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What is relaxation? Relaxation is a state of low stimulation or a process of relieving tension caused by stress. Relaxation can be achieved in many ways, and almost everyone has their own way of relaxing. The most efficient ways to relax are relaxation methods such as autogenic training, meditation, yoga, biofeedback, etc. These techniques allow deep relaxation quickly and after consistent practice, a relaxed state can be maintained for several hours. The mechanism behind relaxation is a relaxation response, which lowers stress gathered throughout the day. Stress triggers our bodies' mechanism called the stress response, which prepares us to deal with danger by either "fight or flight". The consistent tension present throughout our busy lifestyles forces us to consider using some kind of stress management techniques. There are several relaxation methods or ways to cope with stress efficiently and most of them elicit our bodies' relaxation response mechanism. Deep relaxation with relaxation techniques Deep relaxation can be achieved through this relaxation response, which is, in short, the opposite of a stress response. If a stress response heightens our stress hormone cortisol levels, a relaxation response lowers it. When we are under high levels of stress our heartbeat accelerates, our blood pressure heightens, our immune system weakens, and we become anxious or in a bad mood. All these symptoms are reversed when we elicit a relaxation response. There are several relaxation techniques or ways to elicit a relaxation response. Autogenic training offers deep relaxation in just 10-15 minutes and is respected by western medicine. Transcendental meditation is probably one of the most researched stress-relieving techniques. Zen and yoga work as well and even prayer done properly evokes relaxation. There are also quality western stress management techniques that lack spirituality. The oldest and most widely known is certainly hypnosis, followed by autogenic training and progressive muscle relaxation.  Why the need to relax? Why would we want to relax or be relaxed is a relevant question. We all know we feel good when we are relaxed, but there is more to it than that. Relaxation done properly has many positive advantages and, for some, even unexpected effects on our health and wellbeing. Lowering stress is the mechanism behind every relaxation technique and it results in many positive health outcomes. Relaxation practiced several times daily for 10-15 minutes each time can help treat (as long as the condition is stress-related) many health concerns, including: several anxiety disorders (generalized anxiety disorders, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic disorder), moderate depression, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, infertility, hypertension, migraines The relaxation response is also a good companion for problems related to angina (chest pain), arthritis, asthma, blushing, cancer, high cholesterol levels, menstrual problems, palpitations, pregnancy, PMS, smoking, sports injuries, and many others. Deep relaxation also boosts our immune system and protects us from problems related to a poor immune system, which can be as simple as a common cold or as serious as cancer. We all have our own ways of relaxing, such as reading a good book or watching TV or maybe going out. While these common activities can and do have some effect in terms of a relaxation response, using a stress management technique is still the most healthy and efficient form of achieving relaxation. Relaxation and stress Relaxation and health What is autogenic training? Why take an autogenic training course? Do I need a therapist to learn autogenic training? How to get relief from stress?
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10 Healthy Ways to Reduce Stress and to Relax

Throughout the day stress really builds up and we desperately need ways to relax and reduce this feeling. There are numerous tips on how to relax on the web and it is difficult to decide what helps the most. We gathered some of the most efficient ways to lower your stress and ranked them from 1 to 10. The key to relaxation is the reversal of the stress response and turning on the so called "relaxation response". We roughly arranged activities by their strength in terms of bringing about a relaxation response. 1. Practice a relaxation technique, meditate or do yoga The natural and the most powerful way to relax or reduce stress is to practice some sort of relaxation technique or to meditate. They all have in common the shift from a stress to a relaxation response. However, they need some time and guidance to master at the beginning, but it is worth the effort since they also hold many positive effects of relaxation, which are desired by all of us. Who does not want to be a calm, positive and happy person? 2. Regular exercise It must be emphasized that the regularity holds the key to success when it comes to exercising. The first few jogging days may actually be exhausting if you overexert yourself. However, in the long run exercise is actually an incredibly beneficial activity, which holds endless positive effects on your general health as well as on your ability to handle daily stress. By exercising you are burning all the stress gathered throughout the day and also getting in shape. Your blood circulates and many physiological changes occur during the exercise. In short you will live an easier, longer and fuller life. Some tips how to start (jogging): a. Do not rush into regular exercise, not only can you lose motivation, but your cardiovascular system and the rest of your body has to adjust to the higher demands of effort and energy consumption. b. Adjust you exercises to your weight and physical condition. If you are overweight and have not exercised in years, go to your GP to have a general check up first. He might give you a program for exercising adjusted to your needs. c. Start by walking for half an hour every second day. And after a week start walking for 45 minutes every second day. After four weeks jog slightly during your walk. d. Listen to your body, it is not only the heart that must adjust to exercise, but muscles, joints and bones also have to strengthen and adapt to the changes. e. Eat a balanced diet, so your body receives enough energy and material to recuperate after extra energy consumption. Consume proteins and complex carbohydrates after you exercise. Also make sure you receive enough vitamins and minerals, which your body needs after exerting extra effort. Drink plenty of water. Reduce fat and instead try fish or flaxseed oil, which hold omega fatty acids that burn fat and build your nerve cells. f. After you start exercising regularly write down your data and keep track of your progress. Do not overdo your effort at the beginning. Remember, you have many days still to come and will have all the opportunity you need to exercise. 3. Drink enough water This is actually not an activity, but dietary advice to lower your stress levels throughout the day with a noticeable effect. Drinking enough water means you drink it all the time the whole day. Have a glass bottle besides you throughout the day, and if you get thirsty you are already dehydrated. If you drink coffee or tea, you must compensate the water you lose because of caffeine intake. An extra two glasses of water for every cup should do the trick. This is the easiest way to lower your stress levels, which is why we put it on the third place. 4. Take a power nap Taking a nap that lasts from 15-30 minutes does not start a deep sleep cycle and revitalizes a person, boosts cognitive functions and relaxes us. Some take more than one nap a day and keep their energy levels up by doing so. The problem is some cannot relax enough to fall asleep. You should avoid coffee three hours before taking a nap or practice a relaxation technique to fall asleep. This is a great way to gain energy and lower stress if you are sleep deprived. 