5 Ways to Add Relaxation to Your Day

Relax today and keep reaping the benefits tomorrow.

Peathegee Inc/Blend Images/Getty Images

With the hustle and bustle of our day-to-day lives, it’s often a challenge to remember to slow it down. This may be particularly hard for people with anxiety disorders. In the case of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), for example, worry is more automatic than calm and relaxation is sometimes considered an unaffordable luxury.

Relaxation, however, is much more necessity than luxury. Taking the time to unwind recharges both your body and mind in the short-term.

It also helps to manage physical and psychological stress in the long-term. Start simple today – as simple as 5 minutes – and see what kinds of rewards you might reap tomorrow.

Engage Your Senses

Activate any one of your senses with awareness, and try to stay focused on the sensation. Notice the feel of the hot shower water as it hits your skin, or the scent of your body lotion as you rub it on your legs. Close your eyes to help you listen more closely to the sounds of your environment (or to some soothing music).

Pick a Mindful Moment

Select a part of your existing daily routine and aim to approach it mindfully – to be in the moment of your moment instead of multitasking. If you make coffee every morning, for example, spend a few minutes appreciating the size, look, and feel of the coffee grinds, the sound they make as you drop each spoonful into the coffeepot, the rhythmic noise and aroma of it brewing, the weight of the mug your pour it into, the taste of the liquid in your mouth and the sensation as you swallow.

Nearly any moment can be slowed down, every component savored. And if you find that this type of activity appeals to you, it may be an entrée to a more formal mindfulness practice which has been shown to promote cardiovascular health, mental health (including increased self-acceptance), and happiness.


It’s ironic that breathing makes its way onto every “how to relax” list, especially since we are literally all breathing all the time. But how often do you notice your breath? Our breath can seem like part of an invisible life force, but exerting some effort to notice it for a few minutes a day can help train your body to breathe better all day long. Breath-work has been shown to help reduce blood pressure in individuals with hypertension, and a specific type of yogic breath – pranayamic breathing – can help with anxiety (and has long been used by elite athletes to help with performance anxiety). To learn the basics of diaphragmatic or “belly” breathing, review these instructions or try a guided version available as a smartphone or tablet App.

Relax, Progressively

Progressive muscle relaxation is a tried and true relaxation exercise for people with anxiety. There are shorter and longer versions, but essentially, this is an activity in which muscles of the body are intentionally tensed and then released (usually progressing systematically from head to toe or vice versa, hence the name).

Progressive muscle relaxation, when practiced regularly, can teach an individual to notice muscle tension that may previously have gone unnoticed. When someone who has practiced progressive muscle relaxation becomes aware of tension, that individual will be able to let it go.

Take a Technology Time-Out

When it comes to relaxation, technology can certainly be harnessed for health. A daily alert can be programmed into your smartphone to remind you of your intention to relax. And any of a number of electronic Apps can deliver some of the relaxation tools described above to the palm of your hand. But the bright screen of your smartphone or tablet can also keep your brain in alert mode, even when you’re trying to wind down at night. Notifications – that you’ve received work e-mail for instance – can detract from focusing on pleasure reading or set off worry that’s apt to keep you up at night. Some version of a technology time-out may therefore be a relaxation exercise in its own right. Turn off your phone at a meal and focus more intently on your family’s discussion at the dinner table. Change the settings on your tablet so that you have a better chance of reading uninterrupted.

Whichever relaxation strategy you choose to try, remember that you are likely to benefit most from settling into a regular routine with it. Relaxation takes practice. The more you practice it, the more available it will be when you need it most.

Continue Reading