3 Tips for Establishing a Relaxation Practice

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Hi!  Welcome back to #FitFriday.  Have you ever been told...I wish you would just relax?  Well, this blog is for you!  If you--or someone you know struggles with anxiety, you know that relaxing is much easier said than done.  Different relaxation skills work for different people, so it's best to try out what strategies work for you. Did you know that most people experience anxiety as unpleasant physical sensations in their body?  This shows up as muscle tension, headaches, backaches, a clenched jaw, feeling amped up, restless, or "on edge."  These symptoms are often your body's attempt to get your attention.  In short, the body works hard to try and protect us and many of these feelings are uncomfortable.  Relaxation happens when the body can be still, which helps us to feel calm and at ease.

Relaxation skills are like exercise.  Imagine a friend tells you they are planning to run a marathon, but they have never run before.  You friend tells you that they will have to run a full 2 miles per day for six months leading up to the race.  What would you think?  Probably, you would be concerned that your friend would be setting an unrealistic goal.  We know that the body needs time to learn how to run for long distances and build strength.  Relaxation skills are developed much like exercise.  In order to see significant results, we must practice them regularly over periods of time.  The goal of relaxation is to lower general levels of anxiety and tension in the body over time.  

Every person is different and we all relax in different ways.  Here are 3 tips for establishing a relaxation practice:

1)  Find a relaxation exercise that you can practice daily...or multiple times per week.  Examples are meditation, yoga, mindfulness and deep breathing.

2)  Adjust your lifestyle to make it less busy, hectic and rushed.  Create a schedule, or organize your day to reduce worry and concern.  

3)  Take part in activities that give you pleasure, make you feel competent, or give you a chance to take a break from other more stressful activities.

When to use relaxation strategies: 

  • As a daily practice, like exercise, to lower tension and feel calmer in our bodies over time.
  • During times of distress in order to prevent avoidance of something that is integral to our life aims.
  • When we face anxiety, the brain learns that it is not so dangerous, which, in turn, lowers anxiety in the long run.

When not to use relaxation strategies:

  • In times of panic or severe distress as a way to get rid of the anxiety.
  • As a replacement for productive activities or to avoid tasks that must be accomplished.
  • This avoidance trains the brain that anxiety is dangerous and increases anxiety over time.

Relaxation strategies can be useful in reducing general levels of anxiety and tension over time.  They are not a "cure" for anxiety.  They should not be used to prevent or get rid of panic or severe anxiety symptoms.  For each person there is a different set of activities and skills that help them to relax.  The best strategy is to find the ones that work for you and practice them regularly.  

Check back next Friday for more helpful mind and body wellness tips and tricks.  Have a great weekend.  See you soon!  Warmly, Susan