5. Get a massage Some forms of massage are proven to reduce stress and feelings of anxiety, they can help with depression, lower blood pressure, slow the heart rate, which is basically what the parasympathetic nervous system does. This means it lowers our stress levels, restores our body's functions and brightens our mood. We only list massages after power naps, because they tend to require a more effort. 6. Spend time with your pet (go outside, go for a walk) Pets love us no matter what we do in our lives. When we arrive at the doorstep they are thrilled to see us. They are good stress relievers; we are happy to see them, we can pet them and we can take them for a walk. Going outside for some fresh air in a park can be really relaxing and the blood flow gets going when you walk, your pets will be also happy. Maybe you can sit in a park, read a book and play with your animals or just get some sunlight. 7. Take a warm bath We seldom have time for ourselves and taking a warm bath is a relaxing time just for us. There is something about these warm baths and it is similar to visiting a sauna. However those with a bad heart or coronary problems should know that exposure to too much heat is dangerous for people with these conditions. 8. Watch a comedy, sitcom or laugh with your friends Laughter has also been shown to lead to reductions in stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine. When we laugh the brain releases endorphins that can relieve some physical pain. Laughter also boosts the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T-cells, leading to a stronger immune system.Watch a comedy instead of a horror or action movie. Find a favorite sitcom and enjoy doing nothing. Go out with your friends and change your environment, but do choose a friend that makes you laugh or feel accepted. Try avoiding relationships that drain your energy. 9. Tidy up your room and make a to do list, write a diary Having a feeling of neatness in your apartment or in your head is very important. We have many things to worry about and putting them down on paper and organizing them by priority gives us perspective, concrete deadlines, and relieves our tension knowing we do not have to do things all at once.Writing a diary is offloading. Write what bothers you; spill it all out on the paper. You can really release your feelings, write with no boundaries, and swear if you like, do not worry about handwriting. You can burn the paper afterwards to symbolize the nature of offloading. You will feel released and you will be able to put things behind you. 10. Read a good book This is for all you book lovers. For some reading is relaxing and you should definitely read if this is the case. Take time and choose a book you have always wanted to read. Curl up under a blanket and drink some mint herbal tea to relax you further.
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Relaxation Methods

There are several commonly used relaxation techniques or methods of relaxation, all of which elicit a relaxation response. A relaxation response is the opposite of a stress response and enables deep relaxation with all the benefits of being relaxed. Relaxation activates the parasympathetic nervous branch and slows down the sympathetic nervous branch, which has recuperative effects on our bodies. Any relaxation technique or relaxation training demands some dedication and time in order to be mastered. In the long run, using a relaxation method has various positive health effects. Physiological benefits: lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, lower respiration rate, lower cholesterol levels, less tension headaches and migraines, lower stress hormone cortisol levels, lower norepinephrine levels, boosting of immune system, regulation of blood sugar and more... (These are only physiological benefits, for even more benefits, see our article on Relaxation Response). Which relaxation technique or training method is right for you? The answer to this question is short and simple: any of them, because 'something' is better than nothing. The best way to start is to take a course, where you will have guidance, motivation and supervision. If you try it on your own you will see how easily we abandon a new habit or technique, even if we could really benefit from it. Regular practice twice per day is the most difficult task in starting a new relaxation technique. The methods themselves are more or less easy to learn, but regular practice is where the problem is hidden. Relaxation methods or techniques These are some of the most known relaxation techniques or structured ways of relaxing, and are presented alphabetically below. Autogenic training Biofeedback Hypnosis Meditation Progressive muscle relaxation Yoga To achieve health results you must practice each relaxation technique at least two times per day, one of which is in the middle of the day. This practice is necessary, because to lower stress in our life we need to break the stress circle during the day. In this way we can lower stress levels in the long run. The most effective time to practice a relaxation method is (first) 2 hours after we wake up, (second) after work and (third) before going to bed. We can have a (fourth) additional session (at noon or in the evening), but not more than that. Autogenic training or autogenic therapy Autogenic therapy is a relaxation training that was developed in Germany by J. Schultz in 1920s. The six standard exercises focus on various parts of the body, and by passively creating mental contact with these parts, we are able to achieve deep relaxation. Autogenic training is easy to learn and focuses on phrases, which allow even deeper relaxation, than using just a passive mental attitude and a mantra.Positive aspects: deep relaxation in just 10 minutes, broadly researched and proven effective, systematically taught and supervised Biofeedback Biofeedback uses several different reading meters, which monitor body's information such as temperature, heart rate, brainwaves, skin conductance, respiration rate, etc. These readings allow a person to control the described physiological processes and manipulate them in a way that benefits different health issues, lowers stress and induces relaxation.Positive aspects: several modalities (different physiological readings) allow broad health applications, which are often unique; using biofeedback with other techniques (e.g. autogenic training) is common Hypnosis Hypnosis elicits a relaxation response similar to other relaxation techniques, and today is also used to treat depression, anxiety or any other stress related problems. At first the use of hypnosis was more directed to behavior or habits, and it was even used by Freud, who later abandoned the technique. Today it can be successfully applied to any stress related problem. However, hypnosis is still seen as a state where we are more suggestible to changes in our behavior. Autogenic training uses the same principle; where instead of a hypnotic state uses an autogenic state (with affirmations), in which we are more susceptible to making positive changes in our lives.Positive aspects: it can be self-induced the same as autogenic training or progressive muscle relaxation Meditation There are so many meditation techniques available and so many ways of meditating it is impossible to describe it as a single field with similar characteristics. Nevertheless we can say that any meditation technique elicits a relaxation response, which is common to all relaxation methods. Every meditation or relaxation technique results in its unique EEG measurement and therefore is, in a way, different. The most researched meditation technique is probably transcendental meditation, which uses a pleasant sounding mantra to achieve a meditative state. The health benefits of meditation techniques can easily be attributed to the elicitation of a relaxation response.Positive