It has been said that we are living in a stress and anxiety saturated world. Trying to manage multiple stressors can take its toll on our health and well-being. The physiological response to stress is real and begins as our brain is stimulated by a stressor. The hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenals form a biochemical pathway releasing multiple stress hormones, thus leading to our stress response. Stress has become so pervasive that many professions have turned to the development of wellness programs aimed at improving overall health, including the effective management and reduction of stress. Today, professionals of all types are encouraged to practice self-care.
Self-care embodies many elements with the aim of improving an individual’s well-being, thus leading to a better quality of life. One of those elements is learning how to “de-stress”. More specifically, by incorporating the practice of deep relaxation as a means to “intercept” our response to stress, thus giving our body (and mind) the opportunity to unwind and renew. Learning to “let go” of daily stressors has a profoundly positive affect on many facets of our wellbeing.
The benefits of deep relaxation are many. If practiced routinely, studies have shown that it can decrease anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate. It has also shown to be effective in pain relief and insomnia. It has the effect of desensitizing the bodies senses to stressful stimuli. Clearly, a deep state of relaxation can positively impact our physical and emotional response to stress.
The greatest challenge that most of us face when considering doing something new is simply getting started. It is very helpful to reach the realization that committing to the practice of deep relaxation enhances your control over your own stress response, behaviors/emotions and can improve your quality of life. Ask yourself, how will my life improve when I reduce and manage stress? There is great power and motivation found in linking anything we do to its ability to protect and benefit our body and mind.
There are many approaches to achieving deep-relaxation. To be transparent, I am a practitioner of hypnosis. Many of the techniques referenced are used in hypnosis, but can also be found in the practice of mindfulness and meditation. You may want to explore these very helpful and effective practices as well.
In the book, “The Relaxation Response”, by Herbert Benson, he outlines what are considered essential elements of relaxation:
With these elements in place, you are well on your way to enjoying the benefits of deep relaxation.
A great place to begin is with deep breathing. This practice allows you to focus on your breathing, learning to breath in and out slowly and deeply. As you do so, notice that you are becoming calmer, more relaxed, and refreshed. Telling yourself that you are becoming for relaxed with each easy, gentle breath that you take.
Deep progressive muscle relaxation is also a very beneficial technique. With eyes closed, you can picture and imagine relaxation spreading throughout your body from the top of your head down to the tips of your toes. Imagine each area of your body becoming loose and limp as relaxation flows warmly through each muscle. You might also find it helpful to tense parts of your body fora few seconds and then release that tension.
Another beneficial technique is the use of visualization or guided imagery. With eyes closed, you begin to focus on a relaxing scene or place. Using your vivid imagination, you can visualize your most relaxing, serene, and peaceful place. Feel calmness and relaxation as it washes over you in this very special place. Think of it as going on a vacation in your mind. The beauty of this is that you can go there whenever you want. It is your special place to retreat and let go of day-to-day concerns.
I know what you must be thinking…how do I do any of these things without prompting or guidance? Granted, it does take some practice in order to discover what works best for you. The good news is that there is an incredible amount of online resources and apps, designed as a guide to achieve deep relaxation and effectively de-stress. A brief internet search will yield more resources than you can use in a lifetime. The key is to search verified sites from reputable sources. Look at customer ratings and testimonials. Seek advice and direction from experts in the areas of self-care, stress management, mental health, counseling, meditation, hypnosis…
Ultimately, it is your decision. I encourage you to decide to improve wellness through relaxation. You can move your life away from constant “distressing” to one of “de-stressing”, whenever you choose to. In the words of my favorite philosopher, Yoda…Do or do not…there is no try! Are you ready to start improving your life today? I am happy to be a resource for you. If I can assist in anyway, contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org