What to do when it feels hard to relax.
Updated: May 19
Are you having trouble getting off to sleep at night? Does your body feel tense and anxious? Is your mind so busy you can’t even enjoy your morning shower? Do you feel exhausted but it is hard to just stop and relax? Let’s take a look at what could be happening and what you can do about it.
During times of stress it is the job of the sympathetic nervous system to prepare us for a ‘Fight or Flight Response’. A flood of hormones activate our body and mind; stimulating the adrenal glands, producing cortisol. The heart rate increases, breathing speeds up, the muscles prepare for urgent movement and the mind is on high alert. This is really helpful if we are in immediate danger but if our lives feel stressful over a long period, this can be exhausting and quite an ineffective response to the challenges you face.
There are many relaxation practices that can help the nervous system rebalance, drawing on the soothing qualities of the parasympathetic nervous system. This is important so the heart rate calms back down, the digestive tract relaxes, breathing returns to a deeper rhythm and self-regulation of worrying thoughts and emotions feels possible.
Would you believe that you only need a little relaxation throughout the day, to boost your energy, clear your mind and support you in feeling less overwhelmed and more in control of your response to stress. One of the greatest benefits of feeling more relaxed is that you can start sleeping better again, even if the challenges around you are still there.
Let’s take a look at some of the effective relaxation tools offered in our Pa2health program offer by Narelle Hunter.
If you can manage to steady the breath, during a variety of circumstances, you have be directly soothing and calming the inner agitation you may feel. Begin by exhaling, relaxing the body, feeling a sense of letting go and arriving in the present moment. Now allow the inhalation to flow in effortlessly. Repeat this a few times and connect with an inner steadiness before getting back to your routine. Try this a few times a day.
One of the greatest tools for assisting with sleep is guided deep relaxation. This practice is not designed to ‘entertain’ the mind but gently encourage a focus on the ‘relaxation response’ in the body. We offer 2 guided relaxation practices during the program for you to try before bed, as well as new bonus content by Narelle, to support new sleeping patterns. We know how much better we feel after a good night’s sleep. This is probably the most valuable tool in the ‘Relax’ section of the program. Well worth a try.
Mindful Stress Mangement
The problem with stress is that we can get into a cycle of anticipating what can go wrong in the future or re-living what happened in the past. As mentioned, this has a direct impact on our body and mind. It is certainly not easy rebalancing our nervous system on our own, especially if you have experienced trauma or a high degree of long term worry. In recent months, many families have had to deal with drought, bushfires and now Covid 19. That is certainly a lot to deal with, on top of your everyday challenges. If you have noticed your ability to cope deteriorating or those early signs of stress such as tiredness, breathlessness or sleeplessness, turning into overwhelm, headaches, exhaustion or anxiety then it is really important to speak to your doctor or a professional who can help you put together a strategy that will help.
We also recommend the support below:
Mental Health Central Access and Navigation 1800 931 603 (during business hours). Murrumbidgee Accessline 1800 800 944 (24/7) for mental health and alcohol and other drug support.
Alice Stevens has also put together some great mental health support information in the blog attached https://www.pa2health.com/post/fantastic-support-service-information-collated-by-alice-for-bush-fire-affected-families
How can mindfulness help?
It is really important to ‘check in’ daily and notice how we are feeling physically, mentally and emotionally. An early and proactive response to stress is really important. If we notice the body feels tight and tense, take a walk, try one of our home workouts by Ginny Stevens, stretch, prepare a healthy meal or have a rest.
Even if just part of your awareness is trying to notice todays details, that is great. What can you see, touch, taste, feel and hear right here, right now? If you can remember to breathe well and relax your body (with Narelle), nourish yourself well (with Judy), move your body (with Ginny) and notice if your thoughts are supporting you (with Alice) you can then come into the present moment more often. Why not a have a try and practice deep relaxation in the evening and sneak in a little siesta in the afternoon, we have a little protection from the outer turmoil.
As you will hear the Pa2health team repeat time and time again, ‘look after yourself’. Our mission is to ‘Empower Regional Australians to take charge of their health,' especially during stressful times.
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