aspects: a wide variety of choice of meditation techniques; some techniques are free, but you will probably still need guidance at first Progressive muscle relaxation Progressive muscle relaxation is a relaxation method that was developed in 1920s by Edmund Jacobson. It is different from meditation or autogenic training, where the passive mental attitude shifts to a relaxation response. In progressive muscle relaxation a practitioner tenses the muscles for 10 seconds and then releases them for 25 seconds. Observing the relaxation after tensing the muscles is where the relaxation response mechanism does its part. This technique is slightly different, but still holds the power of a relaxation response.Positive aspects: different technique, which relaxes the whole body part by part Yoga Yoga is a 5000 year old Indian discipline using meditation, body exercises, and breathing to achieve harmony with oneself and the environment. To achieve this, action, emotion and intelligence must be balanced. Through breathing techniques and exercises in different body poses, you develop awareness of the body. The exercises improve circulation in the body and general health and breathing techniques prepare the mind for meditation. Using yoga has many health benefits, including the lowering of stress. It does however take a long time to master. There are six branches of yoga bhakti yoga hatha Yoga jnana yoga karma yoga raja yoga tantra yoga Positive aspects: a whole body technique, with meditation; guided courses
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Relaxation and Stress

Relaxation and stress are almost antonyms. The stress response and relaxation response seem to be two opposite mechanisms in our body. In our modern way of life stress and relaxation should be addressed more since stress-related issues are the number one reason for GP visits. Workplace stress, a fast-paced life, bad eating habits, a tight schedule, daily commuting, or other pressure can all contribute to high-stress levels in our lives. Stress, however, is a natural response of our body, which in the past enabled us to survive in nature, where we had to flee from predators or hunt and capture prey. The stress response is still here, but stressors are now more camouflaged. Instead of being exposed to danger for short periods of time (high-stress levels), today a "threat" is present throughout our workday (lower levels of consistent stress). So why is relaxation important? We are all familiar with the feeling of being anxious or stressed out. We all feel the need to relax in stressful situations. The body is signaling us to eliminate the stress response. This relaxation urge has a reason because stress causes numerous negative effects on our overall health. The stress response or the fight-or-flight response increases sympathetic nervous system activity. It prepares the muscles by causing blood to flow from the abdomen to the extremities, the heartbeat increases, and the lungs expand in preparation for either fighting or fleeing. Adrenalin gives us strength and noradrenaline is released to motivate us to act. Stressful life events have been linked to sudden cardiac death, premature birth and birth complications, diabetes, and overall susceptibility to illness. Stress also plays a role in autoimmune diseases, coronary heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders, chronic pain, and a range of other medical and psychiatric disorders (anxiety, depression, etc). With all of these disorders, it is believed that the effect of stressful life events on morbidity and mortality is caused by over activation of the fight-or-flight response. Stress is bad, but can relaxation help? Relaxation to fight the stress response is obviously necessary. Our body, fortunately, holds a relaxation response mechanism, which lowers stress symptoms, restores our body's harmony, refreshes our mind, fights anxiety and depression, lowers blood pressure, and even induces gene expression.: It helps: premenstrual syndrome pain irritable bowel syndrome anxiety infertility high blood pressure high cholesterol diabetes panic disorders chronic tension headaches fibromyalgia insomnia psoriasis arthritis hyperactivity in children, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). and many more The relaxation response fights stress, but the relaxation we get from watching television or listening to relaxation music is not sufficient. The relaxation response is profoundly higher when using a relaxation technique, during mediation, or during some forms of prayer. The research on the relaxation response has been around for some time and many positive effects of using a relaxation response have been identified. The relaxation response The relaxation response has a calming effect on a person and is the "opposite" of a stress response. Actually, the "rest and digest" phase of the relaxation response is also a natural process, but is, as already mentioned, more profound during relaxation. Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School hypothesizes that the relaxation response is hypothalamically triggered and that it is an inborn counterbalancing mechanism to the stress response. The relaxation response model is now widely used to explain the therapeutic effects of the relaxation response on various health problems. Literature reviews generally concur that all relaxation response techniques are characterized by reduced stress hormones and reduced central nervous system activity in the form of measurable brain wave changes. Regular elicitation of the relaxation response not only appears to mitigate the effects of the stress response but has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of many health problems, including musculoskeletal disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, cardiovascular disorders, and others, including stabilizing blood sugars in diabetics, reducing nausea associated with chemotherapy, reducing the severity of arthritis and insomnia, and also reducing hostility and anxiety. What are the benefits of eliciting a relaxation response? As mentioned above relaxation has many positive changes on our health. Many of the positive effects are currently being researched and many more still remain to be researched. However, there are some positive effects reported by people practicing certain relaxation techniques, which relax us and trigger a relaxation response strong enough to affect our body and mind: Reduces anxiety attacks Builds self-confidence Increases serotonin which influences mood and behavior. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, headaches, and insomnia. Enhances energy, strength, and vigor Helps keep blood pressure normal Reduces stress and tension Creates a state of deep relaxation and a general feeling of wellbeing Helps with P.M.T. Increases concentration and strengthens the mind Helps reduce heart disease Helps with weight loss How to use relaxation so it will benefit me? With every change in life, we need motivation, time, and effort. The best way is to find an autogenic course, a meditation course, or something that will have an organized and motivational approach for you to get going and not forget the new habit in a week or two. Relaxation has to be done 3 or at least 2, times per day in order to stop the stress response and start a relaxation response during the day. Three times during the day is the golden rule. More, however, is not advisable, because the relaxation response needs to be controlled, and too much of it can have uncomfortable effects for some people. The secret of relaxation against stress is its long-term practice. Consistent practice over a longer period of time changes our average physiology and makes us think and act differently since we are more relaxed overall. More information What is autogenic training? What to expect from autogenic training? 10 ways to relax Relaxation methods What are the six standard exercises?
