Stress is a part of life and so is experiencing difficult emotions, like anxiety, sadness and frustration. Sometimes we can feel helpless and overwhelmed because of these feelings. While we are not able to avoid stress and the unpleasant feelings that come with it, we can learn how to be less affected by stress. One effective way to deal with stress is to elicit the body’s relaxation response, which is considered to be the counterpart to the body’s flight-or-flight response. The relaxation response occurs when a person is in a deeply relaxed state. The relaxation response leads to a person experiencing a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, stress hormone levels, and muscle tension.
Research has shown that when people routinely experience the relaxation response, they tend to report lowered anxiety, depression and anger. Research also indicates that the relaxation response may improve many health problems, including infertility, insomnia, pain, hypertension, cancer treatment side effects, irritable bowel, migraines, and PMS. Thankfully, there are many different strategies that allow people to experience the relaxation response, such as meditation or breathing exercises.
It's good to try different relaxation techniques as some will work better for you than others. As a therapist, I will often use breathing exercises with my clients to help them reach a calm or relaxed stated. This sense of calm helps them feel better emotionally and physically, and also often gives them insight into what they are struggling with.
To gain the most benefit from the relaxation response, try to experience it on a daily basis, ideally for 15 to 20 minutes. It’s also a good idea to try to set aside the same time everyday, for example, as soon as you get up in the morning, to practice relaxation techniques. Remember to try different relaxation techniques and stick with the ones that work best for you. And lastly, remember that stress doesn’t have to overwhelm you and that finding ways to cope with it better will lead to a healthier and happier you!