The mind and body are inextricably linked. First day of class? Big presentation coming up? Worried about your dad? Serving at tennis? Your blood pressure rises and your heart speeds up. You can feel your muscles tense and your stomach churning. Your adrenal gland is pumping out cortisol and adrenaline to speed up your heart and respiration, enhance energy utilization, and trigger your immune system. You feel stressed.
It works the other way too. If your heart speeds up you feel pressured. Relax the body, and the mind relaxes too.
Relax the body, relax the mind
You can't just tell yourself to 'relax' and let that tension go. But you can learn four simple techniques to relax your body, and your mind will follow. They can be done anywhere.
Now pay attention to the spot at the base of your skull and the center of your shoulder blades. With your jaw still relaxed, drop your shoulders just slightly. Can you feel that spot release its tension? Now think about your wrists. Relax your hands. Feel warmth flow into them.
Tip: If you're having trouble releasing the muscles, start by tensing them. Clench your jaw and then release it. Tighten the muscles and then let them go. With practice you'll be able to go directly into relax.
Learning to relax on the go can help short term when you feel that rise in anxiety and help you focus on what you need to do next. The more your practice them, the more effective they become. Doing them often is one of the best habits to cultivate to reduce stress in your life.