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Relaxation Response

A relaxation response is a term to describe several physiological changes in our bodies, which are the opposite of a stress response. A relaxation response differs from sleep or resting, and can be achieved through several different relaxation techniques (autogenic training, progressive muscle relaxation), meditation, prayer, hypnosis, and yoga. During a relaxation response, several physiological changes occur. Our blood pressure drops, breathing rate decreases, heart rate slows down, and muscles relax. Oxygen consumption decreases and a drop in lactate levels are noted (high levels are associated with anxiety and low with tranquillity). Brainwave patterns also change and more low-frequency alpha, theta, and delta waves are measured, which are connected with rest and a relaxed state. A relaxation response differs from a state of sleep. During sleep, a decrease in metabolism occurs in one to five hours, whereas during a relaxation response this decrease is seen after just three to five minutes. Brainwave patterns are also not the same during sleep as they are during meditation or relaxation. Relaxation response: meditation, prayer, autogenic training, hypnosis, etc. Herbert Benson started research into the relaxation response in the late 1960s. The first technique he observed was transcendental meditation and he was astonished by the results of this technique. He quickly realized his observation of the relaxation response was an unresearched area of the medical field. Although his first research was based on transcendental meditation, he remained open to other possible ways to elicit the relaxation response. Soon he and his colleagues observed several different approaches where this response could be and was present. Their research discovered there are two elements to every meditation and prayer that elicit a relaxation response. First a silent mental repetition of a comfortable sound and second a passive disregard of thoughts that intrude. Soon he discovered there are also western approaches that produce the relaxation response, such as autogenic training, progressive muscle relaxation, and hypnosis. Interestingly when Schultz created autogenic training (around the 1920s) he observed heaviness in the limbs, a slowed heart rate, slowed breathing, a warm abdomen, and a cool forehead. These were actually observations of the relaxation response and autogenic training essentially focuses on the consequences of a relaxation response. This focus is achieved by a silent repetition, a slow heartbeat with a passive attitude of whatever thought may interfere with this phrase. Schultz called this passive concentration, and the similarity of autogenic training and meditation is easily noticed. Hypertension Benson and his colleagues researched the effect of the relaxation response on hypertension and found that it can lower the blood pressure of patients when stress is the predominant source of high blood pressure. The method also proved useful in those cases where white coat hypertension was the main reason for hypertension. The immune system Stress can affect our immune system and immunological diseases can be stress-related. Since the relaxation response reduces stress it is a valuable tool in fighting diseases related to the immune system, and relaxation response techniques are especially useful in fighting autoimmune diseases. For example, TaiChi and meditation, in combination with traditional medications, appear to be beneficial for patients with arthritis: the affected individuals seem to live better lives and may have better long-term clinical outcomes. In systemic sclerosis, RR (relaxation response) techniques have been recommended as a complementary therapy, due to their reported ability to shorten Raynand attacks. Cancer The relaxation response helped women with breast cancer who were going through neoadjuvant chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy. They had better immunological scores and less circulating tumor necrosis than a control group. Relaxation frequency and self-rated imagery quality were also positively correlated with natural killer (NK) cell activity. Coronary problems Relaxation response techniques have been demonstrated to be helpful in the treatment and prevention of atherosclerosis and endothelial dysfunction. Coronary artery disease is also associated with stress and relaxation response techniques have been successful in terms of symptomatic status, exercise capacity, risk factor profile, including a reduction in body weight, serum total cholesterol, LDL, triglyceride levels accompanied by an increase in HDL. Myocardial infarction Stress also has the potential to actively trigger Myocardial infarction (MI) and the relaxation response (RR) counteracts the negative effects of activated stress responses and can be helpful in the treatment of this cardiac event. Positive effects have been described for short- and long-term outcomes and the RR has further been shown to enhance the physical and psychic status of patients after rehabilitation (following MI). After all, relaxation therapy consequently appears to improve the long-term prognosis of the cardiovascular system: it decreases future ischemic events and fatal MI. Anxiety, depression The relaxation response is highly recommendable in treating anxiety or depression. Several RR techniques have been shown to help either anxiety or depression or both. It has been suggested that several different mechanisms play a part in alleviating these mental disorders. For now, it remains a useful option for those with mild depression or mild to moderate anxiety. Insomnia Many people with insomnia have rapid brain wave patterns that are typical when a person is under stress. Recent studies by psychologist Gregg Jacobs and his colleagues have shown that insomnia patients taught the relaxation response, together with other behavioral techniques, can learn to fall asleep more easily. On average, these patients fell asleep four times more rapidly after treatment, and their brain wave patterns slowed as well. What to expect from a relaxation response? The persistent practice of autogenic training or other RR technique can bring feelings of greater control over your life and leads to a sense that emotions can be brought under your control. One psychological benefit is a greater sense of self-assurance. The physical benefits are decreases in stress-related conditions and their symptoms. Some positive effects of the relaxation response Physiological effects Stabilizes blood pressure Lowers heart rate and respiratory rate Reduces stress hormones Slows the aging process Improves mental functioning Improves brain wave coherence Improves the strength of the immune system Increases serotonin which influences mood and behavior. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, headaches and insomnia. Enhances energy, strength, and vigor. Psychological effects Decreases stress, anxiety, anxiety attacks, and depression Decreases the fear of death Increases the joy of living Increases positive emotions and overall attitude toward life Increases self-confidence Cognitive effects Increases concentration and strengthens the mind Increases memory  More information   What is autogenic training? What does autogenic training look like? How to get relief from stress? History of autogenic training Relaxation methods
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How to Get Relief from Stress

