Saturday, 17 March 2018

Wellbeing Basics: Relaxing

As Frankie says, “Relax” – not only a choooon, but a great piece of advice. Relaxing and taking time ‘out’ is one of life’s necessities. One which often gets overlooked, especially in our modern, 24/7 lives.

Why is feeling relaxed so important?

However you might describe your own personal state of ‘relaxation’, it’s a very important feeling to nurture. Feeling stressed and anxious is not good for you and fuelling this by pushing yourself to extremes and maintaining a hectic, chaotic lifestyle will do you no favours in the long run. 
Now for the science bit...
The ‘stress hormone’ cortisol, which our bodies produce as a response to physically or emotionally stressful situations, shuts down ‘unnecessary’ bodily functions to help us manage those stresses. This can be a really great thing, but also could lead to your body going a little haywire. Some of those ‘unnecessary’ functions which are messed with are our reproduction and immune systems. Both of which are, I hope you’ll agree, pretty important! Chronic stress (and cortisol production) can create a vicious circle and be hard to reverse. This is just one of the many reasons why cultivating relaxation time is so vital and should be considered one of life’s basics.

I’m too busy to spend time relaxing…

Possibly true, but there are often times in the day when you can snatch 5-10 minutes and re-centre. You don’t have to spend a whole day relaxing to benefit. I think the key, especially when we feel we are just too busy, is to prioritise relaxation and make the time. We can often feel guilty putting ourselves first or by not having a jam-packed weekend. But the impact of you not carving out a little ‘me’ time can be profound. We shouldn’t see relaxation time as a luxury – but as an essential. Value yourself enough to create a little time in your day or week when you can relax. Think about your energy as a battery which needs recharging regularly. Along with sleep and food, relaxation helps charge that battery and means you can feel better, do more, stay healthy and remain happy. Who wouldn’t want to make time for that?

I don’t know how to relax…

A very common problem actually! Some people can feel so hyped-up and full of adrenalin that it’s hard to just ‘be’. A lot of people think that relaxing means you have to lie still in a darkened room doing nothing; not true. You might feel fidgety, frustrated, bad-tempered or upset if you are battling to relax. In these situations, I would suggest doing an activity which you find relaxing, or allows another part of your ‘self’ to be expressed. So, if you enjoy cooking – cook. If you lead a very sedentary life, why not try and go for a jog. If you rarely take baths, but love a good soak – run yourself a bath. If you feel starved of culture – pay a visit to a museum. If you find a particular friend soothing – go and have a cup of tea with them. The list is endless! I made a video about how to self-soothe using different senses here, which may help with ideas and inspiration.

Five short-cut ways to feel relaxed:

  • Meditation and Mindfulness – a lot of people find the art of meditating or practicing mindfulness very calming. Headspace have created a great app, which allows you to learn how to be mindful on the go in short sessions.
  • Breathe – easier said than done right, and something which I've written about here. A very potent (and often un-tapped) tool to help you relax and unwind.
  • Laugh – watching something funny on TV or chatting to a friend with a similar sense of humour is a great way to get some LOLs in your life. Laughing releases endorphins – our happy chemical and can help us to relax and de-stress. I filmed a video on the power of laughing here.
  • Exercise – doing some gentle exercise can, again like laughing, release feel-good chemicals and also keeps you fit and healthy. I have made lots of videos on exercise here.
  • Music – another powerful tool to de-stress. Whether you find comfort from head-banging hard rock or the dulcet tones of a whale singing, listening to music can really help aid relaxation, lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety.

What do you do to relax? Do you always make time for yourself, or do you find it a struggle? 

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