Top 10 Instant Relaxation Techniques – Part Two

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” – Baba Ram Dass

In my previous post, Top 10 Instant Relaxation Techniques – Part One, I explored five helpful relaxation tips highlighted in a recent WebMD article.  During times of intense stress or heightened emotional states, it is important to feel capable of calming oneself down and regaining one’s emotional balance. Without effective relaxation tools, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, frazzled, or even numb during periods of stress.  You can begin to get familiar with simple relaxation techniques so that when stress comes into your life, you feel prepared to handle it.

Instant Relaxation

5 More Instant Relaxation Techniques:

(6) Show Some Love

You can actively induce the relaxation response through hugging a loved one, cuddling with your pet, or having a caring conversation with a friend.  Psychologist Deborah Rozman, PhD, co-author of Transforming Stress, explains that engaging in these types of loving activities with others will noticeably reduce stress levels.  The idea is that social interaction with loved ones (including loved pets!) helps the brain to work better and potentially come up with new solutions to problems.

Some studies have even shown that loving or caring physical contact (e.g., hugging a loved one or petting your dog or cat) actually lowers blood pressure and decreases stress hormones.  The next time that you are feeling frazzled, stressed, or overwhelmed, notice if you have the opportunity to ask a loved one for a hug or for a friend to lend you an ear.  We are social creatures, and the importance of seeking out loving and supportive social contact should not be minimized.  Take the time to assess your own social support network and actively maintain and improve the important relationships in your life.

(7) Try Self-Massage

Darrin Zeer, author of Lover’s Massage and Office Yoga, suggests engaging in a quick and easy self-massage technique when you are unable to recruit the assistance of a loved one or professional:

  • Place both hands on your shoulders and neck.
  • Squeeze with your fingers and palms.
  • Rub vigorously, keeping shoulders relaxed.
  • Wrap one hand around the other forearm.
  • Squeeze the muscles with thumb and fingers.
  • Move up and down from your elbow to fingertips and back again.
  • Repeat with other arm.

(8) Take a Time-Out

When you are feeling intense emotions, overwhelmed, or out of control in some way, it is wise to take some time on your own to cool down before reengaging with other people.  Jeff Brantley, MD, author of Five Good Minutes In the Evening, suggests seeking out a quiet place to sit or lie down while the stressful situation is “put on hold.” During this quiet alone time, engage in deep breathing or practice a brief mindfulness exercise.

Slowing your breathing allows your heart rate to return to its resting rate and allows your mind to become quiet enough for you to be capable of effectively processing information.  Allow yourself sufficient time to rest and regroup before reentering the stressful situation.  Recognize that you will not be able to be fully present or an effective problem-solver as long as your body is in a heightened physiological state of arousal.  Give yourself the time to calm the body and quiet the mind before reengaging.

(9) Take a Musical Detour

Take a break from the stressful situation to play some soothing or uplifting music that does not trigger intense emotional responses (i.e., avoid playing songs that remind you of emotional events).  A brief respite from the stressful encounter through listening to music is a wonderful opportunity to engage in an “everyday mindfulness” practice.  Focus all of your senses on being fully present in the moment.  Really notice the sounds and tempo of the music.  Slow your breath and mindfully reconnect with your body.

Research has suggested that listening to classical music can have the same calming effects as taking 10 mg of Valium.  Why not reap the natural benefits of calming your body and mind through listening to soothing classical music?  Allow your body a chance to calm your breath and heartbeat.  Notice your thoughts come and go without becoming fused to them.  Be fully present in the moment as you listen to the music, allowing all thoughts and feelings related to the stressful event to fade away for that moment in time.

(10) Take an Attitude Break

Your heart’s rhythm can shift from stressed to relaxed in as little as 30 seconds.  Choose to shift out of your stressful physical and emotional state by focusing on positive outcomes rather than negative ones.  You can shift your attitude without taking a “Pollyanna-ish” approach.  Allow yourself to realistically assess the potential positive implications of whatever is causing you stress.  Begin to reframe the way that you are thinking about the situation by considering what hidden opportunities may lie within what troubles you.  What is there to learn or gain from this situation?  How will you be stronger or better as a result?

Another way to shift into a positive attitude is to engage in a visualization exercise that encourages you to focus on something positive or enjoyable.  Think of something real or imagined that triggers a positive feeling inside. Focus on as many details about that positive person, place, thing, or event as you can.  Bring your full mindful awareness to noticing all aspects of it.  Allow your muscles to relax, your face to soften, and your breathing to become slow and steady.

What are your typical strategies for dealing with stressful situations?  Do you tend to feel competent in how you handle stress, or do you wish that you felt better equipped in some way?  While some people may have been born with an easygoing temperament and the ability to deal with stress well, most people have to actively learn techniques to manage stress.  The good news is that these techniques can be learned.  How will you be better prepared to meet the next inevitable stressful situation in life more effectively as a result of actively practicing relaxation techniques?

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Kovacs, J. V. Blissing out: 10 relaxation techniques to reduce stress on-the-spot [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Featured image: Bonsai and Monk by h.koppdelaney / CC BY-ND 2.0

About Laura K. Schenck, Ph.D., LPC

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Northern Colorado. Some of my academic interests include: Dialectical Behavior Therapy, mindfulness, stress reduction, work/life balance, mood disorders, identity development, supervision & training, and self-care.


  1. Amy Looper on October 2, 2011 at 6:28 am

    Hey Laura!

    AWESOME!! Your posts on relaxation have been great suggestions for me to remember next time I get stressed out. I’ve used the music suggestion to get me in the creative thinking and doing zone frequently for years but had not fully thought about the “real” reason “why” music inspires me creatively until reading your posts. It probably relaxes me and releases some endorphins so the creative juices flow. I just thought it sort of drowned out the other noise. It’s always so interesting to read how you tie it all together post after post and how all of this is so interconnected. Thanks so much for your thoughtful and timely writing all around! You rock!


    • Laura on October 5, 2011 at 8:48 am

      I’m so glad to hear that you have found my posts on relaxation techniques to be helpful! I always find it interesting to notice what techniques or strategies people seem to naturally gravitate towards on their own. That makes sense that you have a natural tendency to feel relaxed through listening to music. I always find it helpful to read about strategies that I find helpful and then learn about new ones to integrate into my larger “tool kit.” Thanks so much for your support!

  2. MrKappa on February 18, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Personally? I’m learning that when I get manic some tones, help calm me. Not music, only tones, they are so powerful though I am reluctant to resort to them. Thank you.

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