With such busy lives, one of the great problems that we encounter every day is stress. Having so many commitments, deadlines and demands not only makes it hard to find time for relaxation and to just chill out, but can also over time negatively impact our health and wellness.
Although stress is the natural reaction of the body to challenge, if experienced chronically it can lead to issues. It is the fight-or-flight response, which has always been with us. The racing heart, complete concentration, adrenalin flowing and other manifestations when we encounter a situation of great importance or danger are a natural and essential reaction of our bodies. Such stress is called acute, it is essential and should be short lived.
However, the kind of stress though that most of us endure is caused by lots of little things, repeatedly such as work pressure, slow traffic, lots of emails, constant interruptions etc. This is called chronic stress, the type when not addressed, that can contribute to health problems.
The opposite of being stressed like this is being relaxed; of experiencing relaxation.
What Is Relaxation?
Relaxation is a lack of tension. A very good example is provided by a rubber band. When the rubber band is pulled, pressure increases and it becomes very tight or taut as a result of all the tension. However, when the band is let go of, all the pressure is released, the tension disappears and the band returns to its normal loose and floppy state; it is relaxed.
Similarly as with us humans, the challenges of life, whether at work, home or play, create a lot of stress. When we relax, the tension disappears. Relaxation serves to release the mind and body from tension; it is the state of being released from stress.
Physiological Effects Of Relaxation
As already mentioned, the natural reaction to a threat is the fight-or-flight response. Relaxation occurs when the threat recedes, and the nervous system returns to its normal, unaroused state. If the body relaxes regularly, then it becomes better able to tolerate stress.
After stressful events, when the body relaxes, stress hormones circulating in the blood decrease. The stress hormones cortisol, adrenalin and others, are harmful if they are present for long periods. It has been shown that relaxation leads to an improvement in peripheral blood flow, with many health benefits.
What are these benefits?
Relaxation Health Benefits
Here are some of the ways relaxation can benefit your health:
Stress has many negative side-effects. It can diminish your ability to focus, making it more difficult to accomplish even the simplest task. Relaxation helps to clear the mind and get you “in the zone”.
Too much stress can cause gastric problems, so by reducing stress, digestion improves.
Relaxation helps your blood vessels widen, when this happens blood flow increases, which increases the blood flow and oxygen reaching your body's cells.
Blood Pressure & Heart Rate
As the body relaxes, your breathing slows and other bodily functions improve including your blood pressure. This reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, two increasingly common health issues in the modern world.
Chronic stress can actually damage and kill brain cells. During times of stress, the hormone cortisol is elevated and the important neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine are reduced . Relaxation normalizes these, so helping to balance emotions.
Tiredness & Fatigue
This is not surprising but needs emphasising. Relaxation techniques, in combination with good sleep, moderation in caffeine and alcohol, etc., reduce fatigue and help your health.
Inflammation negatively affects the body’s ability to combat many illnesses and can cause others. Inflammation increases when you’re stressed and weakens immunity. Relaxation on the other hand has anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting effects.
Since relaxation is so beneficial, you may be wondering about some of the best natural ways to boost relaxation and chill...
Top Natural Ways To Relax
It is not difficult to learn certain techniques to relax and after reading the previous sections, you probably realize that it's definitely worth making the effort. Even five minutes of some form of relaxation activity each day helps. Here are some ideas...
Breathing exercises are among the best and simplest strategies for relaxation. Consciously breathing deep into your lungs, holding your breath for a few seconds then exhaling can provide an effective method of bringing calm at any time and just about anywhere. There are many variations on deep breathing exercises, some originating from other cultures. However, one of the most popular and effective is integrating this focus on the breath into a regular meditation practice such as mindfulness meditation...
This is a mental training practice that teaches you to slow your thoughts down, stop being negative, and bring calm to body and mind. It is a combination of meditation with focused attention. This latter being a state that involves you being fully focused on the present with the aim being acceptance of your thoughts, emotions, and sensations.
To start, all that is needed is a comfortable place to sit or lie, at least five minutes of free time, and a mindset that is judgment-free. Focus on your breathing, this is very important. Observe your thoughts, as thoughts arise, don't suppress or judge them. Just notice them, stay calm, and use your breathing as a solid base to which you always return. If you find this difficult then there are many other online exercises and even apps you can download that can help you.
Earthing (Ground Yourself In Nature)
If you're stressed then spending even a few minutes in nature can help you relax. This connection to nature that we all need to relax has given rise to a relaxation technique called earthing/grounding. This means electrically reconnecting yourself to the earth. The rationale for grounding is that the earth's electrical charges can affect your body positively. There are serveral ways you can earth or ground your body. All of them work by establishing a reconnection, achieved through either direct or indirect contact with the earth.
Here are some grounding techniques:
- Walking with bare feet: Take your shoes off and walk along the ground in a natural environment such as a park, beach or forest for 5 or more minutes.
