So I’m going to be honest with you here (those who know me will have already scoffed at reading the title) – relaxation is something that few would associate me with. Most people would agree that I run on beast mode pretty much all the time. A lot of people find it exhausting just trying to keep up with me. Running so intensively for so long, people like to tell me, simply isn’t healthy. Others ask where on Earth I find the energy.
The truth is, I practice relaxation regularly – and it is one of the keys to how I get away with pushing so hard so much of the time. What people often don’t realise is that I fit relaxation techniques into the everyday, often so subtly that people don’t take notice. Relaxation is essential to maintain a healthy balance for mind, body and soul – you absolutely must make time for it.
What is relaxation?
Relaxation is defined in psychology as the emotional state of a living being, of low tension, in which there is an absence of arousal from sources such as anger, anxiety, or fear. A true state of relaxation can actually create a form of mild ecstasy.
Why do I need to relax?
Our bodies are in an almost constant state of stress for almost all the time we are awake. When we are stressed, the sympathetic nervous system is activated because we are in a fight-or-flight response mode, which over time can have negative effects on the human body including both mental and physical problems. When you enter a state of relaxation, your heart rate slows down, breathing becomes slower and deeper, blood pressure drops or stabilizes, muscles relax and blood flow to the brain increases.
As well as the calming physical effects, the relaxation response helps our bodies to fight illness and helps to relieve aches and pains. Still not convinced that you need to make time for relaxation? Bear in mind that relaxation also heightens problem-solving abilities and boosts motivation and productivity.
What techniques can I use for relaxation?
There are many techniques for relaxation and ultimately the choice depends on two main factors – which ones work for you, and which ones fit your lifestyle. Some forms of relaxation are so simple to practice that they are easy to adopt as part of your daily routine. Here is a selection of methods to try:
Take your shoes off
Yep, as simple as that. Take off your shoes and socks and allow your feet to breathe and make contact with the ground. Although this works best on grass, sand or natural ground, it still allows you to experience the benefits of relaxation even if you only have the carpet under your desk. Try spending ten minutes a day without shoes on – you’ll be surprised at the effects.
Mindfulness is all about being in the here and now, and this means letting go of your worries about the past and future, allowing you to detach yourself from the stresses and worries of life.
If you are an active person, then you can actually combine exercise and relaxation. Allowing yourself to get into a rhythmic pattern with an exercise such as running, swimming, cycling or walking can allow you completely detach yourself from the stress of the everyday. It is also possible to combine exercise and mindfulness for even better results.
Visualisation is a form of meditation in which you allow your mind to transport you to a place that is special to you, such as a particular beach or forest. The aim is to vividly imagine the sensory details – the sights, sounds, smells, feelings and even tastes. The more detailed and immersive your vision, the greater the relaxation effect will be.
Music is deeply connected to different emotional states and has been used by humans to influence their feelings since its origination in the paleolithic era over 3 million years ago. Choosing the right track or playslist can help you to completely escape and recharge. For best results, keep a set of headphones handy – and consider combining your power track with any of the above techniques. One word of advice – avoid online streaming services unless you have paid for ad-free streaming, otherwise you may end up experiencing the complete opposite effect!
What works for one person may not achieve the same result for another, so the key for these techniques – as is true for this series as a whole – is to explore and experiment until you find what truly works for you, then simply focus on mastering your method of choice.■
Check out the list below for previous articles in this series: