We all have different methods for handling stress and anger that are not always to our advantage. Some of us may shout, scream or argue while others lock in that aggravation. In doing so, our muscles tense up, blood pressure rises and our bodies send out more stress hormones. An interesting technique that you may want to try especially now during this stressful period of home confinement due to the Coronavirus is tapping into your brain’s relaxation response for the ultimate calm state.
The idea behind the relaxation response technique developed by Dr. Herbert Benson is to normalize your physical body first before ridding the mind of the tension. The best way to start practicing it is by sitting or reclining in a quiet spot for about 10-15 minutes, breathing in and out as you would be normally when meditating. The difference is that you need to find a word or phrase that gives you the feeling of tranquility like love or joy and keep repeating it through those long, deep breaths.
As you chant your chosen word, you will find that your mind may drift elsewhere. This may discourage you, but it is a process that becomes easier the more that you train yourself to do this. Losing your concentration doesn’t mean that you should stop. All you need to do is to continue with the breathing and repeating that same soothing word.
What is fascinating about this relaxation response technique is how it managed to spur activity in sections of the brain connected to muscular control according to various studies. Under this assumption, when stressed we could call on this technique to train our muscles to unwind as needed for faster relief. In other words, we can basically use our muscles and brain to become one regardless of sitting, lounging, exercising or whatever activity from playing an instrument, dancing, etc. to banish tension.
If you can’t master sitting still that long repeating that word, then you might accomplish that better by working on your breathing and muscles first. Try tensing up muscles in your legs, derriere or chest and notice what it feels like before releasing that tight hold on those muscles. The same principle applies for breathing by alternating between shallow breaths and those deeper intakes of air to notice that feel in your abdomen before releasing. Recognizing how the muscles in your body respond to tension will give you more control to manage chronic stress using the relaxation response technique as a daily tool.
There is no better time to start practicing the relaxation response technique than right now during this pandemic. After all, what you can gain can help you now but improve the quality of your life in the future as well.