6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Relax: The Student’s Quick Guide to Relaxation

Jul 24, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

The words “relaxation” and “college” don’t often show up in the same sentence. Why not? Because between academic, personal and work commitments, the lives of most college students are often fast-paced, hectic, and downright overwhelming. However, the fact that you may often feel like you hardly have enough time to catch your breath let alone set aside time for relaxation is the very reason you need to slow down every once in awhile -- particularly when you factor in the havoc stress can wreak on your physical and mental health.

Luckily, there’s good news: There are many different ways to relax, at least one of which should seamlessly fit into your life. Read on for a roundup of six strategies aimed at helping you embrace the many health benefits of relaxation.

 

1. Meditate.

Research shows that meditation -- the act of turning the mind and attention inward -- supports many positive health outcomes, including slowing age-related brain loss, improving sleep quality, calming mind-wandering, relieving pain, improving concentration, and helping with addiction. When viewed through this lens, the question shifts from whether you can afford to take time out of your day to meditate to whether you can afford not to. The good news? All it takes is 10 minutes a day to change your life.

 

2. Just breathe.

While meditation is extremely effective, so is an activity that’s even less of a commitment. Breathing. Says WebMD, “Breathing exercises can help you relax, because they make your body feel like it does when you are already relaxed.” You may already know that deep breathing can help relieve stress, but did you also know that it also change the expression of genes? Harvard researcher Herbert Benson told NPR, "It does away with the whole mind-body separation. Here you can use the mind to change the body, and the genes we're changing were the very genes acting in an opposite fashion when people are under stress.”

 

3. Take a walk.

Another simple, 10-minute activity with powerful results? Walking. Says Huffington Post, “While just about any walk will help to clear your head and boost endorphins (which, in turn, reduces stress hormones), consider walking in a park or other green space, which can actually put your body into a state of meditation, thanks to a phenomenon known as “involuntary attention” during which something holds our attention, but simultaneously allows for reflection.” An added benefit to walking for college students? It’s the best way to get to know your campus and its surrounding neighborhoods.

 

4. Visualize.

It may sound a bit New Agey, but the truth is that guided imagery can help facilitate a relaxation response, according to an article, “Guided Imagery: Healing Through the Mind’s Eye,” published in the journal, Imagery.  Its premise? “The use of personal mental images to diagnose and modify bodily processes is an ancient part of the healing tradition. The healer/ physician/shaman/priest has always utilized the latent power of the imagination to alter the body, and many traditional health care systems have focused on the amazing power of the mind to promote the healing process. With recent demonstrations that the autonomic nervous system can be modified through learning and various cognitive strategies, contemporary health practitioners have also begun to explore the applications of therapeutic guided imagery.”

Not to mention that if it’s good enough for the NIH, it’s good enough for us. Read more about studying alternative medicine.

 

5. Exercise.

You’ve heard it before and you’ll probably hear it again. Exercise is an incredibly important way to manage stress. Says U.S. News and World Report, “Multiple studies have proved that physical exercise is a remarkably effective antidote to stress. Like the breathing exercises outlined above, exercise prompts you to focus on your body rather than your worries….Many students carry their stress in their bodies, and exercise moves your muscles, increases blood flow and works out a good percentage of body knots.”

Sure, it may make you tired, but it will also make you a far more engaged and focused student.

 

6. Listen to music.

According to Psych Central, “The soothing power of music is well-established. It has a unique link to our emotions, so can be an extremely effective stress management tool.” In fact, the tradition of using music to calm and soothe dates all the way back to the ancient Greeks.

Explains Inc., meanwhile, “In this age of constant bombardment, the science is clear: if you want your mind and body to last, you've got to prioritize giving them a rest. Music is an easy way to take some of the pressure off of all the pings, dings, apps, tags, texts, emails, appointments, meetings, and deadlines that can easily spike your stress level and leave you feeling drained and anxious.”

But, as it turns out, not just any old song will do. Neuroscientists have identified 10 songs which are particularly suited to reducing pressure and facilitating calm.

Just because you’re a student doesn’t necessarily mean stress has to be part of your life. By embracing these six relaxation techniques, you can immediately begin minimizing stress and maximizing satisfaction in your daily life.

 

 

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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