Reducing Stress Through Planned Relaxation
Many of us unwind at the end of the day with a glass of scotch or by watching television.
Unfortunately, given the realities of modern living, it is difficult to find time for true relaxation.
Relaxation isn’t just about peace of mind or enjoying a favourite pass time. It is a process that
helps calm anxiety and helps your body and mind recover from everyday rush and stress.
Music, a long soak in the bath, or a walk in the park are effective relaxation techniques for some people, but for others it’s not so easy. For many relaxation does not just happen; it has to be planned.
In addition to the obvious psychological benefits of relieving stress and mental tension, deep relaxation, if practiced regularly, can strengthen the immune system and produce a number of other medically valuable physiological changes. Relaxation can improve how you physically respond to stress by:
• Slowing your heart rate
• Lowering blood pressure
• Slowing your breathing rate
• Increasing blood flow to major muscles
• Reducing muscle tension
You may also gain these benefits from relaxation techniques:
• Fewer physical symptoms, such as headaches and back pain
• Fewer episodes of anger and frustration
• Increased energy
• Improved concentration
• Greater ability to handle problems
• More efficiency in daily activities
Types of relaxation techniques
There are several main types of relaxation techniques. It doesn’t matter which technique you choose. What matters is that you try to practice relaxation regularly:
Autogenic relaxation. Autogenic means something that comes from within you. In this technique, you use both visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress. You repeat words or suggestions in your mind to help you relax and reduce muscle tension. You may imagine a peaceful place and then focus on controlled, relaxing breathing, slowing your heart rate, or different physical sensations, such as relaxing each arm or leg one by one.
Progressive muscle relaxation. In this technique, you focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group. This helps you focus on the difference between muscle tension and relaxation, and you become more aware of physical sensations. You may choose to start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively working your way up to your neck and head. Tense your muscles for at least five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat.
Visualization. In this technique, you form mental images to take a visual journey to a peaceful, calming place or situation. Try to use as many senses as you can, including smells, sights, sounds and textures. If you imagine relaxing at the ocean, for instance, think about the warmth of the sun, the sound of crashing waves, the feel of the grains of sand and the smell of salt water. You may want to close your eyes, sit in a quiet spot and loosen any tight clothing.
Other relaxation techniques include:
• Tai chi
Whether you have a lot of stress in your life or you’ve got it under control, you can benefit from learning relaxation techniques. Learning basic relaxation techniques isn’t difficult, but can yield tremendous benefits.
1. MayoClinic; Relaxationtechniques: Learnwaystocalmyour stress. March2007
2. Daniel Goleman; Relaxation: Surprising Benefits Detected. New York Times, May 1986