6 Tips to Help you Relax

You need to relax! Your kids know it, your husband (or wife) knows it, and you know it. Stress increases your blood pressure, weakens your immunity, and excess cortisol even increases your appetite. Being relaxed helps your memory, cognition, and slows down the heart rate and decreases muscle tension. But of course, being relaxed is easier said than done. Here are some of my go-to ways to chill out when I know that I need to take it down a notch.

1. Yoga

I have had such positive experiences with yoga that even flipping through a magazine like Yoga Journal and seeing pictures of people doing poses makes me feel calmer and happier. The body awareness that comes from yoga helps so much off the mat too — it becomes easier to notice when your shoulders are hunched or when your breathing is shallow and make adjustments to release tension.

If you would like to practice at home, a few rounds of sun salutations is a good place to start. Another favorite is the legs up the wall restorative yoga pose.

2. 4-7-8 Breathing

This is a wonderful breathing technique that takes only a minute and can calm down the whole nervous system. I’ve shared it with many patients and they have had great results. The basic idea is that you inhale for 4, hold for 7, exhale for 8.

Here’s what you do:

  • Place the tip of your tongue so it’s touching the place where the back of your top teeth meet the roof of your mouth.
  • Exhale completely, making a whooshing/ sighing sound.
  • Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for 4 counts.
  • Hold your breath for 7 counts.
  • Exhale through your mouth for 8 counts.
  • Repeat the cycle 4 times.

Here is a video demonstration.

3. L-Theanine

L-theanine is a great “chill pill.” It is an amino acid that helps to calm down the nervous system, and it can be useful for anxiety and sleep. You can use a dosage of 100-200 mg.

4. Massage

There are so many ways to incorporate massage into your life, even without spending $100 at the spa. At the end of a long week, I like to stop at a salon for a 15-minute chair massage. I’m a big fan of the Spoonk acupressure mat which allows you to relieve muscle tension in just minutes at home. You can try an ultimate foot massage using a tennis ball, or lie on the floor and place a tennis ball under your shoulders, take a deep breath, and feel the tension dissolve.

5. Cut the Caffeine

It’s hard to relax when you’re wired on espresso. It can be a great experiment to cut caffeine for two weeks and then re-introduce it to your diet so you can get a really clear picture of how it affects you. Yerba mate and matcha green tea tend to give a gentler buzz than coffee. If it’s just a warm drink that you like, then you can switch to herbal tea or hot water with lemon. And remember that caffeine has a half life of seven hours, so definitely steer clear of caffeine in the afternoon if you want to get a good night’s sleep.

6. Clear up your schedule

Remember to schedule downtime in your calendar – blocks of time when you don’t have to work, socialize or be anywhere. Running around from one commitment to the next is not very relaxing, and you may be happier doing less. Saying “yes” to one less event may free up the space that you need to try out some of these practices.

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