Every day, in our busy lives, we all face stressful situations. Sometimes they may be minor annoyances. At other times, they may be deep frustrations. Most of us don’t even try to do something to unwind from all the issues that knot us up. We take irritations and tensions as par for the course.
But, letting ourselves live in a world full of strains and pressures can erode our health eventually. Living with anxiety is not a natural state for humans. We are meant to live in peace, bliss, happiness, and ease.
Psychologists have long been saying we have all developed an automatic “stress response” that makes our bodies unnaturally tense, overloaded with hormones, and ever-ready to face threats. The problem is that we see everything around us as perils – so we get trapped in a state of constantly anticipating danger and expecting to fight fiercely for survival.
In contrast to this “stress response,” a new idea called the “relaxation response” was first propounded by Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist, and editor of the Harvard Medical School Special Health Report. In his idea, he stressed that people must be taught how to consciously create and benefit from rest – because most of us have forgotten how to relax. If you, too, want to relearn the art of easing up, try these ideas below.
There is a direct connection between letting go of tensions and chronic health conditions such as obesity, cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension. When these ailments combine with other hereditary factors, they all have a multiplicative effect on the heart. Signs of diabetes, reasons for high blood pressure, ways to reduce cholesterol, and prevention of obesity require timely treatment and concurrent strain-relieving practices to minimize exacerbation of these ailments.
According to Mayo Clinic, methods of calming the body and mind can also have other medical benefits – such as slowing heart rate and breathing rate; lowering blood pressure, stress hormone levels, muscle tension, and chronic pain; improving digestion, focus, mood, and sleep quality; and, controlling blood sugar levels, blood flow to muscles, and fatigue.
According to Justine Clarabut, writing in WellBeing People, there is an excellent quote from Mark Black that reads, “Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.”
She suggests that staying in a relaxed state through proper training of mind and body can help in many psychological ways – like reducing anger and frustration and boosting confidence to handle problems; helping positive thinking and problem-solving; enabling better time and priority management; creating an appreciation of healthful exercise, food and sleep; and facilitating healthy relationships with supportive family and friends.
Attempt any of the systems below for at least 20 minutes a day, and for at least a week, before you experiment with another method. As with any skill, you’ll realize the best approach for you, and you’ll then improve your results with practice.
According to Healthline, in this system you repeat auto-suggestions in your mind to help reduce muscle tightness. You focus on different parts of your body and imagine and affirm a relaxed state. For example, focusing on your heart, you could say in your mind, “I am now so calm. My heartbeat is comforting.” Both the imagery and the words can lull you.
Beginning with your toes, tighten them as you focus on them – and then relax your toes. Then do this with your heels, ankles, calves, knees, thighs … and so on, till you tense and relax each body part right up to the top of your head. End with a deep breath and a good stretch from head to toe.
A recording of a voice reading a visualization script (set to soothing music or sounds) can lead you to take an imaginary trek into a lush forest, a green glade, a lonely island, or a deep cave … somewhere in the wilderness without habitation. As you listen with your eyes closed, you get transported to a different, quiet world. When returning to your surroundings, you carry that deep serenity with you.
Just sit still in a quiet place, and focus on your deep indrawn breath and your equally deep exhalation. Your naturally slow breathing then becomes familiar to you as your normal cadence. The frenetic speed of real life will feel alien to you after you learn to appreciate your slow natural breathing rhythm and see how it pacifies you.
Massage is a way to get someone else to rub or knead your body with alternate hard and soft pressure strokes. Weariness often manifests on our back and shoulders, and a therapeutic and scientific massage can remove all the knots and kinks in our musculoskeletal framework and leave us feeling loosened up.
There are many styles of meditation, depending on which system you follow. But the basic idea is to let your mind follow a mantra, a chant, or a repeated prayer with mindfulness … to go beyond the world around you to the deep stillness that resides inside you. Once you come out of that state of inner bliss, the feeling of being distanced from your chaotic surroundings lingers on – and, with time, it becomes a natural state of mind.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, Tai Chi is an ancient, low-impact, Chinese martial art involving slow movements and breath. It is not about any single move, but more about a series of 108 fluid motions performed like a slow dance sequence in action. You find calmness by focusing on your movements during each session.
Any exercise – aerobics, calisthenics, or pilates – helps the body shed its excess nervous energy. But among the most relaxing activities is the ancient practice of yoga, where the body is made to adopt various postures that are very scientific. Your mind becomes still as you hold the poses with appropriate breathing. The word “yoga” means “unity.” Yoga gives you unity of mind and body and the unity of yourself with the leisurely Universe.
According to Cleveland Clinic, there are several involuntary actions the human body performs that signal stress. For example, our heartbeats may race, nerves may twitch, veins may throb, and muscles may tighten. In biofeedback, we get wired to electronic sensors that signal whenever such involuntary internal body events occur. A therapist can then teach us techniques to handle the typical problem areas each of us uniquely has.
Almost everything around us can be turned from a stress stimulus to a tranquility stimulus. Instead of trying to escape our surroundings, what if we could focus on the quiet side of everything as we let go of whatever about it irks us? We could choose to look at soothing, gentle art instead of harsh, dark art … listen to lilting music instead of nerve-jangling beats … inhale pleasing aromas and scents instead of toxic vehicle fumes … or let cool water drench us and wash away the stickiness of grime … all this is a form of release therapy.
Stress response can be neutralized by following practices that enhance the relaxation response. There are many techniques to try, and one of them may best suit you. The ultimate point, though, is to relax for the sake of your wellness. And, as the center of your body-mind complex, your heart especially needs to be at peace and stay happy. Stay heart-healthy. Be a Zinda Dil.