Relaxation Response – 4 powerful triggers
I think it’s fair to say that many of us have experienced more stress over the past 12 months than possibly ever before.
Although things are starting to look up there is still a lot of fear and uncertainty around. We are in a time of transition and naturally this can add further stress to our lives. April is Stress Awareness Month so I thought there was no better time than now to give you some good news.
Did you know that your body has an inbuilt relaxation response? I’m going to share with you four powerful ways you can engage it. But first, you need to know why it is so important to deal with stress …
Fight or Flight?
In medical terms, when your body is under stress it is taking the fight or flight response; the basic primitive response to prepare you to fight or run.
We inherited this response from our prehistoric ancestors. It’s fundamental for survival. If you come across a sabre tooth tiger you have two choices, stay and fight or run as fast away as possible! To do this your body needs to be ready so it releases adrenaline. This triggers a whole set of reactions including raising blood pressure, diverting blood flow from digestion to muscles and limbs ready to fight or flight.
Fortunately for the cave man the tiger was killed or the caveman fled and so soon after the body would re-balance itself and the effects of adrenaline would wear off.
Today’s saber tooth tigers consist of working from home, home-schooling, falling out with our partner or spouse, being stuck in traffic, struggling to meet work deadlines. Our ‘tigers’ are relentless so much so that our bodies can continue in a cycle of the fight or flight response. This means on a daily basis, toxic stress hormones flow into our bodies for events that pose no real threat to our physical survival.
There is significant evidence to show that the cumulative build-up of stress hormones will cause physical symptoms such as tense muscles, headaches, IBS, racing heartbeat, deep sighing or shallow breathing.
Some people may experience emotional or psychological symptoms including anxiety, poor concentration, depression, frustration, anger, sadness or fear. Sometimes you don’t have to actually feel ‘stressed’ to be experiencing a stress response, it could be that you grind your teeth at night. On the other hand you may feel lots of emotional stress but have very few physical symptoms.
The Good News
The good news is that you can do something to help your body cope with the negative effect of stress hormones and that is by learning how to trigger your relaxation response. Just as your body has the tools to prepare you when you may be under attack, you are also hardwired to relax.
This is the job of your parasympathetic nervous system. This system lowers your heart rate, slows breathing, encourages digestion and absorption of vitamins and nutrients. It stops the production of stress hormones and facilitates their breakdown and causes muscles to relax. It is vital that you encourage your body to initiate this response regularly in order to avoid the ill effects of stress.
Four powerful ways to initiate your relaxation response
Exercise not only metabolizes – burns – stress hormones that are lingering in your bloodstream but is also induces a relaxation effect. Any form of activity which causes us to ‘work up a sweat’ for at least 5 minutes triggers the breakdown of stress hormones.
Although regular exercise for longer periods is good, if you haven’t got time and you’re feeling particularly stressed,
– try running on the spot or around your office, home or garden for 5 minutes
– do some crunches or press ups
– or walk up and down the stairs a few times – whatever works for you – you will feel better for it!
Dr Herbert Benson a pioneer in mind/body medicine and he coined the term ‘relaxation response’ in his book ‘The Relaxation Response’ first published in 1975. The book documents scientific evidence of positive changes take place in the body when practising Benson’s technique:
a) you need a quiet environment
b) think about relaxing your muscles and letting them go
c) to avoid a ‘chattering mind’ you need to choose a positive word to repeat silently or aloud, for example, ‘one’ or ‘peace.’ Become aware of your breathing and say or think the word as you breathe out.
d) continue for 10-20 minutes.
Dr Benson re-iterates that it’s important to try and keep a passive mind and accept drifting thoughts that may enter your mind and just let them go and bring your focus back to your word. It’s best to avoid doing this exercise within 2 hours of having a meal as digestive processes can interfere with the relaxation response.
Evidence shows that this technique induces a meditative state – the opposite to the stress response.
Scent is powerful and in itself triggers responses in the body. Just imagine think of how you feel when you smell freshly baked bread or freshly cut grass compared to smelling a gas leak or a potential fire in your home?The latter would certainly increase your heart rate. This is due scent having a direct link to the brain through your limbic system. By using the appropriate essential oils your psycho-psychological reactions can be influenced in a positive way.
There are many essential oils that are known for their sedative and calming properties to help induce your relaxation response…. Lavender, Neroli, Frankincense, Sweet Marjoram to name a few.
When you have a consultation with an Aromatherapist you will be given the best oils for your particular symptoms. Your personalised blend will be gradually absorbed by your skin and the naturally occurring chemicals will have a positive influence on how your body is functioning.
If you would like more information about a personalised blend just for you contact me.
A relaxing massage is a great way to switch on the parasympathetic nervous system. Alpha brainwave activity increases and the more relaxed you become. This is conducive to restful sleep and it is in this state that the body’s natural healing processes kick in. Your body begins to heal and balance itself. Combine massage with essential oils and you have a very powerful therapy.
I hope this has given you a bit more of an insight of why it’s so important to reduce your stress and some ideas for relaxation response triggers. Feel free to leave a comment or ask any questions below. If you would like some help relaxing please do contact me. I’m excited to announce I will be seeing clients again from w/c 12th April 2021.
Until next time, take care of YOU!
Best wishes, Louisa
P.S. If stress is something you want to reduce in 2021 then you may be interested in these Just Be Natural products and gift sets to help you or your loved ones ….