The Power Of Relaxation


“Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are.” 

~Chinese Proverb


Relaxation refers to a physiological state that is the exact opposite of the way your body reacts when experiencing anxiety or panic.  Anxiety causes your body to tense up and release adrenaline in response to real or imagined stress.  The antidote for anxiety is learning how to relax your body.  Therefore, relaxation skills are the very foundation of your anxiety management tools.  The other anxiety management skills taught by Empowered Life Solutions, including managing your internal dialogue and grounding to the present moment, rest on this foundation.  Lily Tomlin was right when she said, “For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.”

The “relaxation response” (as named by Herbert Benson, 1975) provides many physiological changes in the body.  You experience a decrease in heart and respiration rate.  Your blood pressure goes down, and your muscle tension decreases.  Your mind moves to a place of stillness, which reduces the fearful self-talk that produces the anxiety.  The feelings of vulnerability decrease and are replaced with increased problem-solving skills and an overall sense of well-being.

Gaining the ability to move your body into a place of deep relaxation takes regular daily practice.  The biggest advantage of regular, consistent relaxation practice is that your body tends to be in a more relaxed state all the time.  You are more aware of when your body is tensing up, and you know what to do about it.  When you can consciously achieve a state of relaxation, you can prevent and manage anxiety and panic with relative ease.  This is because “The quieter you become, the more you can hear” (Baba Ram Dass).

I chuckle at myself as I remember my first introduction to relaxation exercises.  When I was pregnant with my second child, I decided to try natural childbirth.  Although not yet introduced to the idea of living in the present moment, I knew on an intuitive level that I wanted to be more connected with the experience — rather than watching my contractions on a monitor while my husband watched television.  To prepare for natural childbirth, we signed up for a Lamaze class.

 


“An anxious mind cannot exist in a relaxed body”

~ Edmund Jacobson, MD


Filled with enthusiasm, we went to the first class with our blanket and pillow, ready to go.  The instructor outlined the husband’s role as the coach.  He was to be as involved with the process as the mom.  We were ready to learn how to go through labor in a focused and relaxed state.  The instructor asked each mom to lie on her blanket while consciously relaxing her arm.  The husband’s job was to check how relaxed his wife’s arm was.  I lay there in confusion.  How could I consciously relax my arm?  I thought I had no control over whether my arm was relaxed or tense.  I was unaware I could consciously produce a relaxed state of being.  I thought my body was a system unto itself which I had no ability to impact.  My husband said my arm was not relaxed.  That made me mad.  Who was he to say I wasn’t relaxed?  His job was to raise my arm with his hand to check how relaxed it was.  We fought for control of my arm.  The exercise was repeated with the muscles in the leg.  Again, I didn’t do so well.  The instructor approached us.  I was trying very hard to do what she was asking, but I didn’t know how to consciously relax.  I had no idea what a conscious, relaxed state felt like.  What was she talking about?  Of course, I eventually figured it out.  A lifetime skill of relaxation was the gift I gained from those Lamaze classes.  Life has changed so much for me since that experience about 25 years ago that as I write about it now, I can’t help but laugh at myself.

Now I understand that there are numerous, well-documented benefits to deep relaxation which include:

  • Reduction in generalized anxiety
  • Reduction in frequency and intensity of panic attacks
  • Increased productivity and energy level
  • Improved concentration and memory
  • Reduction of insomnia and fatigue
  • Increased self-confidence with reduced self-shaming
  • Decrease in overall stress level

Relaxation is a skill I teach to both children and adults.  Learning the strength we have from within brings an inner power.  We are not controlled from the outside but can be empowered from the inside/out (See article Healthy Living – “Living Authentically”).  Relaxation is the foundational skill that brings this empowerment.  Aesop explained it this way, “A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.”  Empowered Life Solutions premium content offers specific methods which facilitate the relaxation response including:

 

  • Abdominal Breathing
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  • Guided Imageries
  • Visual Basic Relaxation Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Calming Music
  • Mindfulness
  •  Yoga

 

Abdominal Breathing is a slow, sustained breath from the abdomen.  When we are anxious, our breath is shallow and up in the chest.  333 breathing is taught in detail in the “Let’s Get Started” article and video.  A progressive muscle relaxation exercise, guided imageries, and a visual basic relaxation exercise are all available to download on Empowered Life Solutions Premium Content.  Resources for calming music and yoga are listed at the end of this article.  Mindfulness is taught in the Empowered Life Solutions article under Happiness – “Mindfulness.”

Learning a new skill takes courage and dedication.  As you practice and apply your new relaxation knowledge and skills, you will gain a strength from within to manage your anxiety and depression.  You can then access your inner strength for an overall feeling of balance and well-being.

Join Empowered Life Solutions Today!

Related Reading:

The Chemistry of Calm, by Henry Emmons, M.D.
The Three-Minute Meditator, by David Harp and Nina Feldman
Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Guide to Stress Reduction, by John Mason

YOGA DVD’S:

Yoga for Depression and Anxiety DVD – Apryl Ryder
Yoga for EveryBody DVD – J.J. Gorrmley
Shiva Rea: Daily Energy – Vinyasa Flow Yoga DVD – Shiva Rea
Yoga For Beginners DVD – Barbara Benagh
Yoga for Beginners Boxed Set (Yoga for Stress Relief/AM-PM, Yoga for Beginners/Essential, Yoga for Inflexible People) DVD – Michael Wohl

Calming Music:

Best of Silk Road, by Kitaro
In My Time, by Yanni
A Day Without Rain, by Enya
Pachelbel’s Cannon with Ocean Surf
www.calmingmusic.com
Songs From a Secret Garden CD

Cindy Lee, LCSW, RPT-S; Clinical Director at Empowered Life Solutions

“Every life has a purpose our mission is to help you find yours.”

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