Wednesday, April 17, 2024

5 ways to chill out and relax more in the coming year

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If you want to be more chill in the coming year, you might be interested in some unique ways to relax, aside from the usual “exercise more and get more sleep” advice. CNN explored five different methods this year that could bring some spice to your stress-busting toolkit.

Feeling stressed is a natural response to tough or unexpected situations. However, consistently high stress levels are linked to various health issues like high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety, according to Dr. Leana Wen, a wellness expert and emergency physician. Dr. Wen is also a professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Stress can also manifest as frustration or anger, affecting our relationships, says Dr. Karmel Choi, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.

On the flip side, being happy or effectively managing stress comes from finding balance and handling the challenges that come our way, explains Dr. Monica Vermani, a clinical psychologist based in Toronto and author of “A Deeper Wellness: Conquering Stress, Mood, Anxiety and Traumas.”

“Boosting our energy levels allows us to be present and handle whatever comes our way,” adds Vermani. “What better way to start the new year than by committing to quality self-care?”

Here are five habits you can start practicing today to achieve just that.

1. Embrace Play
Life gets serious as you grow up, but that doesn’t mean you should ditch the joy of play from your childhood. In fact, playing remains crucial in adulthood for dealing with stress and enhancing life satisfaction.

A study from March 2013 with about 900 university students discovered that those who enjoyed having fun were less stressed than those who weren’t into playful activities. The playful bunch was also more likely to deal with stress in a healthy way by focusing on specific issues instead of avoiding them.

How you bring play into your life is your call. Are there childhood games you miss? Maybe there’s a new hobby you’ve started but haven’t found time for. Thinking about these things can help you move forward, and you can also take the National Institute of Play’s quiz to figure out your play style.

Once you know what works for you, make sure to regularly set aside time for play in your schedule.

1. Do something easy
Relaxing in front of the TV to chill out might seem not-so-healthy, but sometimes it’s just what you need.

Taking it easy, like being a couch potato, can help those who struggle with turning off their minds and find meditation or mindfulness challenging, according to Dr. Victoria Garfield from the University College London. She says it’s okay.

Just be sure to avoid screens an hour before bedtime, or it might mess up your sleep, which is important for handling stress.

2. Take a deep breath
Taking a deep breath might seem like an overly simple reaction to stress, but a study from January says it actually helps.

1. Do something easy
Chilling in front of the TV to chill out might seem a bit against the whole health thing, but sometimes it’s just what you need.

Taking it easy, like being a couch potato, can be good if you can’t shut off your brain easily. Dr. Victoria Garfield, who works at the Medical Research Council Unit for Lifelong Health and Aging at University College London, says this can be helpful for folks who struggle with meditation or other mindfulness stuff.

Just make sure you don’t use screens right before bedtime, or you might mess up your sleep, which is also important for handling stress.

2. Take a deep breath
Taking a deep breath might seem like a fancy response to stress, but a study in January said it’s actually pretty helpful.

When stress is hitting you from all sides, take a breather. One kind of breathing, called cyclic sighing, was found to be the most helpful of all the breathing and meditation stuff. You can do it by breathing in through your nose until your lungs are halfway full, pausing a bit, breathing in again to fill your lungs, and then slowly breathing out through your mouth.

Dr. David Spiegel from Stanford University School of Medicine says it’s a quick way to calm down. Doing it about three times can help you feel less anxious and stressed right away.

3. Relax your muscles
Progressive muscle relaxation is a really good way to chill out your mind and body, and you can do it anywhere you can sit or lie down for just five minutes. It’s all about tensing and then relaxing your muscles in a systematic way. This is another technique for people who need some help focusing on meditation.

You can find instructions on how to do it here.

4. Be thankful
Even when things are tough, being grateful can help you stress less and feel better, according to studies. You can do this in different ways, like keeping a journal where you write down a few things every night before bed or having a photo album on your phone with pictures of things that make you happy. This could be loved ones, achievements, a nice sunset, or meaningful text messages. Try looking at them when you’re stressed instead of scrolling through bad news or comparing your life to others.

Stress makes us focus on the bad stuff, but when we’re less stressed, we can see the good things and different opportunities around us, says Choi.

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