Have you ever had one of those days where your head feels completely stuffed? Days you find it hard to focus and the one thing you want to do is to crash onto the couch and turn of your brains? If you did, maybe relaxation exercises are the answer for you!
How does mental tension arise?
We live in an increasingly busy society: we work, take care of our kids, work out, have our hobbies and maintain our social contacts. For almost 24 hours a day we process all kinds of stimuli from the radio, TV, traffic, e-mail, social media… you can imagine that your brains are desperate for a break every once in a while. But in our hectic society relaxing your mind is the first thing that goes to waste. Because in order to watch TV, to read or to check your phone you need mental capacity. Where your body often gets the daily rest it needs, your brain doesn’t always have the same privilege. This can cause overstimulation: stress hormones are activated and it’s even harder to “turn off” your brains. This can result in insomnia, worrying and even depression, anxiety or a burn out.
Performing breathing exercises
Luckily there is a simple and accessible exercise that you can apply daily to give your mind some peace and quiet: a breathing exercise.
First, it is good to know that a breathing exercise can be used in every type of environment: at home, in the train, in the car or even at work. This has a huge advantage, because you will always have a trick up your sleeve when you feel your mental tension increasing.
When performing a breathing exercise you try to consciously breathe through your stomach. In the beginning this is easiest to do while laying flat on the ground in a quiet and calm room. Try to find a pleasant position and lay 1 or 2 hands on your stomach.
Try your best to breathe in through the stomach as calm and long as possible (but don’t force it). Notice how your hand, that’s laying on your stomach, moves upwards while your breathing in.
Breathe out as slow and long as you can (without forcing yourself). Notice how the hand on your stomach moves back down while you’re doing that. You can even gently press your stomach.
Keep repeating this up until a maximum of 20 minutes.
It may look very easy, but in order for you to really master this exercise, it is best to perform it twice a day with a duration of 10 minutes. As you get better at it, you can make it a bit harder for yourself: try the exercise while sitting or standing up, or try it while you’re moving. Or move from a quiet place to an environment with more distraction. When you master the exercise you can use it any time you like.
The effect of the breathing exercise
While your learning this exercise you might experience some bodily sensations, such as dizziness, lightheadedness or a strange feeling in your stomach. This is totally normal and is part of the adjustment of your body to the new way of breathing. You’ll notice these effect will lessen over time, and at one point they will even disappear.
In the beginning you might not experience the relaxing effect right away. The better you learn to perform the exercise, the more you’ll notice that your head and your body will feel relaxed. Some people describe it as a lazy feeling. It’s really comfortable going to bed feeling this way, so when you’re dealing with insomnia this exercise might be a great one to try.
Practice makes perfect
Try to carry out the exercise every day for two weeks straights: twice a day for the duration of 10 minutes. Take your time, find a quiet place or play some relaxing music or sounds of nature on the background. You will not only feel more relaxed, but your resting heart rate and your resting breathing will decrease, which has a generally positive effect on your body.