We all can attest to the fact that living in our era of amazing technological advances has also posed challenges on an almost daily basis. The demands of a fast-paced lifestyle at home and in the workplace, have resulted in stress levels that can be overwhelming. Even the most health-conscious person can succumb to the negative impact of stress which can take its toll on our bodies and minds and can manifest itself in innumerable physical and mental ailments.
So, how do our bodies respond to stress? There are some common denominators we may all be able to identify with such as tension and stiffness in the neck and shoulders, which can then lead to headaches. We must also account for individual differences, as people may differ specifically in how they respond to stressful events in their lives. Some of us are more prone to nausea and gastrointestinal distress, which can then pave the path for developing ulcers. When under stress, some people may react viscerally and lash out in anger without clearly identifying the underlying causes.
Given that stress can lead to a variety of physical and mental ailments, it is crucial that we as individuals develop a clear understanding and awareness of what our stressors are, and how we specifically manifest stress within our minds and bodies. Once we have identified our stressors and how we respond to them, we can then develop strategies which can be tailored to meet individual needs. Stress management needs to be an integral part of our everyday lives. When we learn to diffuse stress at an early onset, we place our minds and bodies in a better place, where calm and peace can easily be achieved using some very simple and effective techniques.
Wikipedia defines a relaxation technique as “any method, process, procedure, or activity that helps a person relax; to attain a state of increased calmness; or otherwise reduce levels of anxiety, stress or tension”. Relaxation techniques and training can be used for a variety of ailments such as stress, pain and anger management">anger management; reducing anxiety, headaches, insomnia, and alleviating depression; improving immune system functioning; and overall, promoting a sense of physical and mental well-being.
Relaxation techniques can be broken down into two categories. The first are passive and performed with minimal movement while lying or sitting. These may include deep breathing, meditation, visualization, and progressive muscle relaxation. The second category of relaxation techniques are dynamic and movement-based and include massage, reflexology, and those methods which incorporate exercise such as dancing, yoga, gardening, Qigong,Tai Chi">Qigong, Tai Chi, and walking. Some studies have also cited the benefits of listening to specific types of music, such as Classical and New Age for promoting a sense of well-being and feelings of peacefulness.
A quick relaxation technique can be performed while sitting or laying down, preferably wearing loose clothing. Starting from the toes and working your way up the legs, torso, arms, shoulders, neck, and finally to the head, contract each group of muscles, hold for a count of ten, then slowly relax. As you progress through alternately contracting and relaxing your muscles, continue to breathe deeply and slowly. Relaxing our body and mind will relieve tension that tightens our muscles. Music and guided relaxation are also very effective for managing stress.
Stress that remains unchecked is detrimental to our overall health, and can literally have toxic effects which can lead to serious medical conditions. Stress can be a silent killer. It is therefore beneficial to learn and practice these relaxation techniques on a consistent basis as they are very effective in reducing stress and anxiety, and produces a sense of well-being.