Top 10 quick and easy ways to relax

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By | WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks


ways to relax

You can sometimes feel it coming on; your to-do-list looks like war and peace, the kids are late for school, the petrol gauge is on empty and to cap it all you’ve got a meeting with your boss… melt down is fast approaching and you’re going to implode!

Hang on there. There’s no need for that. What you need is a quick relaxation fix. Instead of going off on one, pick an on-the-spot tip from our experts to turn tension to calm.

1. Meditation

It’s not as new-age as it sounds. No moonstones and patchouli oil required. In fact it’s really easy and effective.

It’s basically awareness; listening to your own breathing, looking at a view, or it can be whatever you like as long as you clear your mind of other thoughts and cares. You may find it helpful to repeat a mantra at the same time to make focus easier.

If you want something less free-form there are various types of meditation that you can learn from, Transcendental Meditation to Heart Rhythm Meditation. All have a different slant on awareness and relaxation.

Try it when you feel yourself getting stressed or as a preventative measure for 5 to 10 minutes a day.

2. Deep breathing

By slowing down your breathing and breathing from your diaphragm you can immediately relax yourself. When we are stressed we tend to take shallow breaths which don’t give us enough oxygen.

Wellbeing coach Naomi Martell-Bundock says: “Stand up and breathe deeply into your tummy ten times. Imagine you are filling up a balloon as you breathe in through your nose, and deflating it as you breathe out through your mouth. It helps to put your hand gently over your tummy button and feel as your tummy pushes it out and then brings it back in as you breathe the air out.”

3. Mindfulness

This is a bit of a buzz word at the moment. It’s quite closely linked with meditation. The idea is to be mindful of something and appreciate it in that present moment and block everything else out.

It may be appreciating the colour of a flower or examining a piece of jewellery to see how it was made. Focusing on the present can reduce stress.

Linda Blair clinical psychologist and author of ‘The Key To Calm’ says you can practise mindfulness and relax in just 3 minutes.

“Turn off your screen, choose a common object like a pencil or a penny (not your phone) and begin breathing very slowly focusing on the object and describing it to yourself in as much detail as you can. To focus completely and fully on something in the present is the essence of mindfulness.”

She says it only takes 30 long breaths or about 3 minutes and it’ll make you feel very refreshed and ready to focus.

4. Listen to music

Music has the power to transform your mood. If you feel the tensions rising, stick on a little classical music to transport you to a higher plane or plug into your favourite song to transport you to good times and happy memories.

Listening to soothing music can lower blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety.

If you want to let off steam and get rid of pent up anger, stick on some rock or pop really loudly and belt out the song at the top of your voice.

Music therapy is a recognised way of improving mental health, according to the charity MIND.

5. Exercise

Exercise is well known as a stress buster. When we do it our bodies release feel good hormones which make us calmer. Exercise also uses up some of the hormones that the body makes when it’s stressed.

The physical health benefits of exercise are well known but the mental health benefits are becoming more appreciated. GP’s can prescribe gym exercise programmes for people with depression.

It’s amazing how more centred and relaxed we feel after a short run or a workout. It also boosts our self esteem which makes us feel happier.

6. Yoga

Yoga can be a quick route to relaxation. You don’t have to do a full blown hour long workout to appreciate some of the benefits.

“Try lying on your back with legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Bring your hands to your abdomen and simply watch the breath come and go,” says yoga teacher Eva Paoli.

She says: “Allow the belly to relax so that it can gently rise on the inhale and dip on the exhale. Let the shoulders be soft and heavy against the floor. Even 5 minutes doing this can help.”

Eva says if you already practise yoga, try some gentle backbends such as shoulder bridge. Backbends decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

7. Visualisation

Try visualising a peaceful scene away from your current tensions. It could be a golden sandy beach with the azure waves lapping at your toes; it could be a warm bath with scented oils.

The idea is to take your mind off the current worry and transport yourself and your mood to somewhere relaxing and calm. The more detail you imagine the calmer you’ll get.

8. Have a cuppa

It’s a well-known cliché that many-a-problem can be solved by putting the kettle on, or that a cup of tea’s the best thing to calm you down after a shock. The classic, common-sense way to relax may actually work!

Camomile tea is the traditional favourite for calming the mind but even normal tea may help us fight stress.

A 2010 study at University College London found that drinking black tea has a calming effect on stress hormone levels in the body.

Participants who drank regular black tea displayed lower levels of cortisol, and reported feeling calmer during 6 weeks of stressful situations than those who drank a placebo with the same amount of caffeine.

9. Go outside

If you are feeling frazzled at work or at home, one quick way to relax is to head outdoors. You get a fresh perspective on the problem and breathe in fresh air.

“Twenty minutes outside doing just about anything can be really helpful,” says Naomi.

10. Pick your own way to relax

Different activities work for different people. Some people may find reading a book or magazine for 10 minutes a good way to relax. Others may find a therapeutic value in gardening or even cleaning!

Spending just a quarter of an hour doing something you enjoy can make all the difference. You could have sex, watch your favourite comedy show, walk the dog or stroke the cat – all relaxing activities to take the sting out of tension.

We all get stresses in life, so it pays to have a few quick tricks up your sleeve to deal with them.