Linking Relaxation to Overall Health

Depression, digestive disorders, headaches, high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, and irritable bowel syndrome: stress has proven its ability to take over one’s life and wreak havoc. According to the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Harvard University, 60 to 90 percent of all medical office visits in the US are for stress-related disorders.

When stress occurs, the body releases hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine that signal that “fight-or-flight” feeling within your body. This, in turn, raises your pulse and blood pressure and increases your breathing. More importantly, Stress will affect your overall health. Try the art of relaxation response techniques to calm yourself and keep your body in better mental and physical shape.

Relaxation response techniques are practices that will help lower your body’s heart rate, release tension, and counteract the damaging effects of stress. Not to mention these practices can give a person an overall sense of well-being. The goal is to knowingly produce the body’s natural relaxation response. This will help change your state of mind, but also will physically change the way your body is functioning.

Here are some common practices to try, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM):

+ Progressive relaxation: Focus on tightening and relaxing each muscle group

+ Guided imagery: Focus on pleasant images to replace negative or stressful feelings

+ Biofeedback: Uses electronic devices that teach you how to consciously produce the relaxation response

+ Self-hypnosis: Produce the relaxation response with a phrase or nonverbal cue

+Deep breathing exercises: Consciously slow your breathing and focus on taking regular, deep breaths

+Yoga: Use physical, mental, and spiritual practices to relieve stress

+Meditation: Trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness

Mix these techniques along with good nutrition, regular exercise, and a strong social support system to keep stress low and the harmful effects at bay.