If you wake up every day with your brain buzzing, full of anxiety about everything you need to get done that day, or if the busy commute to and from work fills you with dread, don’t worry, we’ve all been there. The pace of life these days can make it all seem like a constant juggling act.
That feeling of losing control, and desperately trying to regain it can cause a great deal of stress in all of us. With this in mind, tomorrow has been declared National Relaxation day, and is dedicated to reminding us all how to switch off and take note of the positive link between relaxation and mental health.
The Effects of Stress
Feelings of stress can occur on a daily basis, depending on the stressors around you. Anything from the sound of car horns in a traffic jam to worrying that the waiter properly understood your dietary requirements can set you off. It’s a normal part of life, and few people could claim to have never felt stressed out before.
The important thing is learning to keep it under control and avoid that feeling of being overwhelmed. Chronic stress can lead to serious physical and mental consequences, as well as put you at risk of developing depression.
The impact of stress on the mind
- Feelings of anxiousness and fear
- Highly irritable
- Easily overwhelmed
- Lowered self-esteem
- Often worried
- Difficult to concentrate or make decisions
The impact of stress on the body
- Frequent headaches
- Increased muscle tension and pain
- Difficulty sleeping well, and often tired
- Dizzy spells
- Over or Under eating
If you are suffering from long-term stress you may also be snappier towards other people, drink or smoke more, and consciously or subconsciously avoid people or things you have an issue with. This may lead to feelings of unhappiness and guilt, all of which have a negative impact on your mental health.
With the established correlation between relaxation and mental health improvement, the key is to find the relaxation techniques that work best for you, to regain control over your feelings of stress.
Relaxation and Mental Health – Techniques For Coping
- Focus on your breathing
Sit up straight in a comfortable chair with your eyes closed. Inhale through your nose for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, and exhale through your mouth to a count of 6, or whatever feels most comfortable. Repeat the process until you start to feel a little calmer.
- Take a technology break
Most of us are addicted to our phones and that feeling of being connected, but giving yourself a little space from technology can be helpful for both relaxation and mental health. Choose a particular hour of the day especially for switching your phone off, and staying away from the TV in favour of reading or going for a walk in nature. Disconnecting is important from time to time to give you a chance to breathe and focus on yourself.
- Listen to music
This is particularly good if you are in public, and unable to escape an environment that is causing you stress, such as a busy train. Use your phone and a pair of headphones to listen to some music that you enjoy and find relaxing. Music can have a surprising effect on the brain, and really help to soothe your mind which in turn will calm you down.
- Get Active
Regular exercise is beneficial for all of us, proven to keep our bodies healthy and our moods brighter, so any exercise may help to alleviate some of your stress. Breath-focused exercises such as yoga and pilates are ideal for relieving tension and anxiety and going to a class a couple of times a week may really help with relaxation long term.
- Don’t be afraid to seek help
If you’ve faced chronic stress for many years with no sort of improvement despite trying many different relaxation techniques, it’s a good idea to seek external help. This may be contacting family and friends for advice and support, or it may be booking an appointment with a GP to talk things through. We offer an out of hours service for Richmond from 6.30pm to 8am every day, so if you are unable to meet with a GP during surgery hours due to work or other commitments, you can book an appointment with us by dialling 111. Stress can have a dramatic effect on your mental health, and it is important to speak with a medical professional if you feel like you can’t cope.
With the overwhelming evidence that relaxation and mental health are positively linked, it is important that we all remember to take time to relax if we feel a little stressed out. From just taking some deep breaths to tuning out with some music for half an hour, regularly practicing these easy relaxation techniques can really make a positive difference to your mental health and wellbeing.