Most of us get stressed or anxious sometimes, but for some it becomes a permanent state that can have a serious impact on physical and mental health, as well as enjoyment of life. Often, removing the source of the stress or anxiety isn’t possible, so we need to have ways of unwinding and relaxing. Some people can relax by doing what they enjoy – or even doing nothing. But many will just remain in their tense, agitated state even if they are having “down time”. If you’re one of those people who can’t just switch off and relax, then some of the following relaxation strategies might help (see the end to read about massage for relaxation).
This is a very simple and surprisingly effective way of calming the mind and helping muscles to relax. There are lots of breathing exercises you can try, but the 4-7-8 one is a good one to start with – read more here.
For some, strenuous exercise is relaxing – but if you hate exercise then it may have the opposite effect! The combination of “feel good” hormones that are released by exercise and spending time focusing on their wellbeing can have a calming, relaxing feeling on some people. If exerting yourself doesn’t work for you, you can always try gentler forms of exercise like walking and Pilates – see below.
Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils from plants to benefit health and well being. Essential oils have various health benefits, depending on which plant they come from. Unlike many alternative therapies, aromatherapy has a basis in science. It’s well established that the chemical components of the oils have beneficial properties. Some oils have a calming, relaxing effect. These include:
- Roman chamomile
- Ylang ylang
The easiest way to benefit from the calming effect of essential oils is to use a few drops in a vaporiser. You can also use aromatherapy oils for massage – read about aromatherapy massage here.
Meditation requires you to quieten your mind – to stop pursuing thoughts that come into your head. One of the most common ways of achieving this is by focusing on breathing. Meditation can be very beneficial to those who practice it regularly, but not everyone finds it easy or enjoyable. Read more about meditation here.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation, in which you focus on what your senses are telling you. We often rush around not really noticing in much detail what we are seeing, hearing, smelling or even tasting. Focusing on our senses can help to calm us down. Read more about mindfulness here.
Spending time outdoors everyday helps us to feel calmer and have better sleep patterns. Ideally this should be in parks or other open spaces, but time in your garden or walking around your neighbourhood is also good. Walking is calming in itself, especially if you practice mindfulness as you walk.
Pilates is very beneficial for core strength, posture and back health. It can also be a way of relaxing, due to the focus on breathing and on the mind-body connection. Precision and control of movement are important in Pilates, which means you need to be very focused on how your body is moving. This can be relaxing in the same way that mindfulness is. If you want to try Pilates, you can get a printable beginner Pilates routine here.
Massage for relaxation
Last, but definitely not least, the relaxing benefits of massage are well known. Massage helps relieve stress and anxiety in the following ways:
The relaxation response
When we are stressed or anxious, our sympathetic nervous system is activated. This produces various changes that prepare us to face danger – the so-called “fight or flight” response. The touch, warmth and pressure of massage activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which has the reverse effect and takes the body out of stress mode.
Release of hormones and neurotransmitters that make us feel good
As well as stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, massage also stimulates release of a range of “feel good” chemicals:
Endorphins: hormones released to reduce stress and pain. They give feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
Serotonin: also gives feelings of happiness and wellbeing. In addition, it plays a role in healthy sleep patterns and decreases levels of cortisol. (Cortisol is a hormone that is part of the “fight or flight” response.)
Dopamine: a neurotransmitter that acts on the pleasure and reward centre of the brain
Oxytocin: a hormone and neurotransmitter that relieves stress, anxiety and depression
Book a massage for relaxation
If you would like to book a massage session to help you relax, then please fill out the enquiry form and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can with available appointments, alternatively contact me using any of the contact details below the form:
Phone: 07835 346476