- Laying on the ground: This is best done using a towel or blanket made of natural material such as cotton. If this is not available try to get as much skin directly in contact with the earth, I.e. your legs, arms by wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
- Submerging in water: This is another method of grounding, which is advocated by some. If you like swimming try to do so in a natural environment such as a lake, river or beach instead of a chlorine-laden pool. Alternatively, you can also submerge yourself in a bathtub and make it a hot salt bath soak for extra benefit.
- Grounding equipment: Items for this, such as mats, rods and clothing, can be purchased but make sure you follow instructions for using these types of things.
Body Movement & Light Exercise
The release of physical tension helps relieve your body and mind of stress . To release this physical tension, lie on a your bed, a carpet, or perhaps a yoga mat. All you have to do is tense up the muscles of your body, one at a time, and slowly release them. Doing so is very helpful and really boosts relaxation. By the same token, practising certain yoga poses can also have the same effect.
Exercise is absolutely necessary for good health and it has great value for relaxation. Although nearly all exercise helps, the most relaxing exercise uses large muscle groups repetitively and rhythmically. Walking and jogging are good examples of such exercise. Even twenty minutes of such simple exercise helps clear the mind and diminishes stress.
The vigorous workouts of professional athletes are probably not relaxing and are part of their work. That's why you need to reconsider your exercises if you're trying to relax. There are exercises that are very relaxing and have been done in the East for thousands of years.
Such exercise is found in disciplines like Tai Chi and Qigong. These are ancient practices that have improved health, wellbeing, relaxation and longevity for countless people. They are based on the ancient Chinese belief in Qi. This is the life energy flowing through energy pathways in the body.
Although it can take many years to master Tai Chi and Qigong, you can still benefit immediately if you begin and start learning. There are many references to both and they provide an almost perfect way of relaxing through exercise.
They both stimulate Qi, with a combination of breathing, meditation, and movement.
Salt Bath Soak
Most of us feel clean and refreshed after a warm bath, but did you know baths are excellent relievers of stress. Warm water induce feelings of calm and contentment. Blood flow goes towards the skin when it feels the warmth of the water. A warm bath improves breathing, lowers blood pressure, and boosts relaxation. A great additive to your bath is the addition of Epsom salts along with other natural varieties such as Himalayan Pink Salt, which is particularly good.
Aromatherapy (Essential Oils)
If you're looking for a natural remedy that helps you relax then the use of essential oils can definitely help to reduce stress and calm down after bothering situations. The use of essential oils therapeutically is called aromatherapy.
The practice of aromatherapy has been done in one form or another by many cultures all over the world for centuries.
A great benefit of essential oils is that they’re made from natural ingredients, such as roots, flowers, bark, and other plant parts.
The scent of these oils bypasses your blood and brain barriers, directly affecting those portions of the brain that control feelings, such as depression, anxiety, stress, panic, etc.
They can be used with a diffuser, by daubing them on your wrists or inhaling using steam and a towel. You can also add a few drops into your bath.
As they are very strong, care must be taken in their use.
Here are some of the best essential oils for relaxation:
- Clary Sage
- Ylang Ylang
This is a very quick way of relaxing. Stop what you're doing. Find a quiet spot where you're not going to be interrupted and imagine some peaceful natural place where you would feel calm. It could be a beach, a park or whatever. The more you practise this type of visualization, the better the relaxation that you experience.
Make a list of all the things you’re grateful for in your life. Doing this can not only help you feel more relaxed, but also promote feelings of contentment and joy. When stressed, the negative things in life get our focus rather than the positive.
Phenoh CHILL for Relaxation
Phenoh has created CHILL Relaxation SuperBooster, a deliciously aromatic night-time herbal drink for relaxation and muscle recovery. CHILL for Relaxation rapidly hydrates with 6 Electrolytes and 84 Trace Minerals while maintaining your pH Balance so you can easily find your Zen and recover better after a full day of work and exercise.
This unique alkaline relaxation drink and healthy water enhancer also contains the following relaxation-boosting superfoods and natural ingredients:
This natural derivative from the hemp plant works with certain receptors in the brain which help to calm and promote relaxation.
Organic Chamomile Flower
Chamomile, in any form, is among the best in medicinal herbs for combatting stress and boosting relaxation
Lion's Mane Mushroom
You may not have heard of this before, but Lion's Mane is anl adaptogenic mushroom with anti-inflammatory and stress-reducing qualities. For the brain, this can lead to reduced anxiety and greater relaxation.
Rhodiola Rosea Root
Rhodiola rosea is also known as rose root, golden root, or arctic root, and originally comes from Siberia. It provides medicinal properties, which come from its roots. These properties include dealing with anxiety, stress, mental and physical fatigue, and the promotion of relaxation.
Organic Lemon Balm Leaf
Lemon balm leaf comes from the lemon plant, which is the source of the lemon essential oil mentioned previously. The ingredients in lemon balm leaf soothe the negative symptoms of stress and help you to relax.
Organic Green Tea Leaf
This is a wonderful, natural product that contains theanine, which helps you manage stress and keep calm and relaxed.