Stress. The bad kind. We all know what it “feels” like. Stress causes damage, illness, pain and death unless it is effectively attended to. Whether you’re experiencing the garden-variety bout of co-worker induced irritation, or you’re suffering from a more visceral issue like a heart problem or chronic pain, one thing is for certain – you need to help yourself relax! Thankfully, there are all kinds of methods to counteract the stressors life throws at us with relaxation techniques.   

Staying Sharp examines techniques that can help provide relief for all kinds of stress-inducing health issues: anxiety attacks, sleeplessness, breathing problems, chronic pain, or losing a loved one. The best relaxation technique is the one that resonates with you personally. We share 3 of our favorite relaxation techniques below:

  1. Meditation
    Meditation is a powerful way to calm heart rate, focus attention, increase your awareness of potential sources of stress and re-pattern the neural pathways in your brain. The two most popular meditation techniques are mindfulness (being aware of any feelings, thoughts, ideas as they present themselves) and concentrative (disciplined focus on a mantra, a singular sound or image). Sit comfortably with eyes closed; best practices recommend staying engaged between 15-20 minutes, although newcomers may be challenged to do more than a few minutes. Start small, stay consistent, and don’t give up!
     
  2. Decompression
    To counteract more physical forms of stress, try this simple technique: apply a warm heat wrap to your neck and shoulder area for 10-15 minutes making sure to relax the muscles in your face and throughout your upper body. Foam rollers can work wonders on highly-stressed areas of the back and legs. Or, if you’ve got the time (and money), get the full decompression experience by visiting your local message therapist.

  3. Movement
    Getting the body moving and the blood flowing has been demonstrated to heighten mental stimulation and is one of the very best stress relievers. Try practices such as yoga to actively engage body, mind, flexibility and balance, effectively reducing stress levels. If all you have time for is a walk or a jog, take the opportunity to counteract the cortisol and enjoy the sense of well-being brought on by the presence of endorphins in the brain. 

Use these techniques and more to slow down your heart rate and breathing, bring down your blood pressure, return your blood sugar to a normal level, increase blood flow to painful areas, relieve tension, elevate your mood, boost confidence, increase your energy level, sharpen your concentration, and even get a better night’s sleep!

Join or sign-in to AARP today and see how Staying Sharp can help anyone try to achieve better brain health with better brain training and utilization of our recommended relaxation techniques.