As lockdowns lift and the world gatherings increase, many rejoice in being able to get back to a form of their pre-pandemic lifestyles. Our diaries are filling up with work events, overdue weddings, and missed birthdays. Yet, rushing back into the daily hustle of societal pressures can leave us feeling stressed and exhausted. Burnout is on the rise and this frightening fact has led many to seek support on how to live a balanced life.

We may know how to look after our health with a good diet, exercise, sleep, and self-care but do we truly understand the value of relaxation? Relaxing is an essential step for optimum wellbeing that we should all be incorporating. Research has shown that taking the time to check in and shift into a state of calm can promote productivity and performance. With National Relaxation Day on August 15th, we are all encouraged to slow and and unwind. At VOYA, we believe that there are always ways to be more relaxed with our top tips for de-stressing.

Start with Stillness

In the morning, upon waking, your body is at its most relaxed. This is the best time to harness your potential for the day ahead. It’s easy to fall into the habit of hitting the snooze button or glancing at emails on your phone. However, these habits take us out of a relaxed state. When you go back to sleep, you usually feel more tired than when you first woke up. And if you look at your phone then your mind starts its race of nonstop planning and organising.

We cannot control external circumstances but we can start the day on a positive note. Having a mindful morning ritual will set the tone for your day and help you to be focused, content, and optimistic. You can start by setting aside five minutes for meditation or breathing techniques. Try to work your way up to 15 minutes after a few weeks. To get you started check out this 10 minute morning meditation video.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being conscious and aware of what's happening in the current moment. Practicing mindfulness is one of the best things you can do to stay relaxed throughout the day. Some people equate mindfulness to an absence of thought, but that's not accurate; what's missing from your head is distractions. The mind tends to jump from one thought to another randomly, like a wild monkey jumping from tree to tree. In Buddhism, this concept is referred to as the “monkey mind,” but it’s true for all of us who live in the modern world.

By starting a meditation practice and tuning into your breath and body, you become more aware of your thoughts - and that monkey mind. Some thoughts might make sense while other thoughts seem to come out of nowhere. One powerful benefit of meditation is being able to detach from habitual thought patterns. This helps move you into a compassionate, proactive state of being rather than a reactive one. Put your hand on your heart to hear your inner wisdom.

How meditation can help you de-stress

Enhance Your Awareness

When we close our eyes and focus on our inner world, it may feel like we’re shutting off. However, it is the complete opposite because when our mind is clear, our other senses become sharper.

By bringing your attention to your body and noticing its movement, you tune into its natural rhythm. You will begin to notice the air breeze on your face or the ticking of a clock.  Practices like this help regulate an over-active nervous system by sending signals throughout the body letting it know you are safe. A stressed nervous system sends out hormones that speed up your heart, increasing the intensity of your instinctual fight or flight response.

Allowing yourself to go into a deeper state of relaxation can slow down the heart rate, reduce blood pressure and reduce anxiety, thus leaving us better equipped to take on any challenge.

Relax with a Body Scan

Body scanning is a visualisation technique that blends ‘breath focus’ with progressive muscle relaxation. It involves paying attention to parts of the body and bodily sensations in a gradual sequence from feet to head. By mentally scanning yourself, you bring awareness to every single part of your body, noticing any aches, pains, tension, or general discomfort. A body scan can help boost your awareness of the mind-body connection. For those of you who are not familiar here's a great and easy to follow tutorial video.

Reflect and Journal

While it’s not always easy to step back from our commitments, it’s still important to have alone time to reflect and refresh. Even better if you can complement your alone time with a journaling ritual to spark inspiration, promote creativity, and improve problem-solving. It has been proven that journaling is an excellent tool for self-development and reducing stress. Many who journal often cite the meditative and relaxation benefits of it. Journaling gives you time and space to look at a situation from a different perspective, thus allowing you to reap the benefits of transforming inner awareness into goal-directed action.

Add a natural scented candle or diffuser to your ritual for an added boost of comfort. Smell has a powerful link to our emotions and certain scents can invoke memories. You can make your space unique and tailored to your liking. VOYA have a range of home fragrances to help you set different moods. The Coconut and Jasmine scent will transport you to the white sandy beaches of the Caribbean while Cedarwood and Bergamot will enchant a forest wood scent.

The benefits of journaling

Embrace Breaks

Take regular micro-breaks throughout the day to support the return to a relaxed state. The 21st-century office lifestyle of sitting at a desk or in a car for endless hours each day may sound relatively harmless but may be profoundly harmful over time. These negative effects can be prevented by creating a good, ergonomic working environment.

Start by stretching your legs and neck or going for a walk. Any physical activity like this will help prevent muscle pain and strain. To protect your back, consider a standing desk or sitting on an exercise ball. For your eyes, too much screen time will make them tired and dry. Follow the 20-20-20 rule to protect your eyes - Every 20 minutes, give your eyes a 20-second break by looking at something 20 feet away from your screen.

Wind Down Before Bed

A refreshing slumber can boost your mood and increase concentration. While you sleep, your brain processes emotions and memories. When you cut that short, you tend to have more negative emotional reactions and fewer positive ones. When you don’t get adequate sleep, your body becomes stressed, and your cortisol levels rise. Harnessing the power of sleep requires you – your brain, mind, and body – to be in a relaxed state before bedtime.

How we prepare ourselves for bed both mentally and physically is as important as how many hours we get. Investing in a bedtime routine is a great way to set yourself for the restful night that you deserve. You can do this by creating a comfortable and clean sleep environment with fresh sheets and dim lights. While sipping on a warm beverage after a soothing bath is a perfect way to unwind, we don’t always have the time or energy to prepare it.

Using a pillow spray is a simple yet effective way to help you drift off faster. Try VOYA’s Pillow Heaven luxuriously spray to envelope you in tranquillity with notes of Camomile, and Lavender, designed to be spritzed onto your pillow before bedtime to help you enjoy a peaceful slumber.

Voya Relaxing Pillow Spray