Relaxation techniques offer more benefits than just mental clarity and focus. Relaxation strategies also improve your quality of life holistically – both mind and body.
Let’s look at how relaxation techniques help resolve these 5 common health issues:
1. Relaxation and Reduced Anxiety
Continuous exposure to stressors may lead to anxiety attacks that can be disrupting and may affect your quality of life. Relaxation techniques greatly help decrease the effects of stress on your mind and body. Relaxation techniques aid you to cope with everyday stress better and the negative health effects that come with it. These techniques address anxiety from a bodily standpoint by reducing muscle tension, calming the mind, and slowing down breathing.
When it comes to relaxation techniques, there are many options available. You have to find the right ones that work best for you.
Here are some types of relaxation techniques recommended by University of Michigan Medicine that you can explore to help reduce anxiety:
Soothing Relaxation Strategies:
- Aromatherapy – Pick your favorite scented candles, incense, essential oils and relax your way through soothing smells.
- Music – Put together your favorite Spotify playlist of ambient sounds, sounds of nature.
- Visualization – Learn visualization relaxation techniques here.
- Nature – Take short swimming or hiking trips to destress.
Mind-based Relaxation Strategies:
- Body Awareness Exercises
- Meditation (Mindfulness) – If you’re too intimidated to attend meditation studios, try downloading this Mindfulness app on your phone.
- Autogenics – Reciting mantras is one type of autogenic relaxation strategies. Here are 8 modern mantras to zap stress away. Visualization is another autogenic relaxation strategy you can try. Here are some examples of visualization exercises.
Body-based Relaxation Strategies:
- Yoga – Yoga is a historical discipline that incorporates a powerful mix of physical and mental elements: meditation, stretching and strengthening exercises with the goal of improving overall well-being. Sign up for a class at your nearest yoga club to try it out yourself!
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation – Manage anxiety attacks and learn how to do it here.
- Slow-paced diaphragmatic breathing – Learn the many benefits of breathing exercise for anxiety here.
- Hot tubs, sauna
- Massage – Find out how massage reduces stress and anxiety here.
2. Relaxation and Lower Blood Pressure
A study conducted by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in 2018 found that there is a significant link between relaxation responses and a decrease in blood pressure levels.
They enrolled participants with Stage 1 essential hypertension who weren’t taking blood-pressure-lowering medications and had them attend 8 weekly training sessions wherein they were guided through mind-body interventions that elicited the relaxation response. These interventions included mantra repetition, diaphragmatic breathing, and mindfulness meditation. Over the course of 8 weeks, 13 of the 24 participants showed a clinically relevant drop in blood pressure.
Lehigh Valley Health Network recommends employing simple relaxation techniques to lower your blood pressure readings such as the following:
LVHN cardiologist Dr. Nainesh Patel says improving your mind-body balance may help lower blood pressure levels and may address other health issues such as anxiety, heart disease, colitis, and asthma.
In a recently conducted Kent State University study, they found patients who practiced mindfulness exercises for stress relief experienced a drop of 5 mmHg in systolic pressure and 2 mmHg in diastolic pressure.
Relaxation techniques that can calm your nervous system down include breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and psychological counseling.
Cook “slow food”
Processed food and restaurant meals are among the top sources of sodium, a potent blood-pressure-raising compound. Dr. Mary Stock Keister of LVHN recommends cooking “slow food” at home and avoiding sodium-rich foods such as cold cuts, bread, pizza, sandwiches, and soups.
Make it a point to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. Dr. Patel stresses the importance of regular physical activity to lose excess weight and ultimately normalize blood pressure. Yoga is a great physical exercise blended with other relaxation techniques that you can try out.
3. Relaxation and Acid Reflux Management
The link between relaxation and acid reflux management isn’t iron clad, however, under the premise that relaxation promotes overall health, it may improve your acid reflux symptoms.
McDonald-Haile et al. conducted a study published on an online journal managed by The American Gastroenterology Association, based on previous studies that showed psychological factors play a significant role in symptom management among people with GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Twenty participants diagnosed with acid reflux were subjected to both neutral and stressful tasks, followed immediately by either a relaxation intervention.
They found that stressful tasks caused a significant increase in blood pressure, anxiety, and acid reflux symptoms. It was also observed that participants who received a relaxation intervention after the stressful tasks also reported significantly lower acid reflux symptom ratings.
The relaxation interventions used included progressive muscle relaxation techniques, autogenic strategies, and diaphragmatic breathing exercises.
Relaxation techniques may be a useful supplement to traditional and medical acid reflux interventions to manage symptoms usually triggered by stressful stimuli.
4. Relaxation and Menopause Symptoms Management
Menopause marks a transition in a woman’s life evidenced by heightened anxiety, and other symptoms of discomfort and stress. 7 out of every 10 women going through menopause have at some point experienced sweating and hot flushes. This may be due to the decreasing estrogen levels that affects the brain’s heat regulation center located in the hypothalamus.
According to a study by Linköping University and Linköping University Hospital in Sweden, women who have undergone group therapy and learned to relax have reduced their menopausal symptoms by half.
Half of the 60 participants underwent 10 sessions of group therapy while the other half received non. The participants were given daily exercises for them to learn on their own and use to manage their own menopausal symptoms.
The results were astounding. The women who went through group therapy and employed relaxation strategies reported a reduction in the number of hot flushes they experience per day from an average of 9.1 to 4.4. Not only that, they also reported an improvement in memory, concentration, sleep, and a reduction in feelings of anxiety.
The North American Menopause Society recommends these relaxation techniques to help reduce hot flushes and other symptoms that may occur in the menopausal period:
This is a slow, controlled, deep, rhythmic breathing exercise that is sustained for specific time period. To do this, sit in a straight-back chair and plant both your feet on the floor. Rest your hands on your abdomen and slowly count to four while inhaling through the nose. Hold that breath for a second, and then exhale through the mouth in four counts, feeling your abdomen slowly fall. Repeat this exercise twice a day for 15 minutes each at the beginning of a hot flush.
This is also called a mantra, where you repeat a sound, a word, a phrase, or muscle movement to redirect your focus to that specific word.
Meditation is a mindful technique that involves taking a comfortable position, usually seated, and spending at least 5-10 minutes focusing entirely on your deep, cleansing breathing.
These relaxation techniques work by taking your mind off the discomfort that may come with the menopausal period.
5. Relaxation and Weight Loss
Stress is often a major cause of weight gain, so if you’re stressed about your weight, then learning relaxation techniques can pave your path to healthy weight loss.
Chronic stress not only causes stress-eating, but also raising your body’s cortisol levels, resulting to higher blood sugar and feeding growing fat cells. Chronically high cortisol levels will eventually increase belly fat deposits, and may also interfere with your body’s response to weight regulating hormones such as insulin and leptin.
Cortisol increases your food consumption by switching off your body’s natural appetite-suppressing signals.
Leo Galland, MD, author of the book “Easing Stress: How To Help Patients Learn To Relax” shares on this Huffpost article a simple relaxation technique that may help prepare your way to a weight loss journey. Dr. Galland uses a combination of progressive muscle relaxation techniques, deep breathing exercises, and visualization.
This little exercise is an effective way to calm down your mental activities and relax your body and mind. You can do them virtually anywhere and as many times in a day as you want.
Cleveland Clinic also supports employing relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation to help you lose weight. These mind-body techniques help us exercise:
- Better mental restrain – less likely to give in to stress eating cravings and impulses
- Recognize true hunger and fullness signals
Studies have also reported significant weight loss in individuals who practice meditation regularly. Weight loss requires a resilient mind to confront the modern day’s challenges of sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy dietary choices.