Instant Relaxation Techniques That Will Make You Feel Calmer in Seconds
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Are you feeling stressed lately?
Oftentimes we don’t even realize that we’re feeling stressed until it manifests itself into physical symptoms that scream: “Look at me! Look at me!”
These physical symptoms can range from rapid heartbeat and upset digestive system to insomnia and even panic attacks, all of which I’ve experienced numerous times in the past when I let stress go unchecked.
If you’ve ever experienced any of these stress-related physical symptoms, you know how scary and frustrating they can be.
And stress doesn’t just affect our body. Stress not only damages our physical health, it also robs us of our sense of wellbeing, chips away at the quality of our relationships, and take away our productivity.
Long story short, we need to take steps to manage the stress in our lives and we need to do it now.
Not when things become too overwhelming and we end up with a massive panic attack in the parking lot of a grocery store and have to call the ambulance because it feels like we’re going to die (yep, been there).
Not when we start losing too much weight because we just don’t have the appetite to eat anymore and our loved ones start giving us concerned looks (been there too), but NOW.
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How can we reduce stress NOW?
Well, that is a HUGE topic.
I can go on and on for days talking about self-care strategies, how to set healthy boundaries, or how a daily exercise routine is going to protect us from stress, but the catch is many of these tips do require time and effort to implement.
Today I just want to focus on some simple, instant stress relief techniques we can use to relax immediately—things we can start doing this very minute.
In this post, I’m going to show you 3 types of instant relaxation techniques that I use when I need to reduce stress quickly.
3 Types of Instant Relaxation Techniques
Just the other day while I was working in my day job as Ms. HR and going through a long list of phone interviews, I felt a heaviness in my chest as if a weight was pressing down on me and preventing me from being able to take a long, deep breath.
I felt so restless that I couldn’t help but fidget my legs constantly. There was also a noticeable tightness in my shoulders, neck, and jaw that started to culminate into a headache.
Although I had a few more phone calls to make, I knew I needed to slow down and take a break immediately, relax, and try to reduce the level of stress hormones coursing through my body. I knew if I didn’t do something about the stress right away, it was going to build and build until it made me sick.
So what did I do to reduce stress at that moment when I had no essential oils and a bubble bath handy? I went into a private space and spent the next 15 minutes doing the following:
- Breathing exercises (3 minutes)
- Acupressure (5 minutes)
- Qigong meditation exercises (7 minutes)
Most of these techniques come from Traditional Chinese Medicine or Ayurvedic Medicine which I’ve been learning from reading books and from my Tai Chi master (who’s the strongest and most lively 70-something-year-old man I’ve ever met).
After trying these techniques a few times I was hooked! They work absolute wonders when it comes to reducing stress, and require nothing more than a quiet space.
And if you really can’t get away from where you are, you can even do some of these techniques at your desk, in the car, or even when you’re taking a quick break in the bathroom (OK maybe not the breathing exercises).
Keep reading and I’ll explain each one of them in detail.
1. Breathing Exercises
When you need instant relaxation, nothing works better than breathing exercises.
There are two types of breathing exercises that I practice to help calm me down when I’m feeling stressed.
The first is the well-known “pursed-lip breathing” technique which is a common method used by COPD patients to relieve shortness of breath. It opens the airways longer and allows for a better exchange of fresh air and carbon dioxide in our lungs.
The second is called “Nadi shodhana” or “alternate nostril breathing” which is a popular practice in Ayurvedic Medicine and yoga, and is thought to be an effective way to bring harmony to the two hemispheres of our brain and help us achieve a balance in our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
What first attracted me to these two exercises were their reported benefits for respiratory health and function.
As I’ve mentioned before, I was diagnosed with a rare and progressive lung condition in the last couple of years. Since that diagnosis, I’ve been doing a lot of research on different methods to help me maintain and improve respiratory function. I discovered these two breathing exercises during my research and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they also came with the added benefit of stress reduction.
