Relaxation response

Posted by Jennifer Campoli on March 3rd, 2010
Filed under Motivation, Positive psychology, Wellness | 7 Comments »

Hello friends!

How goes it today? Did you have a good one? Though I'm still refusing to admit that I may be sick, it was a gloriously warm day out there in Boston so I'm  claiming it…SPRING IS ON THE WAY BABE! I am so ready to be warm and toasty in the sun, listening to birds chirp and looking at green trees.

I do leave for Texas on Thursday though and I hear the forecast is around 70 each day. Makin me a happy woman! 😉

Workout  Challenge CONTINUES!!!!

Not only am I more than halfway through this challenge but after this week I will be entering phase 2 of Chalean Extreme. That would be the Push phase where we lift even heavier and cut down on the reps from 10-12 to 6-8. Let me tell you friends, it's a painful month but month 2 is where you see INCREDIBLE change in physique and strength.

Today I took it easy again. Nothin crazy. I did some yoga and stretching. I knew my body needed it and it thanked me afterwards by feeling more supple, flexible and just relaxed! You know that relaxed feeling? Not the "I'm going to fall asleep" relaxed but the "I am centered, focused and feel alive" relaxed feeling. There is a difference!

Speaking of relaxed. Let's talk…

Stress + Relaxation

I was talking with a client today about how to deal with stress. How to handle those tough moments when your stomach knots up, your chest fills with anxiety and your head starts to pound. We all have them, yes? I do! I do! It's amazing how quickly our body will communicate to us that we need to sit down, chill out, release some of that energy and RESET! But how often do you actually sit down, chill out, release some energy and RESET? And do you know how to incorporate that into your life?

Stress is a signal that our body and our mind is in over drive. Unfortunately this thing we call stress can cause quite a few health problems in the body both in the short term and long term:

  • Increase in blood pressure (as a result the body is less efficiently supplying blood to the body)
  • Increase in your body's respiratory rate in getting oxygen from the air
  • Blood is diverted from your vital organs, taking attention to less vital organs during a stress response
  • Increased levels of anxiety, fatigue, and depression
  • The list goes on!

Check out this image I found about indications of stress: SOURCE

What's more important is that all of those items lead to one thing: you are not able to stay in tuned with your body with ease and therefore will likely make unhealthy decisions. When you are stressed, we often turn away from what betters our health everyday (exercise, balanced eating, consistent sleep). And then you experience the domino effect: stress in one area of your life will often lead to stress in other areas of your life. When you have a highly stressful day at work, are you in control of your mood when you get home? Are you able to come home, enjoy your planned activities and simply go about your day with no effects from the stress? Unless you just that powerful, most of us can't do this.

Now, I just painted a difficult picture up there. The cool thing is that you can take control of how you deal with stress! Not only can you remove some of the stress causes but you can decide how you want to respond. Today, I'd like to focus on how you can respond or react when you find yourself feeling stressed.

The Relaxation Response

Herbert Benson, a physician at Harvard discovered something in the 1960's that he coined the relaxation response. What Benson discovered was that you can counterbalance someone's response to stress by activating the brain in areas that reduce the stress reaction. The relaxation response is a physical state of rest where physical changes occur in the body including: a decrease in heart rate, relaxed muscles, and a decrease in blood pressure.

Now the relaxation response can be elicited using various meditative techniques, including deep breathing, prayer, tai chi, yoga, muscle relaxation, visualization, even jogging!

So, what does that mean for you and I?

We need to develop a tool box of relaxation techniques that we can pull out and use at any time during our day when we are experiencing stress. There is a ton of information available to you online, in books, various yoga or fitness classes and beyond! The key: find exercises that you identify with and that you find work for you! All of us are different so who knows if what works for me works for you. I will share one of my favorite though! But first…a few recommended places to start researching:

If you prefer auditory learning, here is a You Tube video for you to try: HERE

The Mayo Clinic has a great site full of information and discusses various exercises to try: HERE

HELP GUIDE goes through a number of exercises, including muscle progression which I love: HERE

Here is the site for the Benson-Henry institute at Massachusetts General, discussing more of Dr. Benson's work: HERE

Jenn's Go To

While I have started to be more mindful and practice meditation a few times a week, this is my go to breathing exercise when I find myself overwhelmed, frustrated, stressed suddenly or just in a down right horrible mood! This is my RESET button!

1. Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Relax your back and shoulders so you can feel yor entire spine press against the chair.

2. Place your hands comfortably in your lap, palms up and fingers relaxed.

3. Close your eyes.

4. Take a deep breath, counting to 3 to inhale and then counting to 3 to exhale. Count slowly and allow yourself to feel your chest expand and contract as you breath.

5. Breathe a total of 10 breaths. Pay attention only to your breathing and the sound of the breath entering and leaving your body.

6. Now, slowly open your eyes.

And that is it! It's incredible how much deep breathing can impact our mood and our energy. When I do this exercise, I am able to respond appropriately and effectively to the situation and I am in control of my mind and my body.

Now YOU! Do you have any relaxation exercises that you turn to during times of stress? What works for you?

Do you meditate regularly?

Time for me to think about bed! Till next time! :)

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7 Responses to “Relaxation response”

  1. Darryn says:

    Great entry!

    I (and many others, I'm sure) TOTALLY need this info right now…it's that crazy time of year.

  2. annecalista says:

    I want to start meditating. I've been doing more yoga which really helps me to find some calm. I also just take really deep slow breaths when I get anxious, nervous or stressed. Ginger tea helps too :-)
    It's SO important to learn how to manage stress.

  3. It is that crazy time of year, isn't it!!! Take care of YOU!

  4. Oh ginger tea…YUM! Taking slow deep breaths is awesome. Changing your environment, listening to your body and taking a moment to treat it well does incredible things!

  5. frogsandmen says:

    i love ginger tea!
    a bientot
    the paris food blague

  6. Such a great and important post. I love meditating and trying to calm my mind. I like to drink tea and do some gentle stretching to help me with that.
    Have a great Wednesday!

  7. Tea + stretching is perfection, isn't it? I have been having tea every night before bed- so nice!

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