There are many ways to cope with stress, and everyone has their own system for managing stress. Some ways are better (exercise), some are unhealthy (cigarettes) and some are pleasing (listening to the ocean). Unfortunately, to achieve deep relaxation we must invest some time and effort in learning a relaxation technique. Relaxation techniques for relieving stress Stress relief techniques or relaxation methods are the most efficient and long-term approach for coping with and fighting against stress. Relaxation techniques are approaches where we elicit a relaxation response, which is the opposite of a stress response. The most known relaxation techniques are meditation, autogenic training, biofeedback, hypnosis, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, some forms of prayer and several other approaches, all of which elicit a relaxation response. Learning a relaxation technique takes some time and effort, but it is worth the wait because of the benefits deep relaxation holds. Stress makes us anxious and nervous, and we never feel relaxed even when we are on vacation. To break this vicious circle of stress, we must cope with it on a daily basis. However, we must first practice relaxation for a month or two to get real relief from stress, because relaxation techniques are long-term solutions. Find a course or a therapist that will guide and teach you a relaxation technique, because correct practice, motivation and persistence are crucial for success. You will have to practice two or three times per day for 10-15 minutes, but don't worry: it's fun and relaxing. What are other ways of coping with stress? Exercise Regular exercise is the best way to 'burn' stress as well as calories, and get instant relief. Jogging for 45 minutes is enough to make us feel vigorous and relaxed. Swimming, riding a bike, spinning classes and even fitness all do the trick too. In fact, regular exercise, a relaxation technique and the right nutrition are the keys for a healthy life. If you are out of shape try walking for half an hour every day for a month. After some time walk for an hour and with time you will be able to start jogging. (Remember this applies only if you are healthy and not overweight! Otherwise you need to get medical supervision before you start exercising.) Get enough sleep Sleeping enough is a basic prerequisite to cope with stress. If you are sleep deprived you are under stress. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night is a good rule of thumb. Getting enough sleep restores our bodies from the previous day and prepares us for the next. If you have trouble falling asleep, practicing a relaxation technique is the healthiest way to get a good night's sleep. Drink enough water This is simple. Enough water lowers stress levels. Drinking enough water is the easiest precaution for kee-ping stress levels low. We won't prevent stress by drinking water, but we will keep it as low as we can. You must drink at least one glass of water every hour. In another article we present the 10 best ways to relax and get relief from stress, have a look and enjoy!
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Relaxation and Insomnia

Relaxation and Insomnia (Relaxation for better sleep) There are many possible reasons for having trouble with sleeping or having insomnia. Relaxation techniques are proven to help insomnia that is not related to any other condition, or so-called 'primary insomnia'. For many patients who have difficulties sleeping, the cause is either side effects of prescription medicine or a psychiatric disorder. There are also many other reasons for having insomnia, which can vary from pain to hormonal problems. In these cases, relaxation may or may not help achieve better sleep. While the results here vary from person to person, it is a good idea to first try to treat the primary medical condition and not only insomnia. Since relaxation techniques, lower stress people with secondary insomnia tend to benefit from using relaxation therapy in any case. Natural choice For primary insomnia relaxation training is a very good non-pharmacological choice to treat insomnia or try to improve the quality of sleep. Sedatives and previous generation sleeping pills cause addiction, and people very easily build up a tolerance to these types of medication, which then demand an increased dosage. Making things even worse is the fact that if the medication is stopped, one's insomnia may become even worse than in the beginning. Therefore a natural self-administrated method, such as relaxation with no noticeable side effects, is an unprecedented advantage for people suffering from insomnia. It is also a way for sufferers to get off of medication and use only relaxation response exercises to treat their problems with sleeping. How does Relaxation Help People with Insomnia? The key to success is eliciting a relaxation response, which is common to all relaxation techniques. The relaxation response reduces stress gathered during the day and this results in many positive changes not only to insomnia but also to conditions such as anxiety, moderate depression, panic attacks, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels or skin conditions, asthma or epilepsy, and many others. The exact manner in which the relaxation response helps people with these conditions still needs many years of research and is probably very complex, with many different mechanisms of action. However, it seems stress reduction plays a dominant role in helping people who use such relaxation techniques. Will it Work for Me? People with insomnia can expect positive changes in their sleep if they practice any relaxation method. Here it should be emphasized the relaxation response must be elicited at least three times per day for 10-15 minutes for several months in order to see the full effect that relaxation holds for each individual. Do not be discouraged by this fact, since many notice the first improvements after as little as one week. The other positive factor of relaxation is its effects on other areas of life. You will not only sleep better or longer, but you will also have other positive effects on your wellbeing, such as: building more confidence, being less stressed, having fewer tension headaches or migraines, etc. The best choice is to choose a relaxation method and use it for the rest of your life. This may sound intimidating, but today's lifestyles now demand a relaxation method for each individual. The good thing is that when we get relaxed we feel better, we are in a better mood and usually happy. Who does not want that? And it only takes half an hour a day! There are many relaxation techniques available and you just have to find one that you feel will work for you. The most known relaxation techniques are: Autogenic training Biofeedback Meditation Progressive muscle relaxation Yoga Do not be discouraged if you don't see results within a week. Patience here is very important and after three months of practice, you must compare your new condition to the one you had prior to practicing relaxation therapy in order to notice true improvement. As you can see, insomnia can be treated with relaxation, leading to better sleep and overall higher quality of life. However, there is no guarantee; you have to try it out to see if it works for you! Further reading: What to expect from autogenic training? What does autogenic training look like? What are the six standard exercises? More about relaxation
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How to Relax