It makes complete sense now that I think about it because conscious breathing is such a powerful way for us to communicate with our brain and exert influence over the parts of our body that are normally out of our conscious control such as our heart rate and blood pressure.
Here’s how you do the “pursed-lip breathing” technique:
- Sit with your back straight and shoulders relaxed.
- Inhale for 2 seconds through your nose and try to fill your entire belly with air.
- Exhale for 4 seconds (or longer) through your mouth. While you’re exhaling, purse your lips together as if you’re blowing a kiss.
- Repeat step 2 and 3.
Here how you do the “alternate nostril breathing” technique:
- Sit with your back straight and shoulders relaxed.
- Place the thumb of your right hand on your right nostril and the index finger of your right hand on the left nostril. (I use index finger on my left nostril because it is the easiest for me but you can also use your ring finger if it’s more comfortable for you.)
- Gently push your thumb on your right nostril to close it, then take a slow and full breath in through the left nostril. Once you’ve fully inhaled gently push your index finger on your left nostril to close it, and hold the breath for 2-3 seconds.
- Release your right thumb to open up your right nostril, then exhale through the right nostril at a steady pace. Take a brief pause for 2-3 seconds once you’ve let all the air out.
- Next, inhale through the right nostril with your left nostril still closed, then close your right nostril and take a pause once you’ve taken a full breath.
- With your right nostril still closed, release your left nostril and exhale through it. Remember to pause after you’ve fully exhaled.
- Repeat by alternating inhaling and exhaling through each nostril.
Confused yet? Here’s a video tutorial on how to do the “alternate nostril breathing” exercise that will make everything clear:
I repeat these 2 breathing exercises for about 3 minutes at a time. 3 minutes might not seem like a long time but it doesn’t take long for the calming effects to kick in when you’re taking deep, conscious breaths with these techniques.
Acupressure is another instant relaxation technique that I can’t stop raving about. It is basically acupuncture without the use of needles. Originating from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupressure relies on the theory that there are special points throughout the body along meridians—or channels—in our body.
Practitioners of TCM believe that these meridians link our whole body, mind, and spirit together and that if any point along these meridians is blocked, then pain, discomfort, or even illness can occur. Acupressure is a standard method in TCM to help ease blockages along our meridians.
I’ve been learning the practices of TCM as a personal hobby for the past decade.
Acupressure is something that I regularly do on my own and I am a passionate advocate of its benefits. It has helped me eliminate many problematic symptoms such as tension headaches and chronic heartburn.I also use acupressure to help ease physical symptoms of stress such as chest tightness and shortness of breath, which I will show you today.
There are 3 acupressure points that I specifically target for the purpose of reducing stress.
You can find this acupressure point in the middle of your chest. Below is a picture to give you an idea of where it is on your body:
A quick way to find this point is to imagine you’re drawing a horizontal line across your chest at level with your nipples. The midpoint between your breasts, right in the groove of where the hard bone starts to become “soft”, lies the “Tan-zhong” point.
This is an important acupressure point for enhancing mood, reducing shortness of breath and alleviating chest pain.
Press the “Tan-zhong” point with your thumb and massage in a clockwise motion 50 times. Alternatively, you can use the knuckle of your index finger to rub downwards on this point 50 times.
Start gently as you might feel a bit of soreness in the spot at first. This is normal and the more blockages you have at that point the more soreness you will feel. But don’t worry, if you keep massaging the soreness will go away.
The “Zhong-fu” acupressure point is located in the same spot on both sides of your body:
This acupressure point will release tension in your chest and allow you to breathe easier.
A quick way to find this spot is to hunch your shoulders forward. If you slide your fingers across your collarbone you’ll feel a nook just right underneath your collarbone where it meets your shoulders.
Use your left thumb to massage the “Zhong-fu” point on the right side of your chest and your right thumb to massage the left side of your chest for 50 times each.
The “Tai-chong” point not only detoxifies the liver, it is also one of the best acupressure points for alleviating stress and anxiety.
