How to Increase Mindfulness and Relaxation

~2 minute read

Juggling sports, school, and your social life can be stressful. While it’s admirable and valuable to learn how to manage your time, the stress that comes with a busy schedule can lead to burnout, exhaustion, and injury if not managed properly. The good news is that there are many simple ways you can help your mind and body reset and relax. Try out the following strategies to find more peace when you’re feeling overwhelmed. 

1. Breathing Exercises

One of the most simple and effective ways to calm yourself down is to take big, deep breaths. The 4–7–8 breathing technique can help you reduce anxiety, fall asleep, manage cravings, and feel less angry. To practice this technique, inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat the cycle up to 4 times. If you find it difficult to breathe in or hold your breath for that long, try shortening the intervals to 2–3.5–4 seconds.

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2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Your body holds a lot of tension when you’re under stress, and soreness and tightness from practice can put additional stress on your muscles. Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that allows you to release some of the tension built up in your muscles. To practice this, find a place to lie on your back and stretch out. Once you’re comfortable, target a specific muscle group (Ex. shoulders, thighs, cheeks and jaws) and breathe in. While breathing in, try to tighten that muscle group, and during your exhale, relax your muscles. Releasing built up tension in your muscles signals to your body that it’s okay to relax.

3. Mindfulness and Realistic Thinking

In addition to releasing tension in your muscles, it’s also important to practice letting go of or redirecting thoughts that are causing you additional stress. The first step to reframing thoughts is to tune into the way you talk to yourself. Try asking yourself questions like, “What am I thinking right now?” “What is making me feel anxious?” and “What am I worried will happen?” Next, try to replace any unhelpful or unrealistic thoughts with more balanced, realistic thoughts. 

Examples:

  • “I always mess everything up. What’s wrong with me?” → “Everyone makes mistakes. All I can do is try my best and learn from my experiences.”
  • “I can’t do this. I’m way too anxious. Why can’t I get my anxiety under control?” → “It’s okay to feel anxious. Anxiety isn’t dangerous, and it doesn’t have to stop me from doing things I enjoy.”

The goal of mindfulness and realistic thinking isn’t to dismiss your anxious thoughts but rather to address them and then replace them with more balanced thoughts. Usually, our brain makes our worries seem much bigger than they really are.

Remember that the point of these relaxation techniques is to help you feel more at ease and to release some of the tension that your body stores when it’s under stress, not to avoid or eliminate anxiety. These tools are to help you ride these feelings without letting them ruin your day or interfere with your life. If these strategies don’t work for you right away, don’t sweat it. It might take some time to learn which coping strategies help you the most.

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