When we face stressors in life, we can carry physical and psychological tension, and these tensions can feed off of one another. Feeling physically tense can increase your psychological and emotional tension, and vice versa.
Conversely, relaxing your body physically can help relieve psychological stress, and relaxing your mind can help you to physically relax and release tension in your body.1 When your stress response is no longer triggered, it becomes far easier to approach challenges in a proactive, peaceful way.
Learning to master techniques that enable both types of relaxation is a highly effective route to stress relief. Many people try to ignore stress and hope that stressors pass quickly. It’s not uncommon to be caught off-guard by stress. It’s important to know when you have too much stress and need to relax.2
Physically relaxing your body interrupts and reverses the stress response and can stop a negative-feedback cycle where your mind responds to stress by signaling a physical stress response. The tension in your body that can result from this response increases the levels of stress you feel emotionally.
There are several effective techniques to relieve tension in your body. These include:1
Relax Mentally and Emotionally
Your experience of stress involves your thoughts and emotions. You may think that you can’t adequately handle the stressors you’re facing (thought), and experience fear (feeling) as a result. These can accompany and even perpetuate your stress response. Often, reexamining your thoughts can help you to relax emotionally.
You can better understand your thoughts and alter this cycle if you learn how to relax as you face your stressors.3 Techniques to achieve this include:
- Changing negative self-talk to positive
- Learning how to reframe thoughts so that the way you perceive potential stressors in your life is less stressful
- Determining your cognitive distortions, such as all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralizing, jumping to conclusions, focusing on the negative, labeling, and “should” statements, as well as how to correct them
- Working to develop greater optimism
Maintain a State of Relaxation
Once you’ve discovered how to relax, you should experience less overall stress. The next step is learning how to maintain a state of relaxation and how to relax again quickly after you deal with future stressors. Work to amass more resources for dealing with stressors you face and becoming less reactive to them.
Make efforts to live a low-stress lifestyle, such as learning breathing exercises, doing regular exercise, meditating, writing in a journal, and cultivating relationships.1 Learn how to be more emotionally resilient.
A Word From Verywell
It’s important to learn how to manage your stress in a healthy way. If you’re feeling stressed out or you’re struggling to make stress management techniques work for you, consider professional help. A licensed mental health professional can assist you in learning relaxation strategies that can work for you.