Using Relaxation to Manage Stress

By Ricardo Bianco, PsyD, Program Director - MA in Counseling and Health Psychology October 05, 2015

Mental Health Tips from William James College Faculty: Using Relaxation to Manage Stress, by Ricardo Bianco, PsyD, Program Director - MA in Counseling and Health Psychology.

Stress is something familiar to all of us. If affects us both physically and psychologically. Although the human body is designed to withstand stress, it sometimes needs assistance from the mind. Our thoughts are very powerful and can be used to create a healthy body and a healthy life. It has been demonstrated scientifically that certain types of stress can be alleviated with relaxation techniques. These techniques can help us manage stress and also improve our concentration, productivity, and overall well-being.

Tips for Using Relaxation to Manage Stress

  • Meditate. Researchers have shown that our brain’s neural pathways change when we meditate. Find a quiet place, sit up straight, and close your eyes. Focus your attention on something specific, a thought, a mantra, your breathing. As your mind wanders, bring yourself back to your personal mantra. 
  • Breathe DiaphragmaticallyDiaphragmatic breathing is your friend. Compared to other visceral functions (e.g. digestions, endocrine cardiovascular), breathing is unique in that it can be regulated voluntarily and has a direct impact on the branch of our nervous system that controls the stress and relaxation responses. Give yourself 2 or 3 minutes, 5 times a day, to breathe with your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your lungs. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth. 
  • Live in the PresentModern life and technology are taking us into uncharted territory. We have gadgets to connect us like never before, but too many of us are becoming disconnected. Learn to be in the present. It does not require anything beyond feeling one with the environment and the people who populate your life. Take a few minutes to focus on what is around you: the sounds, smells, sights, and more importantly, the people around you. Learn how to live and feel in the moment. 
  • Reach OutPeople are essentially relational-beings. We are not wired to be alone and live in caves. Reach out. Create a special social support system and watch many of your stresses disappear. Connect with the people who are important to you; they may be family, friends, co-workers, or a special entity that resonates with your life-calling aptitudes. 
  • Enjoy the ArtsJoy can be expressed in many ways, and especially in the many manifestations of art. Dance, imagine, paint, and ring. Compose, write, play, and sing. With or without rhyme, just be creative in your own way. Reach out for the boundaries beyond your skin.