It seems our lives get busier and more stressful by the day. We know constant stress takes a dangerous toll on our health – physical, mental and emotional. While we may physically sit down and “relax” often our mind is still racing which is still producing tension.
Many people find it difficult, if not downright impossible, to really relax in a way that confers health benefits such as:
Slowing the heart rate, reducing blood pressure
Reducing risk of stroke
Slowing the breathing rate
Reducing the activity of stress hormones
Increasing blood flow to major muscles
Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
Improving concentration and mood
Reducing anger and frustration
Maintaining healthy weight
Improving skin (healing psoriasis and acne more quickly)
Well sounds great, right? But how do you reap all those benefits when you are so busy? Well you can begin practicing “active relaxation.” If you are unfamiliar with that term it can mean a few different things. Basically, it is choosing activities that contribute to a deep sense of well-being, centeredness, peacefulness, calm, and good health. Some experts recommend doing progressive muscle relaxation exercises, where you slowly tense and then relax each muscle group, individually.
You can also meditate, pray, listen to relaxing music, take a leisurely walk outdoors, work in your garden, do a word search or puzzle, knit, crochet, color, visit a friend, play with your pet, read an uplifting book – whatever means “relaxation” to you. Some people find washing dishes relaxing. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you take some time each day to unplug and unwind fully. In my Today’s the Day plan I call it rebooting.
Even just turning off your phone for 5 minutes, closing your eyes and focusing on your breath quiets your mind and realigns it to healthier, relaxed rhythms. I think it is important to just do one thing that requires your full attention but that is not emotionally or physically taxing. Any super light physical activity you enjoy that keeps your mind occupied will allow your body to truly relax.
Many people find visualization techniques where you imagine a peaceful setting and focus on controlled, deep breathing while speaking a positive statement to yourself is also a good way to reset. EFT, Emotional Freedom Techniques, is an effective and very easy way to counteract stress and realign yourself.
Chronic stress is incredibly destructive and intentionally setting aside a few minutes each day to counteract the negative effects is well worth the small investment of time and effort.
What is your favorite way to practice active relaxation?
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