With National Relaxation Day right around the corner, now is a great time to stop and consider the importance of relaxation. What does it mean for our minds, bodies, and long-term health?
Stress and anxiety levels in modern life are no joke. Relaxation helps reverse the effects of daily stressors, making it easier to cope with daily demands and increasing resistance to a range of health conditions.
Whether you’re experiencing excess stress levels or are committed to maintaining good mental health before the onset of excess stress, the key relaxation essentials for fighting stress in preparation for National Relaxation Day are highlighted below.
The Effects of Stress
Humans all have an underlying desire to seek relaxation, but is it really that important? Absolutely.
Relaxation can be thought of as one side of a coin—the good side of it. On the bad side of that coin is stress. These two forces are constantly at war in the body, and many experts agree that stress if one of the biggest health concerns of the modern era.
One study suggests that even if a small amount of stress today is allowed to linger, it could lead to serious health concerns down the road.1
Though the human body is capable of facing a range of stressors, it must be given time to rest to maintain its vitality. As humans, we tend to idealize the efficiency with which we are able to work without rest. However, humans were not made to function in this way. Without designated time and thought applied to the relaxation process, physical and mental processes lose their efficiency.
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For example, an important link has been established between the ability to relax and the prevention of mental health issues. One study showed that those who practiced mindfulness through meditation significantly reduced physiological arousal, anxiety, nicotine and alcohol use, in addition to promoting positive mental health.2
The study also noted that the body’s balancing function, homeostasis, is greatly improved through relaxation. During relaxation, parasympathetic activity responds to stress. Some of the physiological results of proper relaxation include:
- Reduced heart rate
- Lowered blood pressure
- Deeper and slower breathing
- Improved digestion
- Improved maintenance of blood sugar levels
- Improved regulation of sleep cycles
- Anxiety and stress relief
- Better cognitive function
- Reduced mental fatigue 3
When homeostasis is disrupted, this results in illness. There are numerous health concerns, diseases, and conditions linked to stress. Stress can worsen the symptoms of asthma, raise glucose levels, cause headaches, and lead to depression or anxiety.4 Simply put, excess stress is damaging and requires management through relaxation.
Stress causes the body to enter a state that is often referred to as the “fight or flight” response, as chemicals flood the body preparing to face imminent danger. This particular state is useful if you find yourself in a threatening situation but not on a regular basis. When this response is activated regularly, it wears down the body and damages the mind.
This stressed state can be counteracted with relaxation, however. There are five well-known and highly effective techniques that induce relaxation. These are best suited for practice at home, though there are some strategies that can be used on the go. Some of these techniques can be paired together to achieve a deep and meaningful state of relaxation.
Meditation is easy to learn and perform. You can meditate for as long or as short of a period of time as you’d like. One of the best parts of meditation is that it doesn’t require any equipment— it’s completely free and can be performed anywhere.
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years for many of the same reasons that it is used today. It is known to decrease anxiety, improve mental awareness, maintain good cardiovascular health, and control stress. More than 19,000 studies have been conducted regarding the effects of meditation on the mind and body. Many of these studies highlight the efficacy of meditation in relieving stress.
Meditation is a practice that can be started at any time with any degree of experience. Though naturally, the more you practice, the better the results will be. Consider using aromatherapy as a part of your meditation sessions.
Another great relaxation technique is yoga. In many cases, yoga is viewed as a form of meditation combined with controlled breathing and precise movements. Studies have found that consistent yoga practice can alleviate anxiety, increase serotonin levels, and reduce stress.5
Getting out in Nature
Not only have the therapeutic benefits of nature’s sights, smells, and sounds been a source of wellness throughout human evolution, but these natural elements have been scientifically proven to benefit human health. Just a walk through the park at a relaxed pace with no other purpose but to allow the mind and body to relax provides a range of health benefits.6
In Japan, the practice of Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, has been found to boost immune system function and provide a range of health benefits by enhancing parasympathetic nervous system activity.
While not everyone will have time for forest bathing, studies have shown that even parks and other green areas provide relief from work-related stress.7
Massage therapy is terrific for deeply relaxing the body’s muscles and joints. The improved circulation that massages promote is a great remedy for hours spent in desks for academic or professional pursuits.
Perhaps the most effective and versatile of all stress remedies is aromatherapy. It has been understood for hundreds of years that plants produce certain chemicals that elicit a response from humans when inhaled.
These chemicals are usually terpenes, which are the primary components found in essential oils. By diffusing and inhaling these oils, a person can experience a number of different effects depending on the particular oil and its terpenes.
Rather than inhaling a single oil, the best option is to diffuse a blend that contains several essential oils known to fight stress. MONQ’s Zen essential oil diffuser is a good example of this concept, with the added benefit of being able to provide relaxation on the go.
The diffuser contains a blend of frankincense, sweet orange, and ylang-ylang, which have all been shown to alleviate stress. In fact, studies conducted with the Zen blend have demonstrated that the blend promotes relaxation.8
A Chance to Live Longer and Healthier
Regular relaxation time can easily be incorporated into even the busiest schedules. Stress is a silent killer affecting individuals around the world. Relaxation is the only remedy for stress and is something that can easily be practiced at home.
Invest in is a room diffuser or a personal essential oil diffuser. Consider practicing meditation, yoga, spend some time in nature, or go out and get a massage. The result? Relaxation, reduce stress, and a healthier lifestyle.