So where can you find the “Tai-chong” point? On your feet! The point is located between the big toe and the second toe on both of your feet. Below is a picture to show you where it is.
You can find this point quickly and easily by first locating the space between your big toe and second toe with the side of your thumb. Then slowly slide your thumb back towards your ankle in a straight line. You will find the “Tai-chong” point in the nook just before you hit hard bone.
Once you locate this point, apply pressure and massage by rubbing with the side of your thumb on this point for 50 times. Start from the back where it’s nearest to your ankle and rub towards the direction of your toes.
If you’re feeling really stressed this point will be super tender at first. Keep rubbing and after you do it a dozen times or so you should start to feel the tenderness ease off and a sense of “lightness” in your body.
Acupressure is an extremely easy and effective way for beginners to do TCM at home without the use of complicated herbs or instruments. It is safe and anyone can do it with their fingers or a capped pen.
3. Qigong Exercise
Have you heard of Qigong?
Traditional Chinese Qigong combines slow, fluid movements with deep, conscious breathing to help direct the movement of “qi” (chi)—the body’s life force—throughout the body.
It is a form of moving meditation—perfect for anyone who wishes to incorporate meditation into their daily routine but struggles with the requirement to keep still.
The benefits of Qigong include the following:
- better posture and alignment
- lower blood pressure
- reduce anxiety and stress
- improve digestion and circulation
Qigong exercises come in various forms, some are as easy as bouncing on your heels while others like Tai Chi—which I’ve been learning for the past few years—are more complicated.
There is one form of Qigong that I practice almost on a daily basis, and it’s called “8 Pieces of Brocade”. This is an ideal form of Qigong for beginners because it’s short, simple, and effective in strengthening the body and reducing stress at the same time.
Like the name suggests, this exercise is composed of 8 different series of movements.
Today I’m going to show you the first move of this Qigong exercise. This move is my favourite because it gives the body a full stretch and opens the chest to allow for deeper breathing, which is exactly what we need when we’re feeling stressed!Next time you feel tense and stressed, try this simple qigong exercise!
How to perform the first move of the “8 Pieces of Brocade”:
- Stand with your back straight and feet shoulder-width apart. Loosen your knees so that they’re slightly bent. Keep your arms relaxed to your sides.
- Slowly bring your arms inward, intertwine the fingers on both of your hands and slowly bring them upward starting from below your belly. With your palms facing upward keep bringing your arms up until your hands are almost at level with your chin. During this time, you should be inhaling slowly through your nose and filling your abdomen with air.
- Once your hands reach your chin, flip your palms downward and keep lifting your arms until your hands are almost at level with your forehead.
- Once your arms and hands reach your forehead, flip your palms upward and have them facing towards the sky.
- Keep lifting both of your arms upward until you feel a full stretch in the palms of your hands and throughout your body . Tilt your head backward and look at your hands as they stretch towards the sky. Take a brief pause. You should have taken in a full breath by now and you should hold your breath for 1-2 seconds while you pause.
- Allow your arms to fall down your sides slowly. While your arms are coming down, slowly exhale through your nose and allow your abdomen to deflate.
- When your arms return to their original position and you have exhaled all the air, take a 1-2 second pause and hold your breath.
- Repeat Step 1-7 for 6 rounds.
I made a short video to show you how to do this move (I’m still new at making videos and I was very nervous so excuse the quality!):
Try These Instant Relaxation Techniques Today!
The next time you’re feeling stressed, try these 3 types of instant relaxation techniques.
Even if you just have a few minutes, do the breathing exercises, massage the acupressure points you learned in this post, and if you don’t have the stretch room to do the Qigong exercise standing up, try it sitting down!
You’ll be amazed at how calm and refreshed you feel after.
Do you have other quick techniques that help you alleviate stress in a flash? If so, leave a comment below and tell me all about it! And don’t forget to download your free copy of “10 Exercises to Calm Down Now” before you go!