Mental Health Awareness Week may be behind us but if lockdown has taught us anything, it’s that we should look after our mental health just as much as our physical well being.
Relaxation is a vital part of maintaining health and wellbeing. It gives our bodies and minds the breathing space needed to calmly deal with life’s little and big dramas.
Just five minutes of relaxation per day can make a positive difference, bringing down stress levels and providing us with the energy needed to handle the pressures of modern life.
As we move out of isolation and into a different phase of our new, socially distanced normal, finding time to relax becomes an even bigger priority.
Many relaxation techniques that can be used at home, some of which you know and others that you may feel are utterly bonkers! Here we talk you through them.
Something as simple as changing the way you breathe can help to ease the stress, anxiety and negative emotions you may be dealing with at the moment.
Mindful breathing has a long history and still remains a powerfully relaxing technique you can call upon wherever you are. Mindful breathing refocuses attention on your breath.
You’ll establish a new awareness and recognition of the physical sensations of breathing as a result, and with every inhale and exhale feel all the more calmer for it.
Get into a comfortable sitting position and let your body do the rest. Feel the natural flow of breath as you inhale and exhale and focus on where you feel your breath within the body. Stay here in silence for 5 to 10 minutes. If your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath.
Whilst you won’t be able to book a spa day any time soon, you can still unlock the power of massage within your own home.
Self-massage is an effective yet underappreciated relaxation technique. Regular self-massage can boost your mood, ease pain and anxiety, increase energy levels, improve immune function, and decrease stress levels.
Using self-massage techniques, you can focus on relaxing several key body areas, including the hands and lower arms, stomach, head and back.
Your feet also contain a range of pressure points, which once massaged provide vital pain relief and relaxation, even for those suffering from chronic pain. You can enjoy your own form of foot reflexology or massage at home, all you need is a tennis ball as Relaxation at Home explains:
“You’ll need a tennis ball and a wall for support. Place the tennis ball on the floor and put your foot on top. Gradually transfer your weight to that foot, using the wall as support. Move your foot slowly and allow the ball to roll and massage your arch, heel, toes and forefoot.”
Take note – this can also be used on other body parts with points of tension with a foam roller or larger ball.
Meditation uses breath and visualisation to not only reduce stress but enhance your quality of life. Like mindful breathing, meditation has been practised for centuries.
It combines focused attention, relaxed breathing, comfortable positioning and a quiet setting to give you all you need to find a sense of calm, peace and balance.
There are many types of meditation to explore, including guided, mantra, mindfulness, qigong, and tai chi. You can practise meditation on your terms whenever you choose to by breathing deeply, focusing attention on each part of your body, also known as ‘scanning’, and repeating a mantra of your own.
You can also combine everyday activities with contemplation to find healthy and interesting ways to introduce meditation into your life. For example, you can walk and meditate or read and reflect.
The use of scented or essential oils can work wonders for reducing those stress levels. There’s a long list of aromatherapy oils to choose from, each of which unlocks numerous benefits for your mind, body, and soul.
For example, lavender has mood enhancing qualities to lift the spirits and calm the mind. We use this beautiful-smelling essential oil in our Lavender & Berg Skin Balm, which can help ease the mind. We currently have a special offer for a free mini with every order of this until the end of May – see our Instagram for more details.
In addition to this, we are also sending out free Lavender & Bergamot Skin Balms to NHS workers all over the UK so they can keep a little “balm of calm” in their pockets to uplift their spirits and help them nourish chapped skin.
Finding the essential oil that works best for you is the key. Your chosen oil can be inhaled via an aromatherapy diffuser or diluted with carrier oil and applied topically.
Yoga is a type of meditation that’s particularly popular. There are a variety of yoga sequences accessible online that are perfect for those seeking relaxation and relief for anxiety. But practising yoga isn’t just something that should be done by day…
Yogic sleep or ‘yoga nidra’ is a deeply relaxing practice that is thought to be more fulfilling than normal sleep. Regular practice is also said to help you fall asleep faster. Yogic sleep aims to help you feel as relaxed as possible whilst maintaining consciousness.
Sounds bonkers – right? Research has found that those who practise yogic sleep are indeed conscious and resting at the same time, and enjoy greater feelings of calm, relaxation and restoration as a result.
Yogic sleep is achieved through sitting comfortably, performing simple breathing exercises, practising visualisation, and most importantly, not falling asleep!
It’s a complicated process that takes a bit of practice. But once you master it, yogic sleep can be added to your bedtime routine and practised 20 to 45 minutes before to ensure complete relaxation and an even better night’s sleep.
Progressive muscle relaxation
Like mindful breathing, meditation and yoga, progressive muscle relaxation is a calming technique that can alleviate anxiety and treat insomnia.
Progressive muscle relaxation uses the body’s flight or fight response to unlock ultimate relaxation. It works by increasing and releasing tension throughout the body. You can get a taste for progressive muscle relaxation by simply clenching your fists, recognising how it feels, counting to ten and releasing until the hand is completely relaxed. This process is repeated with every part of your body, starting with the feet and working your way up.
Many of these skills, though requiring a bit of practice at the beginning, are simple, effective and once mastered are within you whenever you need to draw on them – anytime, anywhere.