Simple Relaxation Strategies
First and foremost, make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating properly, exercising in moderation, maintaining healthy social relationships and your environment is as comfortable as possible. Secondly, find what works for you. Coping involves changing a situation or the way you feel about a situation. Relaxation merely means calming your mind and body. Generally coping leads to relaxation, but the opposite is not always true.
The most effective coping tool I have found for people who are analytical (thinkers) is a spin off of Albert Ellis’ Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. Basically he says that between the time something happens and the time we get upset/angry/enraged etceteras… there is a litany of automatic beliefs that flood our mind. It is these beliefs which ultimately cause our reaction. Ellis created the following formula:
Activating event: You get cut off in traffic.
Beliefs (automatic): This person desperately wants a ticket, is an idiot, has no respect for the law, could have caused an accident…
Dispute the beliefs: from an objective standpoint, are these beliefs rational and is there no other explanation for the situation (i.e. you were in their blind spot)
Evaluate the consequence (your reaction): was it reasonable? Was it helpful? What would have been a more productive response?
Regarding relaxation, there are two immediate techniques to reduce your heart rate and respiration. One is sometimes referred to as combat breathing: After you have an adrenaline surge...take a deep breath hold for 3 or 4 seconds exhale slowly...repeat for 3 or 4 cycles. Deep breathing is the other technique. Take a deep, slow breath. As you let the air come in through your nose for a count of four, allow your stomach to expand. Then breathe out through your mouth for a count of four. Repeat this several times. It takes 30 seconds to burn off half of the adrenaline that is released in a tension-filled situation. These breathing techniques help expedite that.
For stressors that cause tension, but not necessarily an adrenaline surge there is a technique called Cued Progressive Muscular Relaxation. Just like there are certain things that can get your adrenaline flowing (like hearing tone-out call), you can train your body to respond to a sound, word (ex. relax, calm or breathe) or other “cue” with a relaxation response. It does not happen overnight, it takes about 20 minutes a day, every day for a month, to really get your body to start responding on cue. After that, you can drop back to maintenance and still be able to get your body to “relax” whenever you want.
Other methods include exercise and/or stretching. When your muscles are tense, it is hard to sleep, it causes posture misalignment and ultimately low-grade discomfort (physical stress). For simplicity, you body is divided into front and back…The muscles on the front balance those on the back…so if you work one side…you have to work the other or you are asking for problems. Likewise, if you wear a heavy tool/duty belt make sure it is balanced. Many people start exercise with good intentions just to quit a month later. Remember to pay attention to what you like to do… Exercise is not confined to a gym.
Meditation, guided imagery, journaling and self-hypnosis are all techniques that tend to be easier for people who are introverts. I am very extroverted, so I decompress by spending time chatting with good friends online instead of journaling. The biggest trick is to find something that you enjoy and you will actually do.
It may take some time to find a technique that you like and modify it to work with your personality, but you can. Try visiting some of these websites for more information: