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Stress Management: Relax and Recharge Your Way to Better Health

Posted August 31, 2023 by Hugh Kelley Riley, M.D., MBA

People meditating

Busy family schedules can often force relaxation to take a back seat. Who has time to relax when many households have working parents, family obligations, kids’ extracurricular activities, homework, meals to prepare, a house to clean (… the list goes on and on)?

But carving out some much-needed downtime isn’t just about finding peace of mind or enjoying a fun hobby, it’s a matter of your health! Relaxation is important for decreasing daily stress and maintaining a healthy well-being.

Daily stress can take a toll on both your physical and mental health. If your body is flooded by stress hormones on a regular basis, it can raise your blood pressure and heart rate, elevating your risk of heart disease. Stress suppresses your immune system, lowering your ability to heal or fight off illness. Excessive stress can also lead to anxiety, poor concentration and insomnia.

When you take the time to relax—and breathe more slowly, reduce your blood pressure and heart rate—you’ll improve your health, restore energy and encourage a more positive sense of self.

Relaxation techniques are a great way to help with stress management. It doesn’t have to be a big time commitment, either. Relaxing can be accomplished in only a few minutes a day, and it’s easy, can be done anywhere and, in most cases, is free. So, carve out some time today to relax and de-stress your life so you can enjoy a clear head and improved overall health and well-being.

Benefits of relaxation

Take time to enjoy the benefits of relaxation. Your health will thank you! Regularly practicing relaxation can:

  • Improve heart health by slowing your heart rate and lowering blood pressure.
  • Slow breathing, which supplies your blood with higher levels of oxygen.
  • Improve digestion and immune response.
  • Control blood sugar levels.
  • Decrease muscle tension and pain, by increasing blood flow (and oxygen) to major muscles.
  • Improve focus and concentration by allowing your mind to clear.
  • Improve sleep quality and reduce fatigue.
  • Reduce anxiety and depression, while boosting your mood.

Relaxation techniques to try

Relaxation techniques are practices that help bring about the body’s relaxation response, which is characterized by slower breathing, lower blood pressure and a reduced heart rate. The opposite of a stress response.

In general, relaxation techniques involve refocusing your attention on something calming and increasing body awareness. There are many ways to do this, so find a method that works best for you.

  • Autogenic relaxation: Use visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress. For example, you might imagine laying on the beach and focus on relaxing your breathing, slowing your heart rate and relaxing body parts one by one.
  • Progressive relaxation: Focus on slowly tensing each muscle group for about 5 seconds and then relaxing for 30 seconds. Repeating this activity, starting with your head and working your way down to your toes. It’s helps you become more aware of the difference between muscle tension and relaxation.
  • Guided Imagery: Focus on pleasant images, instead of negative or stressful ones, to take a visual journey to a peaceful, calming place using as many senses as you can: sight, smell, sound and touch.
  • Biofeedback: Uses electronic technology to measure your body functions, such as breathing and heart rate, so you can learn to better control them.
  • Deep-breathing exercises
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi
  • Music or art therapy
  • Aromatherapy

It’s never too late to take control of your health and well-being. Incorporating relaxation techniques into your everyday schedule can reduce stress and help you enjoy a better quality of life.