Relaxation for mental health | Advice for Young People | Jigsaw

Relaxation for mental health

Relaxation for mental health

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

How many times have you heard the words ‘just relax’. Sometimes it’s easier said than done.

It can also be quite annoying to have someone telling you to relax, when there seems to be a lot on and out of your control.

But often, life can be so busy that we often forget to take a break and step back a bit. It’s not unusual to have several things on our mind all at once. Things like exams, family, friends, finances, and the future can feel overwhelming. Feeling stressed or tense can be a signal that it’s time to take a break and have some downtime. Relaxation is important for our mental health.

Pile of rocks stacked on each other by the water

What do we mean by relaxation?

We all have different needs and coping mechanisms. What is relaxing for one, may not be relaxing for another. Some people find sitting down reading a book or watching Netflix relaxing. Others prefer to be active, like going for a walk, playing a sport or doing some yoga. More formal practices such as meditation may come to mind. Relaxation simply involves taking a break from everyday demands.

Benefits of relaxation

Relaxation can positively impact our mental health and well being. It can:

  • Help relieve some of the uncomfortable feelings associated with stress and anxiety
  • Enable us to feel calmer and better equipped to manage everyday tasks
  • Allow us to think clearly
  • Improve our concentration and memory
  • Helps us make better choices and decisions
  • Help process our emotions and focus on what matters.

If we notice signs of anxiety or stress, this can be a signal that it’s time to take some time out.

When to practice relaxation

If we notice signs of anxiety or stress, this can be a signal that it’s time to take some time out. However, we don’t have to wait until these feelings arise. Relaxation is something we can try to incorporate into our daily routine to support our mental health and well-being.

Schedule time throughout the day to unwind. This can be one big break or a few small breaks. Use this relaxation time to do whatever helps you to feel calm and satisfied. Relaxation doesn’t have to be long, it can simply be taking a five minute break away from whatever it is that you are doing.

Relaxing activities

These are some of the simple things we can find joy in:

  • Take time to read a book or magazine
  • Have a nice warm bubble bath
  • Cook a meal or do some baking
  • Play with your pet if you have one
  • Have a cup of herbal tea
  • Listen to some music, dance or sing along.
Girl with glasses reading a book
Mark, 22
Jigsaw Volunteer
To look after my mental health I’m taking the time each day to go on a long way and connect with nature. I’ve also gotten into reading to relax.

Relaxation practices

Controlled breathing is a simple yet powerful way to relax. Taking a deep breath in through your nose, holding it and breathing out through your mouth. Controlled breathing can help reduce physical tension that can often build up as a result of stress. We have included a short animated video below to illustrate this technique.

Visualisation is a relaxation technique which involves imagining a calming scene in your mind. Whether it’s lying on an isolated beach or standing at the top of a mountain. Focus on what you can see, hear, smell, touch, taste in your mind. Visualisation can help when our mind is overloaded with unhelpful thoughts.

Meditation can help us to connect with the present moment and with ourselves, how we are feeling and our emotions which in turn can support relaxation. There are now several online resources and apps available to help us to engage in daily meditation.

Active relaxation such as yoga, pilates or some basic stretching can beneficial for both mental and physical wellbeing.

Taking time out in nature can be therapeutic. Take notice of your surroundings and enjoy the sense of inner peace it can bring when we pay attention to the simple things.

Watch: One minute breathing practice

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