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Relaxation is an almost mythical state of being in which we no longer feel the stress and anxiety of our difficulties and challenges, where we melt into our comfort zone, but in a healthy way.

But is this really what relaxation is? Is relaxation fully understood by most people or do we simply use the term, imagine a hammock, and then forget about it?
Relaxation is a hammock, sure, but it is so much more.

Relaxation can act as a balm or barrier from the harmful affects of stress, anxiety and hardship. Incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily life can help you unwind after a difficult or even just a tiring day, but they can also help you in the moment when you are confronted with a stressful situation.

Fight-or-flight responses occur during an anxiety reaction, causing adrenaline to course through your system. By learning to understand when we are feeling the stress and the subsequent fight-or-flight reaction and then utilizing calming or relaxation techniques to settle these responses down can really improve our overall health in the long run.

According to the Mayo Clinic, some benefits of regularly utilizing relaxation techniques include:

* Slowing your heart rate
* Lowering blood pressure
* Slowing your breathing rate
* Increasing blood flow to major muscles
* Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
* Improving concentration
* Reducing anger and frustration
* Boosting confidence to handle problems

Some relaxation techniques include yoga, meditation, exercise, counting, progressive muscle relaxation, hypnosis and simply being still and quiet. Important and not to be overlooked, are things like caring for yourself overall by getting enough sleep and eating healthy food, avoiding too much processed foods or foods with high sugar content, and maintaining supportive social connections.

Friends and family can be sources of stress in and of themselves, but they can also be great sources of comfort and relaxation as well. Laughter is a wonderful stress reducer and sometimes the best medicine of all.

Deep breathing is also very important for deep relaxation. Hot baths and showers, stepping away from a situation prior to reacting, talking with a trusted confidante ... these are all important ways to help you calm your system down and bring yourself back to a calm state of mind.


Relaxation Techniques: Try these Steps to Reduce Stress
Stress Management. MayoClinic.com. Retrieved from the internet on December 22, 2011.

Relaxation Techniques. Stress Management from Mind Tools
Retrieved from the internet on December 22, 2011

Aimee Boyle is a regular contributor to EmpowHER

Reviewed December 23, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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