UNWINDING – THE ART OF REST

“You are not invincible” is the slogan that will begin our journey. It was what began the World Health Organization broadcast earlier this year that addressed the COVID 19 virus cases that have reached a crescendo in some countries around the world. With more cases and a death toll in hundreds of thousands, the virus with a sweeping force has left us all in a world of shock while we struggle gradually to come back to our normal daily routines.[1]

Anxiety is really common these days. And the truth is, while just a few admit it, nobody is immune to stress no matter how hard we try not to be caught up in it. From news about the rise and fall of the stock market to worrying about college funds to juggling late office deadlines, stress is virtually all around us.

Unfortunately, stress doesn’t solely target the elderly or young people. While everyone has different stress triggers, work-related stress tops the list, according to most surveys. Sources of work stress include being unhappy with a job, conflict among co-workers, working long hours a day, and having a strenuous workload. Other sources of stress might include family and mental or emotional stress.

Finally, in a time full of so much uncertainty and fear, the need for helpful stress-relieving methods have never been more needed. Especially in a work environment where handling and interacting with a lot of people is a must. And in the field of mental health, as in a lot of other professions, social interaction is a must.

But who helps the therapist, in need of counseling, and what useful tips can one use to aid relaxation? These and many other questions will be answered as we explore the social relieving techniques that are available to psychotherapists and others, professionals, and everyday people — both in and out of the office.

Secrets of stress relief and unwinding

In medical terms, relaxation is a mild form of ecstasy occurring at the frontal lobe of the brain in which the backward cortex sends signals to the frontal cortex via a mild sedative.[2] According to the Surrey hypnotherapy clinic, relaxation in psychology is the emotional state of a living being, of low tension, in which there is an absence of arousal that could come from sources such as anger, anxiety, or fear.[3] In simpler terms, you are relaxed when your body and mind are free from tension and anxiety. It is important to keep this in mind especially in an era driven by high productivity and business.

Before we go on, I’ll like you to understand that stress is actually a normal part of life even though we would rather avoid it. The saying, nothing good comes easy jumps to mind and I can assure you that it’s going to take quite the effort to burn that lockdown weight. Stress is only bad when it lingers for weeks or months, causing you to feel mentally and physically drained. The American Phycological Association estimates that more than fifty-four percent of Americans attribute fights with relatives to stress, with eight percent attributing stress to separation or divorce.[4] So you need to get a handle on your stress before it becomes long-term and interferes with your job, family life, and health.

Debunking the myths

Myth 1: Relaxing is not being on your phone

I know we are all busy people and we need to constantly check our emails or social media apps so the next few lines may come as a shock. Technology may be adding more stress to your life than you think—especially when you can’t seem to put it away.

During counseling sessions, I often advise my clients to go for at least a few hours each day without their mobile phones, ipads, or laptops. I have found that over time, they have learned how to create ‘me’ time and get some quality rest and slowly break away from the click-whirr sort of panicky response they have to the beep of their phone. Instead of regularly going through your social media pages in an attempt to not miss out on anything “important”, during your “breaktime” keep your phone away and try to go for a couple of minutes or hours if you can, without it.

Myth 2: Relaxing must not include comfort foods

This is called “stress eating” for a reason because while you think you’re eating your stress away, you’re actually eating your stress in. Relaxing isn’t stress-eating and while stress eating can be especially tempting after a long day of work or strenuous physical activities, it forms a terrible habit and can become detrimental to your health.

From my experience as a therapist, I’ve realized that most people that stress-eat do so out of emotional distress. It’s not surprising that depression is a leading cause of obesity. According to a Harvard Research, Stress, the hormones it unleashes, and the effects of high-fat, sugary “comfort foods” push people toward overeating. On a survey by researchers at the American Psychological Association, stress was linked to weight gain as about one-fourth of Americans rate their stress level as 8 or more on a 10-point scale.[5] This is not surprising as almost all stress foods are rich in sugars that provide momentary satisfaction but won’t do much good in the long run.

How do I just relax?

For most busy folks, relaxing can be quite challenging. In psychology, a lot of relaxation techniques have been researched extensively but I’ll share just three tips which I think would be beneficial to anyone, whether as a therapist or a client.

 

  • Physical relaxation: Physical relaxation includes proper breathing exercises. This is done by inhaling and exhaling deeply. Breathing exercises should be accompanied by normal exercises which include short busts before or after the day, long walks, jogging, and working out every other day. Most health experts usually recommend working out for about 15-30 minutes at least twice a week. This is because exercise releases feel-good hormones called dopamine. It will also help one feel active and light and aids in weight loss if done consistently. Physical techniques might also include proper diet management which is necessary for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Also, taking vitamin supplements and cutting your caffeine intake helps too.

 

  • Mental Relaxation: Most mental exercises always include meditation. Taking a couple of minutes a day to meditate is very essential for a long and healthy life. This is because meditation spurs concentration and keeps one alert and in tune with one’s thoughts and feelings all through the day. Another helpful technique would be yoga. Though yoga is primarily physical, it is recommended by psychologists to be added to your workout routine as a good stress-relieving practice.

 

  • Therapeutic Relaxation: As the name suggests, this would include seeing a psychologist or therapist depending on your preferences. This could be on a regular interval which could be from once or twice a week, bi-weekly, or monthly. This is because talking to another person about a specific problem might help one with clarity. One-on-one counseling is especially recommended for people dealing with sensitive issues. The good news is that it does not have to be a shrink. It could be a close friend or family member. Basically, anyone you both trust and feel comfortable talking within a comfortable environment.

 

However, it might be often necessary to see a trained professional for proper guidance in applying one or more of these techniques listed above. Also, therapists should run their techniques frequently and be sure it’s approved by respected medical institutions for correctness. For psychotherapists, taking a day or two off and clearing your schedule and talking with a couple of friends or colleagues may be what you need. Whether it’s planned or sporadic, talking with people is always very helpful in dealing with stress and anxiety and is a key in aiding relaxation.

Conclusion

In our busy world, where getting adequate relaxation time might seem nearly impossible for the health professionals and working-class, it’s important to keep the maintenance of one’s physical and physiological needs paramount. By employing one or more of these techniques discussed, anyone can live a comfortable and relaxing life fully.

[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-who-idUSKBN21733O

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relaxation_(psychology)

[3] https://www.surrey-hypnotherapy.com/treatments/relaxation

[4] https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2007/10/stress

[5] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/why-stress-causes-people-to-overeat

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