If you have ever googled "how to relax" it probably means that you have too much stress in your life. But don't worry, we all do. And luckily our bodies can elicit a relaxation response, which enables us to relax. The problem starts in our body's natural response to a "threat", which prepares our body to either fight or flee from danger. This is called a stress response, which causes several physiological changes in our body, such as increasing stress hormones, adrenaline, noradrenaline, and more, and endangers our long-term health. The opposite of the stress response is the relaxation response, which is a distinct natural mechanism that allows deep relaxation. The relaxation response can be achieved through a passive mental attitude and the repetition of a certain word or a phrase. In autogenic training for example phrases are constructed in a way to deepen relaxation. However, many methods of relaxing do not have special phrases, but can still help us relax. The answer to the often searched question "how to relax" is actually the same answer as to how to reduce stress and how to reverse a stress response. The two best natural ways to relax or achieve relaxation are: 1. regular exercise (minimum 45 minutes) and 2. relaxation methods (autogenic training, biofeedback, massage, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, etc) Regular exercise The best and quickest method of relaxing is a good workout. We also feel better after a good exercise, and as they say "anima sana in corpore sano" - a healthy mind in a healthy body. However, exercising differs from practicing a relaxation method, since in a way it "burns" stress. To really achieve deep relaxation we still need a relaxation response, which can be done by practicing a relaxation technique. Practice a relaxation method There is a lot of competing advice concerning the 10 best ways to relax, and don't worry, we have our own list too. But to really achieve deep relaxation, you need to practice a relaxation method three times per day, for 10-15 minutes each time for at least two months to see the desired results. However, this should not demotivate you from starting a relaxation technique. It is a fun process and in autogenic training, you can get some results as early as just two weeks. Anyway, who would not want to take a break during the day, close their eyes for a few minutes and just be alone with themselves. As usual, there is no instant magic solution to the question "how to relax," but the positive effects of deep relaxation, in the long run, are vast (strengthens the immune system, lowers cholesterol, treats anxiety, improves wellbeing, improves concentration, increases self-confidence, improves sleep, and many more) and it is worth waiting and investing some time and resources to simply feel better again. Other tips for being more relaxed Get enough sleep Besides regular exercise, which "burns" stress and enables us to lower our stress levels, having enough sleep is crucial to staying more rational and less stressed out. Not having enough sleep is actually stressful and several days of sleep deprivation makes us edgy and anxious. 7-8 hours of sleep is the golden rule and having less or more makes us sleep deprived or tired from having too much sleep.Another problem can be the inability to fall asleep, which is commonly caused by stress. Here again, a relaxation technique is the best way to naturally fight the problem. While sleeping pills are widely available, they have a tendency to be addictive, and we can easily develop a tolerance to them, which increases the already unhealthy side effects. Good sleeping habits with proper nutrition and no caffeine after 5 pm can sometimes help solve the problem. Nutrition We are what we eat. Although everyone is familiar with this often repeated phrase, most people still do not pay as much attention to nutrition as they should. There are a few simple rules. Try to avoid simple carbohydrates (sweets, potatoes, regular pasta, and white bread are the most common) and eat complex carbohydrates such as full corn bread, full corn pasta, and brown rice. These actually boost serotonin, which will make you feel better. Less fat, more vegetables Next, avoid eating too much fat (no fried food, no sweets, less cheese, less milk), avoid too much red meat, and try to eat more low-fat white meat (chicken, turkey breasts) and plenty of fish (omega-3 source). Eat good quality fresh vegetables and fresh fruit. You can make natural smoothies from both, and they will boost your mood and energy throughout the day. They contain many vitamins and fiber, and as we all know they are healthy and much needed. More water, less caffeine Drink plenty of water. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Drinking enough water actually helps fight stress and gives you more energy throughout the day. Avoid too much caffeine. Many of us need a cup of coffee to start the day. Caffeine raises the stress hormone cortisol and is, therefore, a stress booster. If you are sleepy during the day, drink a glass of water, which will increase blood pressure and make you less sleepy. Further reading: What is autogenic training? What are the six standard exercises? What does autogenic training look like? Relaxation and health
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Relaxation and Health

Irritable bowel syndrome Relaxation can help treat irritable bowel syndrome. In research done by Laurie Keefer and Edward B. Blanchard (2001) people with IBS were treated by a relaxation technique (relaxation response meditation), which resulted in significant improvements for flatulence, belching, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. A one-year follow-up study showed that the reduction of symptoms had been maintained (Keefer 2002), meaning that relaxation can provide both short-term and long-term benefits for sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome. While relaxation can help treat IBS, the extent differs from person to person. It should be mentioned that relaxation methods also have other positive effects on wellbeing and life stress symptoms and can improve the overall quality of life of a practitioner. Deciding to manage irritable bowel syndrome with relaxation has therefore also many positive "side effects". Eczema Relaxation can help reduce the severity of eczema and the irritation associated with the disorder. In research by McMenamy, et al (1988) patients with eczema, were treated by biofeedback and progressive relaxation. There were improvements in self-monitoring the condition, anxiety associated with the condition, and also areas affected. The research also included a two-year follow-up with many asymptomatic subjects.Eczema is often associated with anxiety due to the embarrassment of what the skin looks like. Stress management techniques can have a great value here. As the research mentions, relaxation can even help affected areas of the skin, which gives further reason to add relaxation to a regimen of possible treatment. Psoriasis There are many triggers (medication, injuries, cold weather) that either cause psoriasis to appear or worsen. . One of the triggers is also stress, which can cause pain, inflammation, and itching. In order to manage the condition, it is advisable to try a relaxation technique to lower stress and strengthen the immune system. Atopic Dermatitis In research by Ehlers, et al (1995) autogenic training was used as a relaxation therapy for dermatitis. The results were significant improvements in skin condition compared to educational (information) treatment, and a significant reduction in topical steroid use was also recorded. The authors concluded that relaxation as a psychological intervention is a helpful add-on treatment for dermatitis. Chronic Urticaria In research done by Shertzer and Lookingbill (1987) 15 patients with chronic urticaria, who had been suffering from the condition for an average of 7-8 years, were treated with relaxation therapy (hypnosis). At a