A Mental Health Priority: Remember to Relax

Notice: Undefined offset: 3 in _menu_translate() (line 578 of /var/www/brainphysics/includes/menu.inc).

Temporary bouts of stress can be motivating, but chronic, persistent stress can trigger or exacerbate physical and mental disorders.

We all need to know and use relaxation techniques to limit the effects of stress on our mind and body. Relaxation is so essential for good health, it should be a daily priority in our lives.

The benefits of relaxing are many; relaxation:

  • slows our respiration and heart rates.
  • reduces blood pressure.
  • reduces the release of stress hormones.
  • increases blood flow to our organs and major muscles.
  • sharpens concentration and elevates mood.
  • reduces muscle tension, stiffness, and pain.
  • boosts energy/lowers fatigue.
  • supports confidence and patience; reduces frustration.

Used along with other positive coping tools such as exercising, socializing, getting adequate sleep, and eating well, relaxation techniques are a cost-effective, minimal risk way of improving our mood and health.

Choose What You Will Use

The trick is to choose a relaxation technique, or techniques, that you will actually use. You might, for instance, find autogenic relaxation methods the most appealing. Autogenic refers to something coming from within you, and it involves body awareness and sometimes using visual imagery.

You might mentally repeat words (or a mantra) to focus and calm mind and muscles, or imagine being in a peaceful setting while slowing and deepening your breath. Some people simply focus their awareness on whatever physical and emotional sensations are arising in the moment.

Another method is progressive muscle relaxation, a process of slowly tensing groups of muscles and then relaxing them. Not only does this provide immediate tension relief, it increases awareness of physical sensations and of the difference between having a tense or relaxed body. In our busy world, people can forget what a relaxed body feels like.

If you are a visual person you might enjoy visualization, or creating mental images that invoke tranquility. Effective visualization involves using the five senses during image creation. If picturing yourself by a forest stream you might hear the water flowing, smell pine trees, and enjoy the feel of cool moist air against your skin. You might even decide to taste some just caught, pan-fried trout.

Other relaxation options are controlled breathing techniques, meditation, yoga, Tai chi, Qigong, massage, biofeedback, reading, and the creative arts.

If Relaxation Causes Distress

The more you practice a relaxation technique, the more sensitive you will become to the onset of stress and tension, and the quicker you will be to counteract it. However, individuals with mental health issues sometimes experience emotional distress when practicing a relaxation technique. Should this happen to you, discontinue the technique and think about seeking help from a doctor or professional counselor.

Source: Mayo Clinic
Photo credit: Marina del Castell / flickr

ocd self test
Do you or a loved one feel like you might have a problem with OCD? Take the Self Test now to get more information.

The information provided on brainphysics.com is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of brainphysics.com nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Click here to read our complete Terms of Use.

Susbscribe to our free newsletter for information & inspiration


BrainPhysics.com Social