Eliciting the Relaxation Response
It’s no secret that stress can have a damaging effect on one’s health. The good news is that there are various relaxation techniques that may help to counter it. That said, relaxation is “the state of being free from tension and anxiety.” This outcome is essentially what is referred to as the relaxation response.
“The relaxation response” was first coined by Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School. According to Benson, it is “a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress and the opposite of the fight or flight response.”
Consequently, one won’t elicit the relaxation response by lounging around the house or sleeping. In essence one has to learn how to effectively manage stress.
Stress and the Relaxation Response
Stress is a part of everyday life. However, when the nervous system is overwhelmed by stress, it inundates the body with chemicals that prepare it for “fight or flight.” Yet while the stress response is needed for learning, creativity, and can be beneficial in situations where you need to act quickly; it wears the body down when it is constantly activated.
Abnormal responses to stress can have a negative effect on us behaviorally, emotionally, physically and cognitively. This is why it is so important to develop proper coping strategies. Research even shows that stress plays a role in the onset of many illnesses and conditions, such as high-blood pressure, anxiety, heart disease, headaches and depression.
Yet studies have also revealed that the conscious practice of relaxation techniques (or eliciting the relaxation response) can have a positive effect on one’s health. It may even reduce the damage caused by the negative effects of stress.
Firstly, the most common immediate relaxation techniques involve deep breathing exercises and meditation. During these moments when the relaxation response is activated, our immune system functioning is enhanced. This means an improvement in breathing, sleep patterns, digestion and mental clarity occurs. In fact when we allow the system to experience this rest, it creates a balance awareness that helps us to pursue and embrace the stillness of joy and peace within.
Secondly, you may even want to figure out your stress triggers and how you react to them. In other words, know what situations tend to make you stressed and understand those you can and can’t control. It may also be helpful to prioritize tasks and/or prepare for stressful events in advance.
Finally, knowing how to rejuvenate is a vital aspect of stress management, and ultimately, maintaining our overall health and well-being. So don’t rule out visiting a community health and wellness center or consulting a licensed professional if you are having difficulty managing stress.