Relaxation: What is it and why is it so important?
Relaxation is a state of deep rest, where the body and mind are calm, free from stressors. Where the fight/flight/freeze response to is deactivated and no threats are immediately present. At state where no danger is detected, there is no need to panic. A state of all being well. Put simply, relaxation is the polar opposite of stress.
What happens when people are stressed?
When people are stressed they find that their heart rates are faster, blood pressure is higher, their breathing fast and shallow. Digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome can appear. Anxiety levels are elevated and concentration levels impaired.
Stress can have a negative effect on mood, blood sugar levels, menstrual cycles, symptoms of perimenopause and hormone levels. It can also result in frown lines and wrinkles and outbreaks of spots on the skin. It is thought that stress also has a negative impact on the immune system. Sleeping schedules are negatively affected with people experiencing insomnia, broken sleep or trouble getting to sleep. All these things make the body work super hard and can leave people feeling grumpy, exhausted and unable to cope.
Why is relaxation so important?
When people start to relax, they start to breathe more slowly and deeply, heart rate slows down to a normal level and digestive problems start to resolve. Being relaxed reduces the pressure on the body, putting it in an optimal state for it to heal and repair itself. This in turn lessens the effects of stress on the body. So being relaxed is very important to our health and wellbeing (and not a wanton act of self-indulgence as some trains of thought would have us believe!) Relaxation brings us back to ourselves and allows us space to think clearly.
Do we have to go to relaxation classes in order for it to count?
Absolutely not! There are many ways of relaxing. A day pottering around at home can be very very relaxing, especially if you have nothing specific planned and can be spontaneous in what you do (or don’t!) do. Making a pot of tea, reading a book, doing a crossword puzzle, listening to a podcast, or just snuggling under a blanket can be great, low energy ways of relaxing.
Having an allotment or spending time in the garden can be deeply relaxing, as can playing a musical instrument that you’ve got stuffed in the back of a cupboard. Or doing some art or writing a poem. It doesn’t need to be good art or a particularly amazing poem. Or whatever you love doing.
Being absorbed in a hobby for hours can help take your mind off whatever is causing you stress. It is always useful to have something you can do when life gets too stressful. I love writing so often turn to writing in some form when I need time out. Other people love going for a run, having a bath, taking a walk in a wood or paddling in the sea.
Classes that can aid relaxation
Whilst you don’t have to attend a class to help you relax, there are lots of classes that can help you to relax. From mindfulness and yoga nidra to yin yoga, qigong, tai chi and sound baths, all of these will help you relax by helping you to calm your mind and slow down your breathing.
If you wanted something more energetic, something like aerobics or zumba are great fun and relaxing with and will allow you to take some time out for yourself, away from the stresses and strains of day to day life.
Other great ways of aiding relaxation
There are also apps like Insight Timer, Headspace and Calm that can help. Or have a look on YouTube for meditations.
Having a regular reflexology treatment, reiki session or massage can be hugely relaxing. Especially if you know that you’ve got it booked into the diary in advance each month.
What do you do to relax? Please let me know in the comments below!
Sarah Cooper is a Reflexologist, Reiki Master Practitioner, Aromatherapist and Writer based in Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire, England.
To Book: https://www.sarahcooper.co.uk/book
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