It is said that if you take a look at a dog or a cat when they are sleeping, they are perfectly relaxed. They know how to do it. Their brains have been switched off, their bodies are free of tension and they have gone into peaceful, sleep mode.
Unfortunately, and because of our stressful lives, many of us have lost the ability to do this. We need to relearn how to relax again. In fact just owning a pet can be as good a way to relax as any other! And watching a video of a cat or dog and their antics on You-Tube will always give you a laugh - another good form of relaxation.
If we suffer from too much stress and we don't know how to relax, this affects our immune system and our sleeping patterns, leading to insomnia
and even restless leg syndrome. Although short-term stress can actually boost the immune system, helping your body fight infection, ongoing stress can turn things in the opposite direction, possibly slowing wound healing, leaving you more susceptible to infection, and worsening skin conditions such as eczema
and shingles. Constantly tight muscles can cause headaches
as well as neck, shoulder and back pain. Chronic stress may also increase your likelihood of developing osteoporosis. A weakened system leads to all sorts of health problems.
Boost your immune system
If you can boost your immune system, you will fight off infections and viruses more successfully and not have to resort to prescription or over-the-counter medications.
What does extreme stress lead to?
Extreme stress can cause a dry mouth, indigestion, nausea and gas, and it stimulates the muscles of the intestines, possibly causing diarrhea or constipation. The symptoms then increase your risk for irritable bowel syndrome, severe heartburn or ulcers.
I know that in my own case, I tend to tense up my shoulders all the time especially when I am working at my computer. I have to keep reminding myself to relax those shoulders. And if I get the chance to go for a massage, the masseuse has to really work on those knots in that area.
The ability to switch off and relax has to be worked at and perfected. Some people find that they can relax if they listen to soothing music, take a long solitary walk on the beach or have a long soak in the bath with burning candles and aromatherapy oils. Other people need professional help such as joining a yoga class or learning to meditate.
How to be less stressed
There are relaxation techniques and exercises that you can do quietly at home. Choose a time and place where you will be left in peace for the duration of your “me” time and before you start, do a few gentle stretching exercises to relieve muscular tension:
- You can either sit or lie down – the important thing is to be comfortable.
- Start by taking long, calm, slow and deep breaths until you think it is becoming effortless.
- Then focusing on one part of your body in turn, gently tense and then relax that area. It is easiest to start with your feet and then gradually work your way up your body until you reach your head.
- Part of the technique for each area is to think of warmth, heaviness and then relaxation.
- If you find those stressful thoughts starting to creep into your mind, please push them away firmly.
- Don't force yourself to relax – you will find that as you let go of the tension in your muscles, relaxation will follow.
- Try to empty your mind by closing your eyes and focusing on one special peaceful place in your imagination.
- And stay put with this image for at least 20 minutes before taking some more deep breaths.
Then open your eyes but remain in place for a few more minutes before you get up again feeling renewed and relaxed!
And now that you have done this set of relaxation exercises once, you need to make them a regular occurrence for a new and improved less stressful “you”.