Make your own free website on Tripod.com

STRESS HELP

Home | Hope | Self Help Guides | Useful Addresses | Recommended Reading | Causes | Nervous System | Stress | Hyperventilation | Stress and Depression | Stress and Anxiety | PTSD | OCD | Bipolar Disorder | Counselling | Exercise | Ear Acupuncture | Agoraphobia | Relaxation | Mind Body Medicine | Alcohol | Suicide | Caffeine | Nutrition | Massage | Medication | Humour | Acupressure | Herbal Medicine | T'ai Chi | Pain | Depression Screening | Anxiety Screening | Useful Websites
Relaxation

 
 

Regular elicitation of the relaxation response has been scientifically proven to be an effective treatment for a wide range of stress related disorders.

(Prof. Herbert Benson MD, Mindbody Medicine Institute)

 

RELAXATION TRAINING

Research indicates that people with stress related problems like insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, depression etc., can have an oversensitive stress response and have higher levels of stress hormones in their blood stream than people without anxiety or depression.  Higher than normal levels of stress hormones can affect our brain chemistry and physiology and this can be one factor in triggering and maintaining chronic stress, anxiety and depression.  A useful strategy to learn is relaxation which helps to reduce this arousal of the sympathetic nervous system that triggers the stress response creating the opposite biochemical and physiological effect to the stress response. We are often told to learn to relax but we are not taught How to relax.  Relaxation is a skill that has to be learned.  Fortunately just as our bodies have an inbuilt stress response mechanism it also has an inbuilt mechanism for triggering relaxation.  This is called The Relaxation Response.

Research has indicated that stimulating the hypothalamus gland in the brain by practising relaxation helps to turn off the stress response and causes a wide variety of beneficial physiological and biochemical changes that are the opposite of the stress response and restore our bodies homeostatic balance and improve our disease resistance.

 

BENEFITS OF PRACTISING RELAXATION

Just as there are many physiological and biochemical changes triggered by the stress response, practising relaxation can have beneficial effects on our physiology and biochemistry which helps to reduce stress, anxiety and depression such as:

  • Boosts serotonin levels
  • Decreases heart rate
  • Decreases respiratory rate
  • Decreases lactic acid levels
  • Improves sleep
  • Increase in salivation and digestion
  • Increase in alpha brainwaves indicating restful state
  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Boosts immune function
  • Decreases anxiety
  • Decreases muscle tension
  • Decrease cortisol levels
  • Decreased cardiac output
  • Blood sugar levels are more stable
  • Skin has increased resistance to passage of electrical impulses which indicates that sympathetic nervous system which triggers stress response is less aroused

WHAT ACTUALLY IS RELAXATION

Many people think relaxation is sitting with our feet up watching the television or reading a book but this is not so, relaxation is a totally different state you do not get the same beneficial biochemical and physiological changes while watching TV as you do when practising relaxation.  Research using EEG monitors to monitor brainwave patterns, of people watching television and others using relaxation, show that practising relaxation causes the brain to switch to alpha type brain waves that indicate relaxation.

 

HEALTH CONDITIONS HELPED BY RELAXATION

Research has indicated that regular elicitation of the relaxation response can have a beneficial effect on a number of physiological and psychological health problems such as:

 
  • Agoraphobia
  • Angina Pectoris
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Back Pain
  • Childbirth
  • Depression
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Eczema
  • Emphysema
  • Epilepsy
  • Headaches
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Infertility
  • Insomnia
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Menopause
  • Migraine
  • Pain in General
  • Panic Attacks
  • Phobias
  • Post Surgery
  • Pre Menstrual Syndrome
  • Psoriasis
  • Raynaulds
  • Stress
  • Skin Problems

TYPES OF RELAXATION

There are many methods of stimulating the relaxation response, what type you want to use is totally up to you.  All these relaxation techniques have been shown to work and its a matter of personal choice which you use:

  • Autogenics
  • Floatation
  • Guided Imagery/Visualisation
  • Hypnosis
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Passive Muscle Relaxation
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga

 HOW TO ELICIT THE RELAXATION RESPONSE 

Professor Herbert Benson states that there are only two basic steps to elicit the relaxation response:

 

  1. Repeat a word, sound, prayer phrase, or muscular activity.

 

  1. Passively disregard everyday thoughts that come to mind, and return to your repetition.

 

Benson teaches the following nine step, generic technique (p136) to his patients:

 

Step 1.             Pick a focus word or short phrase that is firmly rooted in your

                        belief system.

 

Step 2.             Sit quietly in a comfortable position.

 

Step 3.             Close your eyes.

 

Step 4.             Relax your muscles.

 

Step 5.             Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, repeat your focus

word, phrase, or prayer, silently to yourself as you exhale.

 

Step 6.             Assume a passive attitude.  Dont worry about how well you are doing.

                        When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself, Oh well,

                        And gently return to the repetition.

 

Step 7.             Continue for 10 20 minutes.

 

Step 8.             Do not stand up immediately.  Continue sitting quietly for a minute

                        or so, allowing other thoughts to return.  Then open your eyes and

                        sit for another minute before rising.

 

Step 9.             Practise this technique once or twice daily.

 

Source

Battino, R. (2000), Guided Imagery and Other Approaches to Healing, Crown House Publishing.

 
WHERE TO OBTAIN RELAXATION AUDIOTAPES

There are a variety of sources from where you can purchase relaxation audiocassettes.  Local bookshops, Health Food shops and your local Library are a few sources.  The local Library is possibly the best place because you can try different cassettes till you find one that you like and then you can purchase a copy.  There is also a link to a company specialising in stress/relaxation audiotapes called talking life at the end of this article.

 

RELAXATION MINI  (THE 60 SECOND TRANQUILLISER)

When stressful events occur in our lives at home or at work we can help to calm ourselves and reduce out stress by practising a very shortened form of relaxation called relaxation minis that take only a minute or so to practise.  These minis can even be used while receiving dental treatment or undergoing other uncomfortable procedures.

 

  • Say Firmly to yourself

TAKE CONTROL

  • Repeat I CAN DO ANYTHING I WANT TO breathe out slowly

 

  • Slowly breathe in and allow your abdomen to soften and rise

  

  • Pause slightly

 

  • Slowly breathe out, slightly longer than breathing in 

 

  • Say to yourself I AM BREATHING IN PEACE AND BLOWING AWAY TENSION

 

  • Each time you breathe out relax your face, jaw, shoulders and hands

 

  • MOVE and TALK more slowly

 

  • Repeat again until you feel fully in control.

(Source:  Tyler M. (2001) Stress Trainers Course)

 

CAUTION

 

  • Do not practise relaxation when driving or operating machinery or where you need to concentrate or drive straight after you have practiced relaxation.

 

  • Always check with your GP that you are fit to practise relaxation, especially if you have a chronic health problem.

 

RESOURCES

 

USEFUL WEB SITES

http://stress.about.com/cs/relaxation/

www.calming.org

 
USEFUL ARTICLES ON RELAXATION

www.mbmi.org

www.dstress.com/guided.htm

 
USEFUL BOOKS ON RELAXATION
 
 
  • Benson H. (2000) The Relaxation Response, Bantam.
  • Craze R. (1998) Teach Yourself Relaxation, Hodder and Stoughton.
  • Davis M. (2000) The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook.
  • Sutcliffe J. (1993) The Complete Book of Relaxation Techniques, Headline Books.

 

 COMPANIES SELLING RELAXATION AUDIOTAPES