Relaxation exercises to help you cope with stress

As we write our latest blog, people across the UK are facing life in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

We are all finding ways to cope with this new way of living and working. But for many, this will be a stressful time.

We help businesses manage the mental health and wellbeing of employees through our occupational health services.

So we know that, if left unmanaged, stress can affect both your physical and mental health.

There is little you can do to prevent stress but there are many things you can do to manage stress more effectively.

We take a look at two simple relaxation exercises that can help you to cope with stress.

Breathing and relaxation exercises

Many people find exercises that focus on breathing and muscle relaxation to be helpful in relieving stress.

These exercises can be done anywhere and are designed to help you feel more relaxed.

The two simple exercises in this blog can help to ease the immediate effects of stress, including tense muscles, irregular breathing and poor concentration.

You can try them every day or just when you start to feel stressed.

Relaxation Exercise 1: Belly Breaths

Sitting comfortably, breathe gently, slowly and evenly.

1. Rest your hand on your belly button. Take a normal breath in and hold it as you count to four.

2. Breathe out slowly, relaxing your shoulders, face and body. As you breathe out, count to four.

3. Breathe in slowly, filling the belly with air for a count of four.

4. Breathe out slowly for four. Your belly should move inwards.

5. Breathe like this for five more breaths, focusing on your hand and belly as they rise and fall. You should feel yourself relaxing with each breath.

6. Hold your breath as you did at the beginning and repeat the whole exercise again.

You should notice a stretching sensation as you breathe in and a feeling of relaxation as you breathe out. With practice, you may find that you can breathe more slowly.

You can also use this exercise to help if you are finding it hard to get to sleep.

Relaxation Exercise 2: Tension Release

When stressed, we carry tension in our muscles without noticing it.

This exercise makes you aware of that tension so you can let it go.

Sit or lie down and make yourself comfortable. Use the belly breathing from our first exercise while you do this.

1. Breathe in and clench your right hand. Notice the tension in your hand and arm. Breathe out and relax. Notice the difference in your hand and arm.

2. Breathe in and clench your left hand. Notice the tension in your hand and arm. Breathe out and relax. Notice the difference in your hand and arm. Notice how comfortably heavy your hands and arms feel when they relax.

3. Breathe in and clench your thighs and buttocks. Notice the tension and the difference when you breathe out and relax.

4. Breathe in and bend your feet up. Notice the tension in your legs and feet and the difference when you breathe out.

5. Breathe in and point your toes. Notice the tension in your legs and feet and the difference when you breathe out. Allow the relaxation to deepen. Notice the pleasurable sensation of heaviness in your legs and arms as you relax them.

6. Breathe in and shrug your shoulders to your ears. Notice the tension in your shoulders and neck and the difference when you breathe out.

7. Breathe in and lift your eyebrows, wrinkling your forehead. Notice the tension and the difference when you breathe out.

8. Breathe in and squeeze your eyes closed. Notice the tension around your eyes and the difference when you breathe out.

9. Breathe in and tense your jaw. Notice the tension in your mouth and jaw and how comfortable your whole face feels when you breathe out.

10. Continue to relax, breathing calmly, using comfortable belly breathing.

When you’re feeling under pressure, use this exercise to release the tension.

Ignoring stress doesn’t work

Dealing with stress can be hard work.

As we face increasingly stressful situations, it’s important to look after yourself.

Eat well, sleep well and stay active.

Also, make sure that you take some time to relax and have fun.

We are all adjusting to the current situation in a number of different ways and it’s perfectly understandable to feel stressed and worried about it.

Try to stay positive and make sure that you keep in touch with other people. Whether that’s on the phone, over the garden fence or using video messaging.

But if you do start to feel stressed, we hope these relaxation exercises can help.

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Categories: CoronavirusHealth & WellbeingMental HealthOccupational Health

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