Why it’s important and how you can get better at it
- Relaxation and Recovery are the PURPOSE of resting
- Negative thoughts inhibit the body’s ability to recover energy
- Stopping physical activity and relaxing are not always the same thing
- If you are sitting down, but feeling irritated, frustrated, resentful about feeling tired, you are not in fact ‘relaxing’ but using mental energy
Stress: a normal part of life- BUT having a long-term health condition can make life more stressful.
‘’I see all the things piling up that I feel I should be doing. I worry that I will never catch up. In the past I would be able to everything with no trouble’’
Stress response: Tense muscles, using more energy, poor immune system
Relaxation: the opposite of stress= calm and confident= reduced tension
- Barriers to Relaxation
- Some common barriers:
- I don’t have any time to relax or it’s never the right time
- I have too many demands on my life- work, home family etc.
- Previous experience – I can’t do it
- Scepticism- “not for me”/ “not my thing” (preconceived ideas)
- People will think I am being lazy
- I think I am being lazy
- I think I will be missing out on something
- Not used to sitting in stillness- don’t know how to be alone with myself
- Modern technology distractions- social media, YouTube, computer games etc.
Overcoming barriers to Relaxation
- You don’t always need to take a lot of time out for formal relaxation- it can be as simple as closing your eyes and paying attention to your breathing for a few minutes.
- Using techniques like ‘square breathing’ or imaging a lit candle and you watch the flame flicker, but not go out. Being mindful of breathing deeply - imagine a balloon inflating in your abdomen on the in breath, deflating on the out breath
- Finding the ‘right time of day’. There is no ‘right time’, rather try to promise yourself that you will do short relaxation pieces each morning, afternoon and evening.
- Use your weekly diary planner to identify times during the day when you can rest and recuperate.
- Develop a routine – set a timer on your watch or ‘phone to remind you it is due. This will help you to remember and enable you to plan for it.
Too many demands on life
- Use your weekly activity planner to identify where you can take breaks. Always remember you are trying to achieve balance.
- Learn to say ‘no’ occasionally.
- Understand that the busier your life is, the more you will benefit from taking short periods of time out of your day to counteract this.
- Communicate with others so they understand why you are doing it.
Previous experience of relaxation:
- You may have tried it before and
a) didn’t like it
b) you couldn’t concentrate on it
c) decided it didn’t work
- Relaxation is a skill which is like any other- it takes perseverance and practice.
- Like any other skill, the more you do it, the better you will become at it- and the more you will benefit.
- Try to disregard any preconceived ideas you may have of relaxation practices.
- There are so many to choose from, so spend time exploring what suits you.
- Mindfulness, breathing techniques, Yoga relaxation, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation- there are many different approaches available.
- Use of relaxation ‘phone Apps is often a good place to start if you are unfamiliar with relaxation. e.g. Insight Timer- a free App has a beginner’s section: https://insighttimer.com/
People will think I am lazy:
- Explain the importance of relaxation for pain management to those around you.
- Communicate your needs to family, friends, work colleagues and managers.
- Establish a routine during working hours/ during the day when you take time to relax- even for a few minutes- make this a part of your normal working day.
- Ask others to help you plan for relaxation periods, so they support you by making sure you take that time to relax.
I think I am being lazy:
- Give yourself permission to stop and just ‘be’ for a while.
- You are not being self- indulgent by not completing tasks all in one go.
- By relaxing, you are actively engaging in self-care
- Become comfortable with taking regular breaks, and doing more of the things which help you relax
I think I will be missing out on something:
- Resist the desire to be involved in activities all the time, either on your own or with others.
- Better to spend your time learning how to relax regularly, which will give you energy and motivation to engage in more of the activities you enjoy.
- Take a break from social media when sitting with a coffee. Time scrolling through social media posts will be better spent focusing on your breath, mindfully sipping a drink or closing your eyes and visiting a ‘happy place’ in your mind.
Not used to sitting in stillness:
- Learn about different relaxation methods, explore different techniques and find the one(s) which work for you.
- Explore relaxing spaces- quiet rooms, a comfortable armchair in the sunshine etc.
- Tap into the relaxing properties of nature, which in itself is healing. Birdsong, trees, flowers, wind through the grass, clouds- become mindful of them.
- Take a warm bath, focusing on the feel and sound of the water, watching the bubbles drift along and the sound of them popping – good ways to slow down and become calm.
Modern technology distractions:
- Turn off the TV, put down your ‘phone, switch off the Games Console. You may think you are relaxing whilst engaging with this technology, but your brain and nervous system are still working hard.
- Disconnect from Social media, YouTube and replace video gaming with sitting in a quiet room, perhaps lighting some candles or using relaxing essential oils.
- Put your ‘phone on silent for a while- or switch it off altogether
It is called ‘relaxation practice’ for a reason- because you have to practice it.
- Remember that all these things take practice.
- Don’t be self- critical if you don’t master these skills straight away.
- Perseverance is the key.
- Enjoy learning.
Sammy Harbut, June 2020.