The dictionary defines relaxation as the state of being free from stress and anxiety and the restoration of equilibrium after disturbance. While the definition is simply defined, the task of getting to this point of equilibrium is not as simple. Being free of stress and anxiety? How is this even achievable in today’s world? For many, life is a continual series of stress-filled moments and we sometimes turn to medication to feel more balanced. Statistics show that more than 18% of American adults are affected by anxiety disorders – that’s 40 million people, and anti-depressants are the third most common prescription in the US currently.
Let’s talk about what happens to our body when we get “stressed out”. When our nervous system is overwhelmed with stress, the body is flooded with chemicals that prepare us for “fight or flight” or “stress response”; vital for us humans because this stress response helps us to decide quickly whether to stay and deal with a threat or to run away to safety. But when it is constantly activated by the stresses of everyday life, it can wear your body down and take a toll on your emotional and physical health.
Although medication can be a quick fix to solving our feeling of overwhelmingness, it is only a band-aid, a temporary solution. Another, healthier option is to do something you might feel you already do on a daily basis – relax. But in reality, we don’t truly relax. For many of us, relaxation means sitting like a couch potato in front of the TV at the end of the day drinking a glass of wine. While this is enjoyable and gives us a feeling of escape, it does little to reduce the damaging effects of stress. To effectively combat stress, we need to activate the body’s natural relaxation response, and while there is no way to avoid all the stresses of the world, but we can certainly counteract the side effects it causes us.
This is where the relaxation response comes into play, a deep state of deep rest that is the opposite of the stress response. It stops the stress and brings our body and mind back into a state of balance; our heart rate slows down, breathing becomes slower and deeper, blood pressure becomes stabilized, muscles relax and blood flow to the brain increases. Aside from these calming physical effects, the relaxation response also increases energy and focus, combats illness, relieves aches and pains, heightens problem-solving abilities, and boosts motivation and productivity.
Following are some of the most commonly used relaxation strategiesyou can use to release stress and anxiety and can be practiced wherever you happen to be:
Finding the right relaxation technique(s) that suits you is key; choose one(s) that fits your lifestyle, personality and takes you away from your everyday thoughts. And remember that relaxation techniques are skills, and as with any skill, it takes practice. Be patient with yourself. Don't let your effort to practice relaxation techniques become yet another stressor!
1. What percentage of the US is affect by anxiety disorders?
2. How do we define relaxation?
A. Peaceful thoughts
B. Drinking a glass of wine at the end of the day
C. The state of being free from stress and anxiety and the restoration of equilibrium after disturbance
D. Knowing how to have fun and enjoy your life
E. Allowing the flow of energy to vibrate freely
3. What is the relaxation response?
B. Teaching your body not to respond to stress
C. Breathing exercises that calm the mind
D. A deep state of deep rest that is the opposite of the stress response
E. Focusing your attention on happy and peaceful thoughts
4. What exercises can we do to relax better:
A. Deep Breathing
B. Mindful Meditation
C. Visualization/Guided Imagery
D. Yoga and Self-Hypnosis
E. All the above
5. The relaxation response can increase:
A. Our ability to make quicker decisions
B. Prosperity in our lives
C. Our heart rates
D. Our sense of fear and sadness
E. Energy and focus and boost motivation and productivity
Relaxation can be referred to as that state of being free from anxiety and tension. It involves resting the mind and the body. With that being said, it is regarded as a useful method to anyone who wants to manage stress and anxiety issues.
Learning how to relax can bring a number of benefits. It helps improve the way an individual copes with stress. The latter is said to be the leading cause of physical and mental problems. In other words, we can improve our health by simply aiming to feel relaxed and to be free from any negative vibes brought by stress and anxiety.
Benefits of Relaxation
There are many good things that can happen to your body and mind when you practice relaxation techniques. These include:
1. a decrease on the effects of stress on the body such as tension and anxiety
2. the ability to sleep better at night
3. the ability to think more clearly
4. enhanced concentration, focus and memory
5. increased alertness and control
6. increased energy levels
7. increased ability to manage pain through changing pain messages
8. capacity to enjoy things more
Techniques in relaxation can be classified as either Mental, Physical or Therapeutic.
Mental relaxation, sometimes referred to as Meditation, brings physical and psychological benefits to the body. It has been shown that individuals who perform meditation tend to have fewer indications of physical and psychological illnesses which result to fewer visits to the doctor.
Physical relaxation revolves around the incorporation of breathing techniques which are deemed as one of the easiest ways to decrease the level of stress. It doesn’t need a lot of effort and requires no specific time or place. When executed with deep abdominal breathing, physical relaxation can help in reducing certain physical symptoms (hypertension, anxiety, depression) as well as emotional symptoms (nervousness and anger).
Therapeutic relaxation uses techniques in a therapy session that is conducted by a certified therapist or counselor. At times, a patient may be prescribed to take medication that can aid in relaxation. While the techniques involved are simple and can be done according to one’s own time, results are optimized if the patient is guided by a professional who is knowledgeable with the techniques.
Believe it or not, there are a number of daily activities and hobbies that can be useful for relaxation. Once you find an activity that you really enjoy doing, you should be able to focus on it and decide to really spend at least a few minutes of your time every day in order to get the best results.
1. listen to music
2. read a book or magazine
3. perform gentle walking or exercise
4. do some gardening or crafts work
5. start a new hobby (baking, crocheting, cooking, painting)
6. spend time with family or friends
7. spend time with a pet