follow-up 14 later, six patients were free of hives, and seven reported improvements.This research suggests that relaxation can be a great complementary treatment for people with urticaria. It should be mentioned here that using a relaxation technique also has positive effects on the immune system and general wellbeing as well. Acne There is evidence that stress worsens acne and many people discussing this topic on the web forums concur with their own personal observations. Practicing a relaxation technique lowers stress and may result in positive changes to acne and to the wellbeing of people with these skin problems. Asthma Stress can trigger asthma and stress management for asthma patients is highly recommended. Using a relaxation method to reduce stress is an important management technique for asthma symptoms. Lower stress can mean fewer asthma attacks. Relaxation techniques are useful for children with asthma who should avoid taking too much medication. However, treatment must be supervised by qualified doctors. Anxiety, stress, and depression Relaxation techniques can successfully lower feelings of anxiety and symptoms of stress. The success rate here is very good and relaxation can even help with depression, especially combined with medication, since depression is usually comorbid with anxiety. Regular practice is needed in order for relaxation to help, but the results are worth waiting for. Panic attacks Panic attacks are stress-related and relaxation can successfully help treat this anxiety disorder. People suffering from this disorder have to be patient in practice since results can only be seen after the adequate practice of a relaxation technique. Results are usually very good. Colds and Flu Rest and relaxation are crucial in fighting colds or the flu. Doctors always say that when you catch a cold or have the flu you need to rest and drink plenty of fluids (herbal teas and water). Since relaxation strengthens the immune system (while stress weakens it) it is wise to practice a relaxation technique to help your body fight a cold or the flu. It is difficult to say what effect relaxation has, but since it strengthens the immune system it can be of some help. Migraines Relaxation helps fight both the severity and frequency of migraines. Many studies have been done in this field that confirms this statement. The effects of relaxation can sometimes be delayed by two to three months since you need to learn how to relax and lower the stress levels, which is not a process done in a week, but one that needs time and patience. Besides helping with migraines, people practicing relaxation improve their wellbeing, lower stress, improve relationships, confidence, etc. Epilepsy Research that confirms relaxation reduces seizures in patients with epilepsy is well-established. However, due to the nature of the condition it is recommended for patients to practice relaxation in a controlled environment. To what extent relaxation techniques help epilepsy differs, as always, from person to person. Relaxation techniques can be an add-on treatment and not the first line of intervention. Menopause Eliciting a relaxation response in menopause leads to a reduction in hot flashes and their intensity. Besides hot flashes, concurrent psychological symptoms of tension anxiety, and depression are also significantly reduced. Research is done by Irvin, et al (1996) used women without hormone therapy and supported these conclusions. Since stress usually worsens symptoms of menopause the described results are intuitive and relaxation can be very helpful in these hard times women go through. Having a tool for lowering stress is a very useful skill at this time in one's life. Premenstrual Syndrome Research done by Goodal, et al (1990) observed women with severe premenstrual syndrome symptoms, who were assigned to three groups: a relaxation response group, a reading group, and a charting group. For physical symptoms, emotional symptoms, social withdrawal the group assigned to relaxation showed significantly better improvement (58%) than the other two groups (27% and 17% respectively). The authors concluded that regular relaxation is an effective treatment for the premenstrual symptoms they researched. This is not the only research to support these results, so women can reasonably expect to notice benefits in this area after successfully practicing a relaxation method. Hypertension (high blood pressure) In the early days of researching the relaxation response Taylor, et al (1977) divided patients with essential hypertension, who were treated with medication, into three groups. The first group was a relaxation therapy group, the second received nonspecific therapy, and the last was a medical treatment only ("control") group. When practicing relaxation therapy, patients with hypertension showed a significant reduction in blood pressure compared to patients in other groups. This suggests that patients with hypertension can have additional therapy along with medication in the form of relaxation therapy. Tension headaches Relaxation can help people with tension headaches. Here it should be emphasized, as, in every relaxation therapy, it is important to practice relaxation at least three times per day for 10-15 minutes to achieve the maximum effect. Scientific research often lacks this regular and consistent practice, and at follow-ups, candidates have sometimes stopped practicing relaxation. This regular practice is very important for having long-term effects in treating any condition. Tension headaches are successfully treated if stress is the cause of the pain. With tension headaches, this is usually the case, so relaxation can be of significant benefit. Some people benefit more than others, but they all lower stress if they practice a relaxation technique in the right way. Having a relaxation method can be a great benefit not only for headaches but for overall quality of life. Fibromyalgia Stress worsens the symptoms of fibromyalgia and can cause additional pain. This is probably known best by the people suffering from this condition. Having a relaxation method to lower stress is probably a necessity for everyone with this condition. Feelings of anxiety and depression, which may accompany this condition, can be greatly reduced by practicing a relaxation method. Relaxation techniques are not a miracle cure for fibromyalgia but can improve the quality of life for people with this condition. Insomnia There are many different causes of insomnia and in most cases, if you treat the causal condition the insomnia is also treated. In many cases however insomnia does not go away or can be the only condition or so-called primary insomnia. If stress is the cause of poor sleep, relaxation therapy can significantly help. After using a relaxation method people are usually calm, often sleepy, and report longer and deeper sleep. For many people with insomnia, a relaxation method is all they need to finally get a good night's sleep. Summary You have to try and see what results in relaxation techniques bring for you. Remember at least three sessions of correct practice per day for 10-15 minutes per session for at least three months is necessary before you can judge whether or not relaxation works for you. Relaxation therapy is an investment with numerous positive effects. Even if it does not help with your primary problem, it can also have other health benefits and your time and effort will definitely pay off. Trust the process! More information   What is autogenic training? Why take an autogenic training course? How to get relief from stress? What does autogenic training look like? Stress and relaxation What is a relaxation response?
