When learning to relax, it can be challenging to make relaxation practical, and incorporate relaxation into your routines. Many people who try to learn to relax comment that they are not able to actually relax, saying "relaxation doesn't work for me," or "I'm too busy to sit and do nothing."
Relaxation is different than just sitting and doing nothing or reading or watching TV. Part 1 of the learn to relax series discusses what relaxation actually is - listen to that episode if you would like more information - but in short, relaxation is the process of inducing the relaxation response.
The relaxation response is the opposite of the stress response, and will result in decreased muscle tension, lowered blood pressure, and other positive effects. Just sitting and doing nothing is not an effective way to bring about this response. Some of the most effective ways to experience the relaxation response are meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and autogenics.
If you want to learn to relax, and have found that relaxation is not working, or you are not fitting relaxation into your schedule, some things to consider are:
1. Finding out what type of relaxation suits you
2. How to find time to relax
3. Relaxation will not work right away, even if the type is perfect for you
Finding out what type of relaxation is right for you There are many different ways to relax, and although some methods are more effective in eliciting the relaxation response, other techniques can still be beneficial. You may need to experiment with different relaxation techniques to find out which ones are the most calming and most enjoyable. Some categories to consider and experiment with include:
- guided imagery, also known as visualization
- physical or muscle relaxation
- creative relaxation
- sensory relaxation
You can try guided relaxation (such as the relaxation audio downloads on innerhealthstudio.com, yoga videos, or following written relaxation scripts) or practice your own memorized relaxation exercises.
How to find time to relax Sometimes relaxation seems like it is not working because the session can be too rushed. It is unlikely you will be able to focus and relax if you spend the duration of the session looking at your watch, or worrying about whether you are doing it right, or wondering why it does not seem to be working. It is important to think about when relaxation would be best accommodated into your schedule. First thing in the morning, during a lunch break, early evening, or right before bed can be good times to fit in relaxation. For people who find it very difficult to find the time to relax because they feel like they need to be doing something productive, right before bed can be a good time to relax, because there is nothing else to be doing besides sleeping anyway.
Relaxation will not work right away, even if the technique is right for you Relaxation is a skill that must be learned. Our bodies are pre-programmed to relax, but to bring about the relaxation response at will takes practice. The first few times you use a relaxation technique, you probably will not feel any different, but remember, if you participate in a relaxation session, you will experience the relaxation response even if you do not feel any different at the time.
The more experienced you are at relaxation, the more quickly the response will occur. You can learn to actually lower your heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension at will.
If you experiment with different types of relaxation, fit relaxation into your schedule where it seems to fit best, and practice relaxation regularly, you will find that you are successfully able to combat stress and feel more calm.