If you have ever googled "how to relax" it probably means that you have too much stress in your life. But don't worry, we all do. And luckily our bodies can elicit a relaxation response, which enables us to relax.
The problem starts in our body's natural response to a "threat", which prepares our body to either fight or flee from danger. This is called a stress response, which causes several physiological changes in our body, such as increasing stress hormones, adrenaline, noradrenaline, and more, and endangers our long-term health.
The opposite of the stress response is the relaxation response, which is a distinct natural mechanism that allows deep relaxation. The relaxation response can be achieved through a passive mental attitude and the repetition of a certain word or a phrase. In autogenic training for example phrases are constructed in a way to deepen relaxation. However, many methods of relaxing do not have special phrases, but can still help us relax.
The answer to the often searched question "how to relax" is actually the same answer as to how to reduce stress and how to reverse a stress response. The two best natural ways to relax or achieve relaxation are:
1. regular exercise (minimum 45 minutes) and
2. relaxation methods (autogenic training, biofeedback, massage, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, etc)
The best and quickest method of relaxing is a good workout. We also feel better after a good exercise, and as they say "anima sana in corpore sano" - a healthy mind in a healthy body. However, exercising differs from practicing a relaxation method, since in a way it "burns" stress. To really achieve deep relaxation we still need a relaxation response, which can be done by practicing a relaxation technique.
Practice a relaxation method
There is a lot of competing advice concerning the 10 best ways to relax, and don't worry, we have our own list too. But to really achieve deep relaxation, you need to practice a relaxation method three times per day, for 10-15 minutes each time for at least two months to see the desired results. However, this should not demotivate you from starting a relaxation technique. It is a fun process and in autogenic training, you can get some results as early as just two weeks. Anyway, who would not want to take a break during the day, close their eyes for a few minutes and just be alone with themselves.
As usual, there is no instant magic solution to the question "how to relax," but the positive effects of deep relaxation, in the long run, are vast (strengthens the immune system, lowers cholesterol, treats anxiety, improves wellbeing, improves concentration, increases self-confidence, improves sleep, and many more) and it is worth waiting and investing some time and resources to simply feel better again.
Other tips for being more relaxed
Get enough sleep
Besides regular exercise, which "burns" stress and enables us to lower our stress levels, having enough sleep is crucial to staying more rational and less stressed out. Not having enough sleep is actually stressful and several days of sleep deprivation makes us edgy and anxious. 7-8 hours of sleep is the golden rule and having less or more makes us sleep deprived or tired from having too much sleep.
Another problem can be the inability to fall asleep, which is commonly caused by stress. Here again, a relaxation technique is the best way to naturally fight the problem. While sleeping pills are widely available, they have a tendency to be addictive, and we can easily develop a tolerance to them, which increases the already unhealthy side effects. Good sleeping habits with proper nutrition and no caffeine after 5 pm can sometimes help solve the problem.
We are what we eat. Although everyone is familiar with this often repeated phrase, most people still do not pay as much attention to nutrition as they should. There are a few simple rules. Try to avoid simple carbohydrates (sweets, potatoes, regular pasta, and white bread are the most common) and eat complex carbohydrates such as full corn bread, full corn pasta, and brown rice. These actually boost serotonin, which will make you feel better.
Less fat, more vegetables
Next, avoid eating too much fat (no fried food, no sweets, less cheese, less milk), avoid too much red meat, and try to eat more low-fat white meat (chicken, turkey breasts) and plenty of fish (omega-3 source).
Eat good quality fresh vegetables and fresh fruit. You can make natural smoothies from both, and they will boost your mood and energy throughout the day. They contain many vitamins and fiber, and as we all know they are healthy and much needed.
More water, less caffeine
Drink plenty of water. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Drinking enough water actually helps fight stress and gives you more energy throughout the day.
Avoid too much caffeine. Many of us need a cup of coffee to start the day. Caffeine raises the stress hormone cortisol and is, therefore, a stress booster. If you are sleepy during the day, drink a glass of water, which will increase blood pressure and make you less sleepy.