Today stress has become a way of life. We push our lives forward at a rapid speed, in tight times frames with an insane amount of personal and professional commitments. We live in home, work and city environments overstimulated by technology, messaging, marketing and media. And we binge on sugar and caffeine to maintain the pace. With our mind and bodies on the go morning, noon and night it is not at all surprising we have lost the ability to relax.
Stress is a significant contributor to sleep issues, anxiety, depression, burn out, mental illness, physical and emotional breakdowns and disease. It fuels various other destructive behaviours such as comfort-eating, binge drinking and drug use. At its worst it increases conflict at home and at work, causes relationship breakdowns and violence. It is safe to say that left unchecked, stress severely undermines our personal wellbeing, that of our families and the community at large.
Fighting stress is core to the wellbeing market which offers infinite ways to calm down, reduce stress and improve vitality. Looking for quick fixes and miracle solutions we spend inordinate amounts of money on vitamins, food regimes, tonics, clinics, beauty products, retreats and spas trying to restore our inner harmony . Often we create more stress as we buy into each product and service and experience limited results.
What we seem to have forgotten is that nature in all her wonder has gifted us with a free, easy and sustainable antidote to stress, relaxation! Ancient wisdom has long known that the techniques of relaxing the mind and body are key to living optimally. When the body and mind relax stress is easily released from our bodies and transformed into regenerating energy.
Many people believe relaxation is an outcome, a result of some activity or therapy but the truth it is a practice – a way of approaching life. By stilling the mind, calming the breath and bringing oxygen into the contracted areas of our body we can instantaneously relax no matter what is happening in our outer world. While therapies, yoga and supplements greatly support wellbeing they alone cannot create it.
Learning to relax is an internal skill to be cultivated over time through daily practices such as sitting or walking in silence, meditation, Hatha yoga, tai-chi, breathe work and other mind/body techniques. It requires a strong commitment to make relaxation a non-negotiable part of daily life and allocate time to be still within yourself or in nature. It is only by removing ourselves from the outside world with all its stimulus that we begin to experience a true letting go. While it is overwhelming at first to witness our restless energy, over time and with practice we can master our ability to calm and settle ourselves.
To create a peaceful, fulfilling and joyful life experience we must learn to practice relaxation in every aspect of our lives. This means relaxing into the day to day tasks such as shopping, picking up kids, meeting work demands, responding to emails and listening to our partners. At a deeper level relaxation provides a gateway to our inner wisdom, guiding us to purposeful work, life enhancing foods and activities and psychologically healthy relationships. Why strive for an optimal life, when it is easier and more fun to relax into one.