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Relaxation and Anxiety

The question is "Does relaxation help anxiety?" or "Can relaxation techniques help my anxiety?" The answer is: "Yes, relaxation can help treat anxiety." However, the explanation is a bit longer and, as you will see, anxiety is a broad term and relaxation cannot help every anxiety disorder to the same extent. Moreover, not every form of relaxation treats anxiety in the same manner. What is anxiety? Anxiety is categorized by feelings of worry, uneasiness, fear, and concern. It is a consequence of a stressor and is a part of our evolution, so it has a role in our lives. Stressors today are different than in the past and are present for longer periods of time (e.g. an 8-hour working day). This means anxiety as a state is present to an unnatural extent for people with higher stress demands. Anxiety as a state is far from being an anxiety disorder, but if it is excessive, present for longer periods of time, or has a specific background it may be an anxiety disorder. Relaxation helps relieve stress, which is the source of anxiety. Sometimes this is enough for anxiety to diminish and we feel relaxed and our worries fade. Here the term relaxation is equated with a relaxation technique or relaxation training, which can range from autogenic training, biofeedback, or meditation to zen yoga. Which relaxation works? Only deep relaxation elicited several times per day for at least two months has noticeable effects in the long run for severe cases of anxiety. Reading a book or watching TV, can be relaxing, but only relaxation that elicits a relaxation response can significantly help deal with stress and anxiety. Learning a relaxation technique takes time and patience, but the time invested is worth the effort. Can a relaxation technique help an anxiety disorder? Relaxation can help feelings of anxiety, which are caused by stress. Since anxiety is a consequence of every anxiety disorder, learning to relax deeply can lead to better sleep, a less anxious day, and a better overall quality of life. Generalized anxiety disorder and relaxation Here anxiety is generalized and is present throughout the day. Relaxation is a very useful tool to relieve stress and consequently feelings of anxiety. There is a good chance of treating generalized anxiety disorder with relaxation if the root of the problem is stress-related. In severe cases, medication therapy is advised, but without eliminating the source of stress the battle can be long-lasting. When trying to quit medication therapy while still maintaining a stressful lifestyle, having a relaxation technique is essential. Obsessive-compulsive disorder and relaxation The symptoms of the obsessive-compulsive disorder tend to increase when the sufferer is under excessive stress. Having a relaxation technique is a good choice along with other forms of therapy (medication, CBT). In severe cases of OCD medication is needed or even psychotherapy, but having relaxation therapy included can help maintain a less stressful life. Generally, one's quality of life improves with the help of a relaxation technique to relieve stress. Post-traumatic stress disorder and relaxation The trauma people go through can have severe anxiety as a consequence. Relaxing can be a great help to minimize anxiety, depression, insomnia, and improve the quality of life. Again medication may be necessary for this disorder, but alternative help is still welcomed and beneficial.Panic disorder and relaxationPeople with panic disorder can benefit from relaxation training. Severe cases can still try medication, but again when trying to come off of the treatment it is advisable to master a relaxation technique since stress is often the cause of this disorder. Having a relaxation technique is a very good consideration for those suffering from panic disorder. Phobias and relaxation Relaxation here can be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment. However, here there are fewer possibilities to get direct improvement from relaxation alone, and again anxiety as a state is a good choice during exposure to a situation or an object of distress in treating phobias. Relaxation for anxiety? As you can see, relaxation for anxiety is a very good choice, especially if the anxiety is not a disorder, but only a state of high stress. Nevertheless, even people with anxiety disorders may benefit from relaxation training greatly and it can become an essential part of life for some. Further reading: Relaxation and depression Relaxation and insomnia Why take an autogenic training course? What are the six standard autogenic training exercises?
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Relaxation and Depression

Stress and depression are undoubtedly connected. Stressful life events often cause depression. Some symptoms of stress such as a bad mood, irritability, insomnia, and poor concentration overlap with depression symptoms, which further confirms the similarity of connection between stress and depression. However, there are people who do not develop depression, although they are under high-stress levels or suffer from stressful life events. Evidence Many studies have been done to find if relaxation methods can treat depression. The conclusion to most has been: depression can be treated with relaxation if depression is mild to moderate. But knowing if depression is mild to moderate is a difficult task even for doctors. Using a relaxation technique as the primary treatment for depression is not a common practice. This does not mean it cannot be a successful way to fight this disorder, but usually, patients require medication treatment or psychotherapy. However, using a relaxation method combined with medication or psychotherapy is beneficial, especially where stress is the underlying factor in developing unipolar depression (absence of mania or hypomania). Using relaxation for the treatment of bipolar patients is not recommended. However, if it is done in a controlled environment by a qualified psychiatrist along with medication treatment, some may benefit from lowered stress. Using both medication and relaxation for the treatment of unipolar depression is better than using either one individually. Having a method for lowering stress is always useful in cases of depression, and it can be also a good aid when patients are coming off of medication (if a doctor and a patient agree). Further reading: Relaxation and insomnia What is autogenic training? What is a relaxation response?

Tension Headaches and Relaxation (Autogenic Training)

Back in 1987, a small study measured the effect of autogenic training on tension headaches. They found about autogenic training is effective in reducing tension headaches. It is well-established relaxation techniques such as AT, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation help with tension headaches. This is not unexpected since stress often causes tension headaches. But everyone is not the same, some may get more relief from pain than others and it is impossible to predict that. Nevertheless, practicing relaxation is beneficial for many reasons. You may have anxiety if you have tension headaches and relaxing regularly often helps with feelings of anxiety. That is even more so if you have a lot of stress during your normal days. Practicing autogenic training or meditation surely makes you feel calm and that improves the quality of life. Relaxation also increases melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is a sleep hormone and naturally induces sleep. My clients with autogenic training ALL report better sleep. They fall asleep sooner and after the course, almost all need an alarm clock if they did not need it earlier. Serotonin is connected with depression. Autogenic training is proved to help feelings of depression and that does not come as a surprise, since everybody feels better after you do a relaxation technique. Tension headaches are a real problem for many and everybody has these headaches here and there. If you practice autogenic training regularly, your average stress levels drop significantly. That can be a huge help with tension headaches if not a complete absence of them.

Asthma and Relaxation (Autogenic Training)

There was some evidence in the past that relaxation techniques such as autogenic training can help people with asthma. However recent study reviews confronted that. This does not mean that autogenic training is of no use. Nevertheless, if relaxation did not help with asthma, scientists would not research that possibility in the first place. Stress itself is not good for asthma and practicing relaxation showed some improvement in that direction. Since practicing relaxation has many positive effects on wellbeing it is wise to include autogenic training or meditation in a daily healthy lifestyle of a person with asthma.