Are you feeling tired and stressed but don’t have enough time to relax? Are you a stress athlete? Are your students or clients exhibiting characteristics of being anxious and/or tired?
When we are stressed or anxious our autonomic nervous system is activated into fight, flight or freeze, triggering the sympathetic nervous system and a cascade of chemical reactions through our bodies. This chemical cascade features adrenaline and cortisol and impacts on our whole system, including our breathing, heartrate, digestion, reproductive system and thinking capacity.
This is fine if the trigger passes and we give ourselves a chance to relax. The cascade subsides and our autonomic nervous system switches to parasympathetic – relax and repair.
But what if you don’t relax? What if your body gets stuck in the sympathetic nervous system, with little or no time to relax? Many of us experience chronic stress and it is effecting more and more of our youth.
What happens is chronic stress, often associated with chronic anxiety, and this has some pretty dire effects on our minds and bodies:
1) Our sleep is affected which reduces our body’s capacity to restore and repair itself
2) Our digestion may become interrupted, often we are not chewing properly, eating on the run and not relaxing properly in the evening
3) We become fearful and anxious
4) We may experience back problems or other skeletal-muscular problems due to the tension we are holding in our bodies
5) We may experience unexplainable anger
6) Reduced immunity and increased inflammation
7) Concentration and focus become difficult
8) And we get very tired.
Even worse than impacting on our daily lives, chronic stress can be a causal factor and/or exacerbate many chronic illnesses. These are some pretty persuasive reasons to learn how to relax – chronic stress just doesn’t give your body or mind a chance to heal itself.
However, there is something you can do about it. Regular relaxation reduces the effects of stress on your life, leaves you alert with a greater capacity to concentrate and able to make better decisions; you can be more effective in relationships; increase your resilience; and, well, it feels really, really good.
And the good news is that relaxation can be achieved easily in just a few minutes – all you need is yourself!
Some tips for helping you to relax
1) Each time you get in to your car or arrive at your desk, give yourself a few moments to notice your breathing, notice your body and notice your environment. This takes less than a minute and may make the difference to your whole day.
2) When you start to feel anxious, encourage your breath to slow down and even try a bit of belly breathing if it feels comfortable for you. This will slow your heart rate and switch your nervous system to parasympathetic.
3) Stop regularly and stretch through your torso, opening your whole chest.
4) Go for a walk outside and take the time look out and up, noticing the sky and your surroundings, consciously being aware of each step.
5) And as often as you can do a whole body relaxation. The technique below will only take you ten minutes and leave you feeling completely rejuvenated.
Lynnette Dickinson is a fully trained Dru Yoga and Meditation teacher and secondary school science and mathematics teacher, specialising in teaching yoga and meditation tools for people with special needs, including chronic illness, mental health, PTSD, carers, children, teens and seniors. Lynnette is also the author of Journey to Peace through Yoga, a chronicle of her journey from wheelchair to wellbeing, using the tools of yoga and meditation. Lynnette is available to teach classes, private programs, retreats, workshops and staff programs, and can be contacted at www.splendouryoga.com.au.