If you asked yourself, your colleagues, your friends, your family what they think the Secret to Life is, I am sure you would come up with 101 different answers. Keeping your thoughts positive, going on holiday, jumping out of planes, living your dream etc, etc.
If you asked me I would probably tell you the same, but I would also tell you one of the most important things at the top of the list should be BALANCE
balance is : a situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions…
Work/life balance is the current buzz word, which is not surprising because working a million miles an hour toward a successful career just doesn’t seem to satisfy us anymore (I am sure this is not just me and my potential mid-life crisis). And why – because balance feels good – balance means we pay attention to and honour all the aspects of our lives – balance in our emotions, in our actions, in our relationships and the focus of this post, balance in our bodies.
Our bodies naturally oscillate or swing between activity and inactivity. Moderate swings are healthy, large swings are not. So if you imagine a pendulum swinging, on one side there is stress and hyper-arousal (anxiety, hypertension) and the other side is exhaustion and sickness. If you do not maintain a moderate balance between activity and non-activity, if this gets out of balance, there is an increased rate of wear and tear on your body, vulnerability to illness and premature aging – eek!
Your bodies are smart though and generally take care of this for you – if something has stressed you out your body has a natural relaxation response which will try to restore you to a state of balance (the nervous and endocrine systems). However the more we react or over-react to stress, the more we get out of balance, means that we remain aroused for longer periods of time and these systems have to work harder and harder to combat this. If it takes a long time to settle down after an incident and our relaxation response system is incomplete, we become erratic and REMAIN anxious and stressed. This not only affects our ability to rest, but as the pendulum swings back, leads to exhaustion and sickness.
The number of stress related diseases are countless, here are a few to scare you – stress leads to heart disease and kidney and respiratory failure, high metabolic rates lead to fatigue and cell damage, muscular tension lead to physical pain and injury. Constricted respiration combined with poor heart function contributes to asthma, reduced blood supply to the digestive system and excess production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach produce a range of gastrointestinal problems and so on…
But the good news is, you can help your endocrine/nervous system out and learn to consciously activate your relaxation response.
Physiological benefits to conscious relaxation include a steep drop in metabolic activity, reduced blood lactate levels and muscle tension, slower breathing, drop in blood pressure and those fabulous feelings of relaxation and peace. As well as increased tolerance toward and getting on better with your roomie, your bestie, your Mother etc, etc…
Right so we have covered why, now for how can we consciously activate our relaxation response?????
The key to this is to make your conscious relaxation response just that – CONSCIOUS. Here are some suggestions to couple with your new mantra – “I choose to… to consciously relax and help rebalance my body”:
♥ Make yourself a screen saver: “Relax my muscles, drop my shoulders, unclench my jaw”
♥ Be religious in taking your tea break, choose a consistent time and make a cup of Herbal Tea, the English Tea Shop make a fabulous calming blend
♥ Choose to watch a mindless, non-violent TV show before bed
♥ Assess your weekends, are you constantly running around trying to catch up with countless people because it feels good to be social – or could you find more time/balance to:
♥ Watch a movie
♥ Read a book
♥ Identify and remove stressors in your life – sometimes this is easy and sometimes incredibly difficult – so start small, in the very least identifying who/what stresses you out helps to contain it/them and then you can start to break small ties
♥ Create time and space to meditate or if this is difficult start with daydreaming – making the space for meditating/daydreaming beautiful with incense and candles – this helps a lot. Try some guided meditations from youtube, attend a class or buy a meditation CD to get you started
♥ Look for the good in whatever situation you are in, this will help to fill your life with gratitude and is a fabulous tool for combating the stress of envy
♥ Work out what it is that you love to do on your own – yes alone – and make some space to do it
♥ Make sure you have a creative outlet
♥ Laugh a lot – subscribe to ‘some not so serious’ facebook pages – I recommend Grumpy Cat
♥ Use your senses:
♥ Smell: Buy some calming oils and wear them, burn them, bath in them – lavender is fabulous and used widely by beauty salons to instigate that “I am spoiling myself” feeling
♥ Sound: Turn off the radio, download and listen to some gentle music on the way to work/way home – don’t tell anyone but I still love to listen to Enigma
♥ Sight: Put some nature in your office, bring in a little flower in from your garden or if you keep forgetting buy a peace lily – hopefully you have an office with a window
♥ Taste: Choose foods that aren’t super sugar coated for you and your loved ones
♥ Touch: Hugs are like super food for your body, they release endorphins – etc, etc: http://happinessweekly.org/2013/01/19/fun-facts-about-hugging/
♥ Don’t ever be afraid to say no and take time out. I know a little girl who would never say no, who would never choose to relax or for that matter go to bed, just in case she missed out – is that you? If so, think seriously about what you are doing to your physical and mental health. Keeping busy is a great technique for avoiding the hard stuff but it is an even closer friend of ANXIETY.
So I give you permission, without guilt, without conscience, to RELAX. It is good for you and very, very necessary for that life balance secret.
Well there is the kettle boiling for my 11 o’clock so must go…