How to Relax Physically and Emotionally

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When we face stressors in life, we can carry physical and psychological tension, and these tensions can feed off of one another. Feeling physically tense can increase your psychological and emotional tension and vice versa. Conversely, relaxing your body physically can help relieve psychological stress, and relaxing your mind can help you to physically relax and release tension in your body.

When your stress response is no longer triggered, it becomes far easier to approach challenges in a proactive, peaceful way. Learning to master techniques that enable both types of relaxation is a highly effective route to stress relief.

If you're feeling stressed and wondering how to relax, here are some simple steps for releasing tension in your body and your mind.

Realize That You Need to Relax

Many people just try to work through their stress by ignoring it and hoping the stressors pass quickly, even while stressors build up. Because of this, it's not uncommon to be caught off-guard by stress when you reach the point of feeling overwhelmed or to be stressed to the point that it's taking a toll without realizing that you need to work on managing some of the stress in your life and your psyche. It's important to know when you have too much stress and need to relax. Take this quiz to figure out your stress symptoms and what you can do about them.

Relax Physically

Physically relaxing your body can lead to stress relief because it interrupts and reverses your stress response and can stop a negative-feedback cycle where your mind responds to stress by signaling a physical stress response. The tension in your body that can result from this response increases the levels of stress you feel emotionally.

There are several effective techniques to relieve tension in your body. Here are some popular techniques to physically relax:

Relax Mentally and Emotionally

Your experience of stress involves your thoughts and emotions. You may think that you can't adequately handle the stressors you're facing (thought), and experience fear (feeling) as a result, which can accompany and even perpetuate your stress response. Often, reexamining your thoughts can help you to relax emotionally. The following can help you to better understand your thoughts and alter this cycle as you learn how to relax as you face your stressors:

  • Change your negative self-talk to positive
  • Learn how to reframe your thoughts so that the way you perceive potential stressors in your life is more positive and less stressful
  • Figure out what your cognitive distortions are, such as all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralizing, jumping to conclusions, focusing on the negative, labeling, and "should" statements, as well as how to correct them
  • Work to develop greater optimism

Help Yourself Stay Relaxed

Once you've discovered how to relax, you should experience less overall stress.

The next step is learning how to maintain a state of relaxation and learning how to relax again quickly after you deal with future stressors. Adding key features to your lifestyle can help you to amass more resources for dealing with stressors you face, and become less reactive to these stressors as well. The following can help you to develop a lifestyle that helps you to relax and more easily manage the stress of life:

  • Make efforts to live a low-stress lifestyle, such as learning breathing exercises, doing regular exercise, meditating, writing in a journal, and cultivating relationships
  • Learn how to be more emotionally resilient