Relaxation is one of those words that is used frequently but what does it mean to you and how important is it that you make time for relaxing?
Relaxation, ‘to be free from tension and anxiety’, other descriptions might include being calm, experiencing tranquillity, enjoying a sense of peace or winding down. Perhaps you think that sitting in front of the TV, a few alcoholic drinks or just the act of sleeping provides all the relaxation you need? Unfortunately, none of these really allow your brain and body to switch off and let go. In order to really relieve stress, both mental and physical, that builds up through our daily lives we need to apply a little deliberate effort and this brings some true benefits to our health.
We seem to try and fit an increasing amount of activities into the finite amount of time we have in our daily lives. We book ourselves to ‘do’ something every waking moment. Our children are committed to a ream of after-school and weekend activities and if we are on a bus or train most are found peering at our phones, tablets or laptops, we bombard our minds with information and stimulation constantly. Do we ever make time to just switch off, is it even important that we do? Do you ever get that horrible sense of overwhelm? Too much to do and never enough time? Time related stress is very common, that feeling that there isn’t enough hours in the day.
What we can forget is that we have complex biological clocks. It’s natural for the brain to take breaks, it is not a failure to zone out for a while, it’s part of our bodies maintenance system. It we fight the desire we are compromising our health.
Perhaps your emotions are erratic and even though you are always ‘busy’ how productive are you in reality? Stress impacts one’s ability to think clearly as you enter fight or flight mode. All those stress hormones start to play havoc with your bodies complex systems. We have not yet evolved to differentiate between mountains of emails or a to do list as long as the Inca Trail to being chased by a predator, our body reacts to any kind of stress in the same way.
So just as it’s good to exercise you now have permission to include relaxation in your health regime!
So here are 7 ways to make relaxation part of your day
Make time for you, relaxation should be a priority. Schedule the time and find a space where you won’t be disturbed, everyone deserves this and if this is an issue for you it’s time to set a few boundaries, we are only talking 10 – 15 mins. Like any new thing you have to commit and get used to including something new into your day. Don’t make it just another thing to add to your list but instead press ‘pause’ and enjoy doing nothing. Strangely you will find that far from hindering achievement it will help you think more clearly and remain focused for longer once you hit ‘play’.
Breathe. Just taking some deep breaths can make a huge difference to your stress levels. It is particularly useful if you make your out breath a little longer than your in breath. This engaged the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing your heart rate. Try to create a ritual, focus on your breathing once a twice during the morning and afternoon. Think of a trigger to remind you, perhaps when you stop for a cuppa or when you complete a regular task. Go on try it now, breath in for 3 and out for 5, 3 times, feel those shoulders dropping a little?
Practice both Physical and Mental Relaxation. Tight muscles often just get tighter and mental tension similarly builds up in the same way if it goes unchecked. Tension and stress build up like air in a balloon and unless you deflate there are inevitably consequences. Progressive relaxation is a great tool, focus on the individual parts of the body starting at the head or feet and think or visualising the muscles relaxing, feeling soft and relaxed, it will soon have positive effects. If you haven’t done anything like this before be patient and persevere. I am a big fan of yoga which provides both physical and mental release, if you want to try it there is bound to be a class near you. The British Wheel of Yoga site can help you find one.
Make Contact with Nature. There is something amazing that happens when you get out into green spaces. There is a restorative energy that calms and balances the human spirit. Pets also have a calming effect, they live in the moment, stretch and don’t worry about tomorrow, a philosophy we should perhaps try to follow.
Mind Housekeeping. When stress and overwhelm set in, our thoughts can feel out of control. Meditation is a big buzz word now but you can just start by sitting comfortably and counting each breath up to 10 and repeating the process, your mind WILL wander, when you notice, go back to counting your breath and just observing what happens to your body. Try for 2 or 3 minutes to start with, it will help bring down your heart rate, make you feel calmer and more in control. Getting out of thought mode and into physicality is amazing effective. There is a wonderful resource that can help guide you with lots of advice on meditation just check out www.headspace.com.
Eat, drink and sleep well. Fuelling your body with healthy foods and keep hydrated are of course important as is a good nights sleep. Starting the day weary and with less sleep than your body deserves is not a great start. It adds to stress levels and leads to underperformance, try to keep to a routine and aim for 7 hour to 8 hours. Try the progressive relaxation technique before you go to sleep to get your muscles relaxed and ready for sleep.
Give yourself a monthly treat. How about cutting out the snacks and coffee’s and putting the money toward a really relaxing reflexology treatment or massage. Reflexology helps your body re-balance and deflates that stress balloon. Great for health maintenance as well as working alongside conventional medical treatments. For more information go to www.wellbeing4u.net.