as you inhale and exhale to help slow your breathing and maintain a rhythm. This will help you to switch off from distracting thoughts as you breathe.
Trying meditation for the first time
It’s very easy to try basic meditation to help with stress management, depression, anxiety and pain. There are lots of apps you can use for guided meditation, but you can keep it straightforward by experimenting with the following steps, with no need for any equipment or planning.
- Sit comfortably, in a chair or cross-legged on the floor – whichever suits you best. If you’re using a chair, sit towards the front of the chair.
- Check your posture: your back should be straight. If you slump at all while you’re meditating, straighten back up.
- Shut your eyes gently. Don’t squeeze them tight, you’re aiming to relax every part of your body.
- Park your thoughts. That doesn’t mean getting stressed about trying to stop them, simply that your priority is creating and keeping a state of calm. Take note of your thoughts, but don’t engage with them.
- Focus on your breathing to keep yourself in the present.
- Keep your meditation going until you feel fully relaxed and ready to come out of it.
- It can take a while to get the hang of meditating, so don’t get frustrated – this is counterproductive to achieving the calm state you want so it’s best to accept that your mind will wander and lower your expectations.
- Keep meditation sessions short to begin with. Just five minutes is a good place to start. You can build up as you go, and increase in five-minute increments until you can maintain a full half-hour.
- Use a timer. The chances are that time spent meditating will seem a lot longer than it actually is. If you use a timer, it will stop your thoughts from straying to how long you’ve been meditating, whether it’s time to stop, should you be doing something else, and so on.
Using guided imagery is a great type of meditation to transport yourself away from everyday worries and become more mindful, calming your body and mind. Here’s how to do it…
- Get comfortable
- Breathe deeply using the ‘belly breathing’ technique
- Think of a ‘happy place.’ This can be somewhere very personal to you where you’ve felt safe, peaceful and contented in the past, or a beautiful scene drawn from your imagination or a book – perhaps a deserted beach, a verdant wood or a gently flowing river. It could even be a happy event.
- Engage all your senses to add detail to your image. What are the sounds, smells, textures? What can you taste?
- Relax and enjoy the imagery you’ve created
TIP: If you struggle to focus on keeping a pleasant, personally significant image in your mind, you may find it helpful to use a guided imagery app or audio programme.
Are you feeling more relaxed yet? Pick the technique that suits you best and keep practising!
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