When we picture ‘relaxation’, we may allow our minds to drift to a scene complete with some exotic island, a beautiful view, and our toes in the sand, where the stresses of our daily to-do list are far from our awareness. In this place, we are calm, we are centered, and uninhibited by the prisons of our minds.
For many of us, relaxation feels like it can only exist in this other world, as the reality of our everyday life is demanding: dishes piling up in the sink as one reminder of all of the housework that needs attention, countless emails to respond to and errands to run to stay on top of your job, workouts to complete to stay healthy, and in the midst of it all, remembering to feed yourself, and select good options at that. We all know that in order to stay healthy, we must have well-exercised, well-rested, and well-fed body, therefore, we work extra hard to achieve this, but we neglect our mental health.
Or you may even find yourself desperate to find ways to unwind, but incapable of doing so. Some studies even suggest that when you are working too hard at relaxing or stress too much about it, you simply cannot let go enough to induce the feeling.
The Mind-Body Connection
Keep in mind that our bodies affect our minds and emotional wellbeing and vice versa, therefore psychological issues ranging from traumatic stress, depression, anxiety or even a lack of sleep all create a physical response. These and other forms of mental disorders often heighten the “fight or flight” mechanism of the nervous system, leaving the body on high alert. Consequently, this makes it virtually impossible to induce relaxation even in the best of circumstances or environment.
Between the round-the-clock demands of family responsibilities, commitments to work, and all the indeterminable stressors that add up to leave you too exhausted to be bothered with practicing self-care until your body is tense, your neck is full of knots, and your brain is fried. Our bodies often intuitively know what we need, and all but demand that we remember to tune into our internal states.
How do I find relaxation?
To make it worse, most of us can rarely find the time, let alone the money to afford time away from work to create the sort of imagined scene we think is necessary to relax. Fortunately, just making small lifestyle changes can help you achieve relaxation here and now, and ultimately find a bit more serenity in your life.
When it comes to relaxation, one of the most significant barriers that most people face is overcoming a negative mindset about what ‘relaxation’ really is all about. For example, you may sit down to relax, but you may sense that you can’t let go simply because your mind will be spinning thinking about everything that needs to be done. Remember: the world won’t end if you do press-pause once in a while, and there is a reason that most guided imagery tapes begin with something along the lines of, “become aware that there is nothing that you need to do, and no one that you need to respond to for a while”.
The key is allowing yourself the time to become present at the moment, trusting that the future will work itself out, and making an investment in one form of relaxation for your physical and mental well-being.
Something as small as sitting in a relaxed but uplifted posture or a 5 to 10-minute yoga session while breathing through some poses for a few seconds will not only relax your mind and body, but it can alleviate issues ranging from problems with digestion, stress, and even aid in addiction recovery.
Practicing a few minutes of relaxation techniques can have profound benefits, such as:
- Lowering mental fatigue, improving concentration, mood, and sleep quality
- Reducing the activity of stress hormones
- Alleviating frustration and anger
- Improving digestion
- Increasing blood flow to major muscles
- Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
- Aiding in slowing down your heart rate and consequently lowering blood pressure
In moments of turmoil or uncertainty, just going outside for a few minutes observing nature and focusing in the stillness of your surroundings can center you and induce relaxation. Whether you’re listening to a guided visualization or meditation script, or even just decided to leave your phone at home for a neighborhood walk or while you sit in a sauna, true opportunities for relaxation are present, if only we’ll value them enough to seek them out and commit.