In the past, I have written about stress and its negative impacts on our lives—mentally, physically and in our relationships at home and at work. It’s no secret that stress has a major impact on us. So, what can we do to alleviate or avoid stress? The answer: relax. Easier said than done, right? When we take time to unplug from this over-stimulated world and dial down what I call Cultural Stress® -the constant and pervasive stressors of everyday modern life—it can have huge impacts on our health and well-being.
The simple definition of relaxation is achieving the state of being free of tension and anxiety. In the absence of mental tension, you will sleep better and spend more hours in REM sleep, which builds your immune system. Truly relaxing improves your memory, reduces your risk of stroke, and may even improve your eating habits by reducing cravings for fats and starches.
Considering all of these benefits, why is it so hard to relax? Times have changed, and Cultural Stress, in its many forms, keeps us from finding a peaceful state where we can truly be calm and quiet. In the modern world, relaxation is a deliberate choice and a learned behavior that requires training and practice to make it an effortless part of your regular life.
Here are a few ways to help you start to incorporate relaxation into your daily routine:
- Take slow, deep breaths for a few minutes before bed. Do it again when you get up in the morning and then again whenever you are driving in the car.
- Create a list of things you “have” to do. By getting your “to-do list” out of your head and on to paper (or into an organizational app on your phone), you will begin to alleviate the stress that comes with trying to remember it all.
- Take a few minutes and enjoy your present state. Allow yourself to feel where you are, not what you just did or all the things that have to get done today, tonight or this week. Just be still in one moment during the day.
- Take a few moments before bed – perhaps while you are doing your deep breathing – to be grateful for what you have in your life. I often say, “If you are breathing, you have something to be grateful for.” So say thanks, even if it is just for the little things.
Find small ways to center yourself, even if it is just for a few seconds at a time, in the beginning. You will get better at relaxing and, once you do, you will begin to enjoy the ride of life more and more and all the benefits that will come along with it.
Article by Howard Murad, M.D., FAAD, a world renowned skincare expert and founder of the Inclusive Health movement.