Stress is the fight-or-flight response to anything we perceive as dangerous, demanding or demoralizing. It is a wonderful response when facing physical danger such as an attack by an animal or a situation requiring immediate action. Our breathing quickens, heart races, blood pressure soars, butterflies invade our stomach, adrenalin triggers the release of sugar into the blood system and our muscles tense up to prepare to fight or flee.
The Benefits of the Stress Response
The changes in the stress response rapidly bring oxygen and nutrients to the large shoulder and hip muscles for fighting or fleeing. Those butterflies, for example, are little muscles in the stomach area shunting blood away from the digestive track to the large muscles groups.
The problem with the stress response is that there are few physical fights and almost nowhere to flee in modern life. Instead, we often see danger in social situations, clamp a lid on our body’s responses and get anxious.
Not only does stress make us anxious, the muscle tension can lead to tension headaches, the heart racing with high blood pressure can lead to heart disease and our overactive body can keep us from getting to sleep. In fact, over 60% of what we bring to primary care doctors are stress-related disorders. The fight-or-flight response that could save our lives can also attack our health and happiness.
The Long and Short Relaxation Responses
Fortunately, just as our bodies have a fight-or-flight emergency response, they also have a rest-and-digest, stay-and-play relaxation response. How can you make more use of the relaxation response?
Psychologists have identified about a half dozen ways to calm the mind and relax the body. These techniques can be learned from guided relaxation recordings and meditation instructions. Most of the recordings are about twenty to thirty minutes in length. These are the long forms of relaxation.
In addition, we can learn to use rapid relaxation by associating, connecting and conditioning a word or phrase to the relaxed state that we get into when we are doing the long forms of relaxation. With practice we can use the rapid relaxation in everyday, stressful situations that make us anxious.
An explanation about relaxation is not as effective as an experience of relaxation. I invite you to listen for free to the first of a seven-part relaxation training program by going to www.soundtrackdog.com. After a little more of an introduction to relaxation, the first part presents step-by-step instructions so you can enjoy a relaxing experience for free.