Deep breathing is one of the best techniques for relieving stress. When you're under stress, your muscles tense and your breathing gets shallow and rapid as you breathe higher in the chest. You can stop this stress response by breathing deeply and slowly from the diaphragm or abdomen. It sounds simple and IT IS! Follow the steps in this TOOL:
Take a Deep Breath and Relax! (21 KB)
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) increases your awareness of body tension versus relaxation and is a tool to induce a relaxed state. During PMR you tense then relax targeted muscle groups. The tensing and relaxing over 3-5 repetitions slowly forces the muscles into a state of relaxation. Imagine gently pulling a fresh elastic band until it's taut and then releasing it. It starts out very stiff and hard to pull; however, after several stretches the elastic becomes more pliable and elongates. This is what happens when you employ PMR to your tense muscles.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation - Script (18 KB)
Graduate students tend to sit a great deal during the day, reading and writing. Muscles, especially the neck, shoulders, and lower back can take a beating. Combine stress with this sedentary picture and you have a recipe for muscle tension. It's good to take many mini power breaks of 5-10 minutes throughout the day to stretch out. In the TOOL below we have included some easy stretching exercises, many of which you can do in your office, lab, or library.
Yoga is also an excellent way to learn how to combine stretching (postures or asanas) with breathing for full body relaxation. Yoga classes are offered at Queen's University, the YMCA of Kingston, and at many private yoga studios throughout the city.
For more exercises to do at work see http://www.wholefitness.com/workstressexercises.html
Close your eyes and visualize a serene, comforting place e.g. a beach, a forest. Use all your senses to savour this place: what do you see, smell, hear, taste, and feel? For a prepared visualization, see the script in the TOOL below. Prepared scripts are fine, but it's more powerful to use your own imagery which has meaning to you.
Little kids know how to relax-they play. Adults who take time for guilt-free play on a regular basis are happier, more energetic, have better interpersonal relationships, etc. Workaholics, on the other hand, can suffer from burn-out, become resentful, and have less time to nurture friendships and family ties. Grad students can sometimes get into a workaholic rut, especially when large deadlines loom. At these times more than ever, you need to schedule "play" into your week. Play helps you clear your head and allows ideas to percolate in the background which is important when you are working on complex, complicated projects. Play leads to higher levels of quality and creative work. So, get out there and PLAY today!
Suggested Resource: Neil Fiore's 2007 edition of The NOW Habit: A strategic program for overcoming procrastination and enjoying guilt-free play.
Music can relax and heal, particularly serene, soothing music. Consider buying a "relaxation" CD available at most music stores.
Laughing releases endorphins, the ‘feel good' hormones. So watch a funny movie, share a joke, or join a Laughing Group (yes, they exist in most big cities in Canada). By changing a frown into a smile, even when you don't feel like it, can improve your mood.
Eye Movements to Reduce Stress
In his bestseller book Mega Memory, Kevin Trudeau describes an eye movement technique to help reduce stress. Try it!
Get a good night's sleep