The modern world’s pace of life can feel fast, relentless and tiresome. To be honest, for many quality relaxation time may feel highly desirable but low on the priority list. But, frequent relaxation plays a huge role in our overall health and ability to effectively manage stress, and it should be at the top of your ‘to-do’ list as a selfless act of self-care.
Active intentional relaxation is an excellent preventative form of stress management and mindful mood regulation. Relaxation is also an important aspect of illness and addiction recovery helping the body to heal and reduce psychological distress.
‘When we relax, our body can release that stress response and allow our blood pressure and heart rate to regulate and get back to work balancing the brain and body functions properly, also leaving us in a state of calm.’
I believe we can all learn to rethink how to relax to make it achievable every day! It can be about both quality and quantity and does not have to mean hours at a day spa or valuable time away from your family, but rather simple effective relaxation techniques throughout your day, power naps and hot showers. When we attach mindfulness to any activity it shifts how we associate with that activity and the purpose behind the action, the same can apply to relaxation.
[This article is part of the simple self-care blog series, you might also like to read... Five Easy Ways You Can Use Food To Improve Your Mood]
Monica Jackman is an accredited Life Coach and IACP Counsellor and Psychotherapist who provides online and face-to-face coaching from Co. Waterford, Ireland. She specialises in Coaching with Neuroscience and understands the value of promoting relaxation and stress management behavioural strategies with her clients as part of achieving goals and reaching untapped potential.
Monica says ‘simple relaxation practices such as breathwork can produce feelings and states of mind that combat stress. It slows down the nervous system and soothes stress and anxiety by bringing oxygen to the parasympathetic nervous system. Conscious slowing of your breathing will produce calm, and a feeling of stillness. Breathing exercises can bring you back into the present moment allowing you to focus clearly and shift your mindset.’
‘Relaxation is a necessity, not a luxury.’ – Monica Jackman
Here are 3 simple ways relaxation can help to diminish stress and how to practice it;
Relaxation takes you out of your stress response
In times of stress, our body sends signals that we need help; it provides this by increasing our heart rate and blood pressure to help us “combat” our stressors. When we relax, our body can release that stress response and allow our blood pressure and heart rate to regulate and get back to work balancing the brain and body functions properly, also leaving us in a state of calm.
For those in early addiction recovery, the body will be in constant high states of stress while working through withdrawal symptoms and managing urges and triggers, so relaxation is an important strategy to focus on continually.
- Tip: Try using slow stretching or yoga movements to decrease your heart rate and blood pressure!
Regular relaxation puts you into “rest and digest” mode
That same stress response is the result of our brain launching our nervous system into fight or flight mode; this causes the release of adrenaline that spikes those physical symptoms. When we practice regular relaxation techniques, we begin to train our nervous system to slip into rest and digest more quickly and easily.
- Tip: Try practising breathwork when you begin to feel physical stress symptoms!
Relaxation helps make your times of rest be more impactful
Finding sustainable relaxation techniques and practising them often will begin to build a reference of techniques you can pull out whenever you experience a stressor or begin to feel the physical symptoms of stress or anxiety. This helps you process stress quickly and effectively, which leaves more time for rest rather than suffering through stress-induced insomnia.
- Tip: Try using progressive muscle relaxation to relax before going to sleep!
Breathwork such as simple controlled breathing exercises is an often-overlooked daily stress-relieving strategy. Monica says ‘the concept of breathwork for deep relaxation has been around for thousands of years and is free and available to all of us, every moment of every day if we just take five minutes of quiet time to breathe mindfully. Our body knows how to breathe and has been breathing on its own since the day we were born, we can use this natural resource to support us in our daily lives and help reduce both physiological and psychological stress. Relaxation is a necessity, not a luxury.’
Breathwork, stretching and muscle relaxation exercises can be practised daily as a responsive or preventative strategy to combat stress and help improve total well-being.
Monica Jackman is a member of the Womens Inspire Network. You can find out more and schedule an appointment with Monica Jackman at monicajackmancounselling.ie Follow her on Twitter @MonicaJackmanIE and Linkedin @MonicaJackman