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Stress Relief and Relaxation - Overview

Stress is a fact of life. Although some stress is normal and even needed, too much of it can affect your quality of life and your health. There are simple things you can do to help relieve stress.

Tips to relieve stress

When you feel stressed, you can:

  • Take slow, deep breaths.
  • Soak in a warm bath.
  • Listen to soothing music.
  • Take a walk or do some other activity.
  • Meditate or pray.
  • Take a yoga class.
  • Have a massage or back rub.
  • Have a warm drink that doesn't have alcohol or caffeine.

You also can make some changes in your everyday habits to reduce and relieve stress.

  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Stay connected to your family, friends, and other caring people in your life.
  • Get regular exercise. It can help you clear your mind and work off feelings of frustration and anxiety.
  • Don't drink or eat anything that has caffeine in it. Caffeine can make you feel "wound up" and more stressed.
  • Don't smoke or use tobacco. Nicotine can make you feel more anxious.
  • Don't drink alcohol. It can cause sleep problems and depression.

Muscle relaxation to relieve stress

Your body may respond to stress by tensing up, which can cause pain. If you learn to relax your muscles, you can reduce muscle tension and anxiety. Progressive muscle relaxation is an exercise that can help you do this.

In progressive muscle relaxation, you tense and then relax related groups of muscles. You can use a relaxation tape or CD to help you go through all the muscle groups. Or you can learn the muscle groups and work through them from memory.

Find a quiet place where you won't be bothered. Be sure you can lie on your back in comfort.

For each muscle group:

  1. Breathe in and tense the muscle group for 4 to 10 seconds. Tense hard, but not to the point of cramping.
  2. Then breathe out while you suddenly and completely relax the muscle group. Don't relax it gradually.
  3. Rest for 10 to 20 seconds.

Here are the muscle groups:

Hands and arms

  • Hands: Make a tight fist.
  • Wrists and forearms: Tense them and bend your hands back at the wrist.
  • Biceps and upper arms: Make your hands into fists, bend your arms at the elbows, and tense your biceps.
  • Shoulders: Shrug them.

Head and neck

  • Forehead: Wrinkle it into a deep frown.
  • Around the eyes and bridge of the nose: Close your eyes as tightly as possible. If you wear contact lenses, remove them before beginning the exercise.
  • Cheeks and jaws: Smile as widely as you can.
  • Around the mouth: Press your lips together tightly.
  • Back of the neck: Press your head back against the floor or chair.
  • Front of the neck: Touch your chin to your chest.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 15, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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