Hi everyone and welcome back!
After being absent for one week because my wifi connection decided to die on me, I am back with one of my mental health posts. Today I want to share some quick and easy relaxation techniques for those moments where it feels like our brain can’t stop working and it seems impossible to silence it. This is something that happens to me very often, and it gets especially frustrating when I know I have important things to take care of, or when the chaos in my head is so loud that I can’t even fall asleep or eat or function like a normal human being.
These are some very simple tips, but I find they usually help me and, even if they don’t always work entirely, they allow me to at least calm down a bit and rest my nerves.
The Headspace app or other meditation apps/websites
I recently discovered the Headspace app, as I saw it mentioned in various blog posts and decided to test it out. It’s a nice little app with guided meditation exercises: you just put your headphones in and follow what the voice instructs you to do. You can set how long the session will be (3 – 5 – 10 – 20 minutes) and what aspects and emotions you want to work on (feeling more calm, enhancing your productivity and so on). This is the first guided meditation app I have tried out, and I am sure there are many other good ones out there, but what I really appreciated about Headspace is that the instructions are very simple and easy to follow. Although I am failing at keeping up and using it every single day, I love to use it at night before going to sleep in the moments when I am feeling very overwhelmed. I find that it helps me fall asleep a lot faster and deeper than I would without it.
The flipper technique
This is something I really don’t know how to call and how to describe, but it’s what I usually do when I have one insistent and intrusive thought that won’t give me peace or allow me to focus on anything else. I try to imagine some sort of box in my head and concentrate on keeping the inside of the box completely empty. When I feel an unwanted thought coming, I picture the little bars of a flipper (you know, the game where you have to keep the little ball from falling down) and I use them to kind of hit and throw the thought away from the box. Does that make any sense? It might be some weird technique that I just made up one day, but if you’ve ever had bad intrusive thoughts you’ll know that the only thing you want is to literally push them as far away as possible. This little flipper thing-y really helps me with this.
Focusing on your breath or on the weight of your body
Another technique is to focus on your breathing, inhaling and exhaling as calm as you can and feeling the oxygen enter your body, the movements of the muscles, your lungs filling up with air and letting it out again, paying attention exclusively to the act of breathing. Alternatively, another way that works when laying down or sitting on a surface is to notice how your body feels against it. To make it easier, I usually place my hand on something (the mattress, the floor, what table) and focus all my attention on that one spot.
Headphones & relaxing music
This is something that I not only do when I am overthinking, but also when I am in a crowded and noisy place and I feel overwhelmed by the chaos surrounding me. It was a lifesaver when I was sitting in our huge lecture hall before an exam, while all the other students were noisily chatting to each other or trying to revise. I always put on my headphones and play some relaxing music. What works best for me is the sound of water, especially rain (the sound of the ocean actually makes me sick after a while), but there are many playlists or compilations on Apple Music, Spotify or Youtube you can choose from.
Lullabies and music box Youtube playlists
When it’s 3a.m and I can’t fall asleep, I usually go on Youtube and play lullabies for babies or music box versions of classical music. I find them really calming and they often do a good job. I never turn on the volume too high, I just leave it at a level where it feels comfortable and where I know that if I fall asleep it won’t disturb me.
These are the main techniques that I use to try relax when I feel overwhelmed. I sometimes also do yoga or go for a walk, but these are things that take a bit more time and the situation doesn’t always allow you to just sit down on a mat and stretch, so I didn’t include them in my list (however they do work well too!).
What other relaxation techniques do you use? Please feel free to add them in the comments!