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By taking care of yourself, you are taking care of others. You are ensuring you are at your best for the ones you love. Relax, breathe, and appreciate.

It’s great if you find peace and feel relaxed through activities like listening to music, going for a jog, soaking in a bath or chilling watching a movie.  

However, next-level relaxation for you to be at your best sometimes takes more than these sorts of activities.

It’s weird, but we need to work hard at relaxing to gain the benefits of recharging our energy levels – like prioritising relaxation in our lives, especially when we think we don’t have time for it! 

Evidence shows we can manage stress and anxiety really well through regular practice of deep relaxation for between 5 and 30 minutes each day. Deep psychological relaxation is a distinct physiological state involving: decrease in heart rate, respiration rate, blood pressure, skeletal muscle tension, metabolic rate, oxygen consumption and analytical thinking. Who would have thought that relaxing involved so much?

Other positive benefits include getter a better night’s sleep, increased energy and productivity, and reduced headaches and other symptoms related to stress.

It’s really important for your mental health that both your body and mind have time to refresh, recharge and rejuvenate. If you never relax, it could contribute to some mental health problems such as anxiety or depression.

Aunty Dee’s tips for deep relaxation

1.  Keep up the relaxing activities

If you don’t have any problems with stress and anxiety, keep up your current relaxation activities.
Here are a few things to try.

  • When your mind starts spinning, take a moment and let things calm down.
  • Go for a walk. Do some exercise. Not only will your body start producing feel-good endorphins but it’ll help you take your mind off any pressure.
  • Concentrating on your breathing can calm you down. Try yoga or pilates to help.
  • Thinking about your favourite place can let you escape the stresses of the moment.
  • Catching up with a mate can take your mind off things.
  • Talk to other people about what works for them.
  • A soak in a warm bath helps both body and mind relax.
  • Find out what works for you and keep doing it.

2. Next level deep relaxation

If you want to go next-level with your relaxation, try these actitivites.

  • Deep breathing. When we’re anxious or stressed, our breathing tends to get shallow and fast. To relax, we need deep, slow breaths (which comes from our abdomen). Breathing from our abdomen is the key to relaxing. Do this exercise below twice a day or whenever you get stressed. You might also want to try this app, ReachOut Breathe – it helps you monitor your heart rate and control your breathing to reduce some of the physical symptoms of anxiety.
  • Try this exercise
    • Lie on your back somewhere comfortable, safe and where you will not be distracted (turn off your phone!). Put your arms by your side and your legs out straight. Close your eyes.
    • Breathe in for 5 seconds. Push your stomach out as it fills with breath, almost like a balloon inflating. Hold it for 5.
    • Breathe out for 10 seconds, blowing out through your lips like you’re blowing out candles on a cake. Feel your tummy go down again. Hold for 5.
    • Repeat 12 times. Listen to the sound of your breathing.
    • Optional: each time you exhale say a focus word like ‘relax’, ‘calm’ or ‘let go’. Allow your whole body to let go every time you say this. If you practice with a focus word, eventually just saying the word by itself will bring on a mild state of relaxation.
  • Try this progressive muscle relaxation exercise. If you feel uptight or tense, relaxing muscle groups throughout your body can help a lot. Practice this for 20 minutes a day. 
    • Lie or sit somewhere comfortable, safe and where you will not be distracted (turn off your phone!). Loosen any tight garments and take off shoes, glasses, etc. Close your eyes.
    • Make a decision not to worry about anything. Give yourself permission to put aside the concerns of the day. Let your relaxation happen – don’t try hard to relax, control your body or judge your performance. Let go.
    • Slowly tense up each part of your body as hard as you can for about 5 seconds. Then relax it. Notice the tension and the muscles tightening. Then notice how floppy or loose the muscle feels.
    • Repeat 3 times then move on to the next part. Do it in this order: face, arms, hands, back, stomach, legs, feet.