Relaxation is a word that gets banded around a lot these days. We’re told that it can make us feel calm and less anxious about things. And a dictionary definition cites “the state of being free from tension and anxiety”. Wow I want that!
Many self-help books cite the miraculous benefits of relaxation. And in the past I have been put off by lofty claims that don’t seem to be delivered after the first try. What I think has been missing from the conversation about relaxation, is that the more you do it, the more self aware you become about the state of your mind and body. And this gives us new information about our own anxiety and depression, which helps us to deal with challenging situations before the tipping point ever happens.
I like to think of relaxation as welcome medicine for our minds and our bodies which works alongside any medications we take on a regular basis. And because it is something that we can do for ourselves, it can bring us positive feelings of empowerment as we are proactively helping ourselves to feel better. And the ‘doing’ of relaxation has a cumulative effect that appears over time, rather than an immediate relief. And anything that you enjoy, which is fun and helps you to feel happy is relaxation in my opinion.
So how do we do relaxation? A simple exercise, which is portable as its built into all of us, is the ability to observe our breathing.
If it’s safe to do so now, stop and observe your breathing. You might observe that your breathing is shallow, or fast, and that the monkey mind is constantly chattering. The monkey mind is always with us and it is completely normal to have it bombarding us with all sorts of thoughts. Just thank the mind for sharing and bring your focus back to the breath. You can do this relaxation breathing technique sitting in a traffic queue, on the bus, at your desk or waiting for the kids to come out of school . Just observe. If your breathing is rapid, shallow, fast whatever it is, that’s okay. It just gives you an indication of how you are feeling in this moment. Are you feeling happy, sad, overwhelmed, anxious? All emotions are welcome here.
Practice taking deep breaths reaching right down into your belly. You might want to add the word ‘calm’ or ‘peace’ which you slowly say in your mind as you breath out. Try this technique out for a few days and see if it helps you to feel more grounded and present in your life. And then you can begin to use it when you are feeling overwhelmed. Three easy steps :