Here’s the thing about relaxation: It’s kind of a paradox. Most physicians have little free time, are running themselves ragged, and need to relax. However, relaxation takes an investment of time and effort. Despite what you might think, effective stress management doesn’t require hours of chanting mantras or weeks spent in isolation in the Himalayas. You can alter your inner state in a matter of minutes using these scientifically validated approaches, lowering cortisol levels and your heart rate in the process. The key is to pick one that you like and practice consistently.
6 deep breaths
We’re putting the easiest one first. Even you have time to take 6 deep breaths when you’re feeling stressed. With enough repetition and attention, you can train yourself to notice when your nervous system is shifting from a parasympathetic to a sympathetic state, and use this approach to create a sense of ease.
A 2005 study published in Hypertension Research looked at how deep breathing affects blood pressure and pulse rate. Researchers divided participants into two groups. One took 6 deep breaths over 30 seconds while visiting a doctor’s office. The other group’s BP and pulse were measured after simply sitting for 30 seconds at the office. The group that did the breathing exercise had significantly reduced SBP, DBP, and PR, compared to baseline.
Listen to music
For the laziest among us, this may be the best way to go. You don’t have to do anything other than put on some relaxing music and tune in. This 2018 literature review lays out how music affects the bioelectrical rhythms of the brain, producing a more relaxing state. Specifically, the reviewers write, music increases alpha brainwave activity (typical of meditative states) and decreases beta activity (typical of our normal, waking state).
This has useful clinical applications, according to the review. For the purpose of relaxation, evidence suggests that music helps manage feelings of depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia symptoms.
“Pleasant music either helps patients enter a state of tranquillity or distracts them from unpleasant feelings by stimulating the auditory receptors,” the authors wrote.
Here’s a multi-genre song list to help you relax.