If you find yourself in a constant state of stress, anxiety and overwhelm this blog post will help shed some light on how regular rest and relaxation can improve your well-being.
Do you ever notice that you are going through the motions of your day feeling emotionally drained, physically exhausted or mentally beat down? Struggling to meet demands, weighed down by the expectations and responsibilities that are placed on you, feeling like you cant keep up, there is too much to do and not enough time to do any of it? This is your body's way of communicating that you need a break. Its not surprising that many of us have learned how to ignore these signs of stress in our fast paced lives, in a society that values productivity over rest. We have the tendency to believe that little voice in our head that says we should be capable of handling these every day tasks and to-dos, that we are somehow inadequate or at fault if we cannot. Many people even label relaxation as weakness or being lazy but the truth is, rest is essential to taking care of ourselves and living a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
When we experience constant stress, physical symptoms such as headaches, tension in the neck and shoulders, dizziness, fatigue and poor sleep can occur. It can affect our mental state too as it elevates levels of Cortisol; the body's main stress hormone. This can result in constant worrying, poor concentration, difficulty in making decisions and experiencing uncontrollable thoughts. To add to the list, emotional symptoms such as irritability, feelings of being overwhelmed, anxiety, low self-esteem and depression can develop. A person in a high state of stress can come across as aggressive, defensive or 'on edge' and the longer we allow the stress to effect us, the more severe its effects and the more difficult it becomes to reverse.
In order to effectively combat stress, we need to activate the body’s natural relaxation response. To go from that state of 'fight or flight' into 'rest and digest'-a state of ease and relaxation that puts the brakes on stress by slowing our breathing and heart rate, lowering blood pressure and bringing the body and mind back into balance. This means really allowing yourself to stop all that you are doing and just be.
By giving yourself permission to slow down, rest and relax, you create space for that awareness to build and shed light on other areas of your life or aspects of self that may need your love, energy and attention. Benefits of this include:
Restoring your energy levels
Repairing your body
Improving your mood, memory and focus
Increasing your creativity
Feeling more connected to yourself and others
Improved health, wellness and sleep
This can mean taking the time to meditate, have a nap, connect with nature, grounding yourself, writing a gratitude list, sitting in silence, listening to relaxing music, having a bath, connecting with your body, recharging with crystals, reading a book undisturbed or observing your inner state. It doesn't just happen though, it takes time, effort and awareness. Once you have awareness you can exercise your will power to make the choices that will reflect who you truly are, what you value and how you'd like to feel. This may be easier said then done for those of you who are embarking on this journey for the first time. You might feel triggered by the thought of slowing down and putting yourself first, feelings of being undeserving or unworthy of your own energy and love may rise to the surface. If this is true for you, take a deep breath. Try not to judge yourself. It is OK to feel uncomfortable, confused or even resistant to making the changes needed in order to put yourself first. Saying yes to yourself means saying no to something or someone else! Dont give up if things get difficult or uncomfortable, taking care of yourself is a practice that requires time, consistency and setting boundaries to be successful. Be patient with yourself and remember that every act of self care is progress!
Start small and make yourself a priority. If you really struggle to surrender to the state of relaxation, remind yourself that rest IS productive, it proceeds the work. Schedule time for yourself to unwind and unplug. One of the quickest and easiest ways to relax is by connecting with your breath. When you stop to observe the gentle flow of each inhale and exhale, you are completely present. You are here. Now.
Try it. Close your eyes and breathe. Watch your breath, maybe you notice how tense you are in the neck or shoulders, maybe you're clenching your jaw. It starts here. Let go of whatever happened earlier and whatever is going to happen later. Be fully present with yourself. With the breath. Notice how you feel and where you feel it. Send each inhale into any place that feels tight and tense, on your out breath imagine pain and stress leaving the mind and body. The more you practice connecting with your breath the more aware you will become of the sensations and feeling you are experiencing or perhaps have even neglected. By making space for your feelings to be acknowledged you can work through and release what is no longer serving you; old thought patterns, limiting beliefs, self sabotaging behaviors, stress, fear, anxiety and more.
Remember, there is no single relaxation technique that works for everyone. We’re all different. The right technique is the one that resonates with you, fits your lifestyle, and is able to focus your mind to bring forth the relaxation response. That means it may require some trial and error to find the technique (or techniques) that work best for you. Once you do, regular practice, rest and relaxation can help reduce everyday stress and anxiety, improve your sleep, boost your energy and mood and improve your overall health and well-being!