Feeling wound up and wondering how to relax instantly? When every aspect of modern life seems to be conspiring to wind you up and steal your sleep, your sanity and your peace of mind, we reveal how you can help yourself feel calmer and more grounded.
How to relax now…
Use the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
When everything seems to be going wrong – you need to know how to relax in the moment. If the geyser’s broken, you’ve fought with your partner and the boss is giving you a hard time – don’t lash out. Try tapping or, to give it its proper name, the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
Tapping is a combination of emotional awareness and acupuncture without the needles, which works on the premise that all negative emotions are caused by an imbalance in the body’s energy system.
Try this exercise, taken from the app, EFT Clinic (free on iOS/Apple). When you feel that boiling rage, rate the intensity at which you feel the emotion, out of 10. Tap the “karate-chop point” on the side of your hand, and say three times, “Even though I have this anger, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
Then tap 7 times on each of the following points:
- At the side of the eyebrow
- Between the eyebrows
- Under the eye
- Below the nose
- The point of the chin
- The collarbone
- Under the arm
- On the top of your head
Each time say to yourself “this anger will pass” or whatever the feeling is. Take a deep breath in and out, and rate the intensity of the feeling again – it should have reduced. If it’s still quite strong, repeat the steps above.
Try these meditation techniques
You don’t have to join a sect or spend hours trying to clear your mind; today, meditation comes in bite-sized, user-friendly 10-minute chunks, such as in the Headspace app (free on iOS/ Apple and Android) created by former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe. This is how he explains the basics of meditation…
Blue sky thinking
“When you think of a clear, blue sky, it feels nice. But think of a dark, cloudy sky, and you don’t feel so good. If you took a plane up through the clouds, though, you’d find the sky was still blue. We get so obsessed by the clouds that we forget the sky is still blue. It’s a useful analogy.
Rather than trying to create that state of blue sky, of calm and happiness, it’s more a question of sitting back in the garden and waiting for the clouds to pass.” Think of this when the dark clouds of sadness or jealousy roll in. See them for what they are, and wait for them to pass. Once you’ve identified and observed them, you may find that they evaporate more quickly of their own accord.
Schedule your downtime
No time to meditate? Then schedule it. You may feel silly writing “meditation” or even “time out” in your diary, as if it were an important assignment, but, from the point of view of your wellbeing, it should be given a place on your priority list.
Cultivate calm with craniosacral therapy
Some treatments are particularly good at pulling your mind, body and spirit back into balance, and craniosacral therapy, which takes a “whole body” approach to healing, is a lovely one to try. It’s a very gentle process that doesn’t demand any undressing and doesn’t cause any pain.
Craniosacral work was developed by an osteopath, explains practitioner Mika Simmons. “During treatment, I put my hands under the patient’s sacrum or under their head, and ‘listen’ to how the sacrum, spine and cranium are functioning, and ‘invite’ the bones to release.”
It sounds unlikely, but this can reduce compression in the spinal tissues, which, in turn, can reduce physical and emotional issues elsewhere in the body. As a treatment, it is deceptively gentle, and it has much wider effects than you would expect. As Mika puts it, “It quietens the mind, settles the nervous system and unburdens the heart.”
Accept what you can’t control
When life chucks not just the odd bit of rubbish at you, but the whole dustbin, it really helps to have a few techniques up your sleeve on how to stay grounded and not lose your head.
“Learning and practising ‘Positive Acceptance’ can certainly help you to stay grounded and become more calm,” says psychologist and psychotherapist Graham Price, who created the technique. “It’s a combination of accepting what is, and refocusing on action to make things better in future.”
“Some think acceptance means letting things be and not doing anything about it,” says Price. “What I teach is to stop wishing that things were already different – because they can’t be – and accept what ‘is’ – i.e., the present situation.”
“Accepting what ‘is’ helps to calm your thoughts and give you a more positive outlook. So you’re always taking your mind away from negativity and looking to improve the future.”
Try a spray-on supplement
If you’re feeling creaky and tense, magnesium oil can help reduce aches. Our bodies don’t absorb the mineral very well from supplements, so we recommend Lifematrix Magnesium Oil Trans-dermal Spray, R109 for 100ml, which is easily absorbed into the body through the skin.
It eases joint pains and reduces muscle spasms to improve sleep. Magnesium also helps lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels, which helps heart health.
Breathe it out
The modern world is such a frantic place, with multiple assaults on our senses, as well as multiple demands on our time, which all raise our stress levels and blood pressure. Reclaim some peace of mind – and lower those levels – with some age-old breathing techniques.
“When we consciously lower the number of breaths we take per minute, we experience great benefits,” says Martha Chester, who teaches Kundalini yoga. “If you slow down your breathing to 10 to 12 breaths per minute, your body will begin to relax. At eight cycles per minute, your parasympathetic nervous system will begin to be influenced, and your body’s natural healing processes will be activated. At four breaths per minute, there is a positive shift in mental function, such as increased visual clarity and sensory awareness.”
“Practising gratitude helps you see the good that’s in your life and, through consistent practise, you’ll feel happier,” says life coach Tracy Friend. “As a simple exercise, before bed every night, write down 15 things that you’re grateful for.”
Release your muscles and the stress they hold
“A lot of aches and pains aren’t muscular in their symptoms, but are muscular in their origins,” says flexibility specialist Martin Jefferies.
Here are his tips for tight neck and shoulder muscles:
With one shoulder, make the biggest, smoothest circle you can. Do this a few times, then put the opposite hand on the tip of that shoulder, push down gently on the shoulder, and make a few circles again. The resistance will take the dominance off the tightest muscles to disperse the pressure.
Lie down and let your head fall from one side to the other. It’s a very simple “mobilisation”, but it recognises that the muscles in your neck will never fully relax when you’re standing or sitting.
Massage your jaw before bed
According to sleep guru, Alison Anandi Francis, insomniacs often grind their teeth, which makes the masseter muscle in the jaw extremely tight, creating stress in the body.
“Try this massage for 30 seconds, five times a day before bed, and insomnia could be a thing of the past,” she says. “Find the corner of your jawbone with the pad of your middle finger and move the fingers in small circular motions. After 30 seconds, open the mouth as far as possible then relax. It should feel eased.”