Relaxation for Health and Wellness: What we need to know.
What do we need to know about relaxation for health and wellness?
Relaxation makes it possible to quiet the body-mind thus making relaxation interventions useful in all stages of health, wellness, and illness.
Furthermore, relaxation helps with stress management, which we know stress can consequently lead to medical issues.
In addition, let’s determine what relaxation is:
- A psycho-physiologic state with parasympathetic dominance
- The absence of physical, mental, and emotional tension
- No “fight or flight” response present
We know stress related to increased cortisol levels can contribute to illness. What are the effects of relaxation techniques on cortisol levels? One study researching relaxation interventions and activation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis which increases the cortisol levels circulating in our bodies, may help answer that question.
Three facilitators administered relaxation techniques:
- Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)
- Diaphragmatic breathing and guided imagery
- Diaphragmatic breathing and autogenic training
The conclusion, that while focused breathing and guided imagery proved effective in reducing cortisol levels, muscle relaxation interventions are most effective.
As a result, strictly related to health benefits, relaxation training can:
- Decrease anxiety associated with painful situations
- Ease muscle tension pain
- Decrease fatigue associated with fight or flight response
- Help with falling asleep quickly
- Increases effect of pain medication
Relaxation interventions are widely varied and include, but not limited to progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, hypnosis and self-hypnosis, meditation, autogenics, and biofeedback.
In addition, interventions can be assisted by a trained practitioner or self-guided. Scripts, the wording to aid in relaxation, can be read or spoken to us or recorded and listened to.
Precautions for Relaxation Interventions
- Indiscriminate symptom removal
- Must not be for superficial relief
- Caution against counterproductive responses
Sometimes those with psychiatric issues such as hallucinations or severe drug/alcohol use, can have adverse effects with some interventions. In a similar manner, adverse outcomes are too low blood pressure, increased anxiety, panic, or pain.
While most do well with self-guided interventions, some conditions need professional interventions.
Equally, precaution should be taken when listening to scripts. Never listen to tapes or other recordings when you need to be fully awake, like while driving!
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If you are looking for anxiety/depression help or require mental health support, I encourage you to contact a professional in your area. Although self-help techniques are available from Breathe Deeply and Relax, and a variety of other helpful sites, online information is not a substitute for direct professional support.
Dossey, B. M. Holistic nursing: A handbook for practice. Leddy, S. Integrative health promotion in nursing practice.