Why is relaxation important?

Stress weakens the immune system

When fearful, worried and stress, the body operates in “Fight or Flight” mode and its focus is on survival. Other functions take a back seat, which means the optimal functioning of the immune system is not a priority.

In a time when it is ever more important to have a healthy immune system, we need to be careful that stress doesn’t weaken our immune system, making us more susceptible to viruses and illness.

Causes of stress today

The Pandemic

With everything going on in the world now, many of us are in a constant state of stress. Our lives as we know it have been upended. Some are overwhelmed as they juggle working from home and home schooling the kids, financially strained, others are increasingly isolated.

We are navigating something new and it is normal to be fearful, worried, and stressed.

Hustle Culture

We have bought into the idea that to rise and grind is the hallmark of being productive and the path to success. Most of us have become human doings, constantly striving to achieve the next big goal. We are praised for our hustle and wear it like a badge of honour.

In the Hustle Culture, the idea of being and relaxing seems lazy.

Increased screen time

Many of us are always in front of a screen, be it for work or play. When travelling, eating or before bed, we tend to be on our phones – playing games, checking on messages, social media scrolling or watching videos. After work, kicking back and unwinding usually involves sitting in front of screens.

In moderation, online games, social media, and Netflix can help us relax. Indulging in a guilt free binge of an exciting K-drama can be self-care. But, if excessive screen time is used as a constant distraction to numb out from your stressors, this could result in an accumulation of unprocessed thoughts and feelings that cause more stress in the long term.

Relaxation improves the immune system

“Relaxation appears to boost immunity in recovering cancer patients. One study at Ohio State University, in the US, found that progressive muscular relaxation, when practiced daily, reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence. In another study at Ohio State, a month of relaxation exercises boosted natural killer cells in elderly people, giving them more resistance to tumours and viruses.”
~ from the article, Relax your way to Perfect Health

It is important to note that while having a bubble bath or reading a book can be relaxing and reduce stress, being in deep relaxation generates more health benefits. Deep relaxation consists of several physical changes in your body that include a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and the rate of your breathing.

When we are deeply relaxed, our parasympathetic system is activated. This is our “Rest & Digest” mode, the opposite to “Fight or Flight”. In “Rest & Digest”, the body can repair, recover, and it results in better immunity, digestion, and memory among other things.

Ways to relax deeply

Mantra chanting
Sit with your eyes closed, repeating a mantra for 15 minutes or just chanting “Om”.

Sound Baths
Participants “bathe” in the sound waves produced by instruments like gongs, singing bowls, chimes, drums and the human voice. Using a combination of rhythms and frequencies, sound tools entrain the brain to move into the deeper brain wave frequencies and can shift our normal waking Beta state to the Alpha, Theta and Delta states.

Meditation
Guided meditations are a great way to start. Here are a few I have created: 
15 minutes Guided Meditation to Relax and Release Fear
15 minutes Guided Meditation to Relax and  Release Anger
15 minutes Guided Meditation and Sound Bath

Body Scan
If you have more time or might be dealing with pain conditions. Try this 45 minutes Mindfulness Body Scan meditation by Stress reduction expert Jon Kabat Zinn.

References:
5 Better Ways to Relax Than Sitting in Front of a Screen, Inc.
Four Realistic Rules for Better Self-Care, Psychology Today
Relaxation Response Proves Positive, The Harvard Gazette
Relax your Way to Perfect Health, Independent
Study identifies genes, pathways altered during relaxation response practice, Science Daily

About Celeste

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Battling alcoholism for 20 years, Celeste was stuck in a vicious cycle, unable to see a way out. She likens addiction to being on a hamster wheel, feeling exhausted but unable and too afraid to stop; where the safer option is to continue running.
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