Closely studied by Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard University, the relaxation response has been clinically proven to short-circuit stress. Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet place. Close your eyes. Now choose a word or phrase to focus on (‘It’s okay,’ for example). As you concentrate on breathing in and out, repeat the phrase each time you exhale. If you get distracted by other thoughts, gently put them out of your mind and return to your word or phrase. Continue for 10 to 20 minutes. Practice at least once a day.
Research has found that music can reduce heart rate, blood pressure, and even levels of stress hormones in the blood. Take a break and listen to music you find soothing, whether it’s classical, jazz, or something else.
When you feel especially tense, try a technique called progressive relaxation. Sit or lie down in a quiet, comfortable place. Close your eyes. Now curl your toes as hard as you can for 10 seconds. Then relax them. After your toes, tense and relax your feet, legs, belly, fingers, arms, neck, and face. In other words, progressively ‘work’ the tension all the way from the tips of your toes to the top of your head, and then ‘let it go.’