We all know that we need to stimulate the relaxation response. The question most of us still have, however, is how? In this article, I highlight 6 of my personal favorite go-to ways to calm stress, elicit the relaxation response for healing, and simply unplug and relax!
My Favorite Ways to Relax
There are literally hundreds of different strategies you can use to relax, and these are just a few of them. They are ones that I have used myself for many years. I consider them my regular “go-to’s” that I utilize throughout my week. I hope you give them a try as well!
Let’s start with the most studied and widely-known relaxation modality: meditation. As I wrote earlier this month, “Meditation doesn’t have to be mysterious and it doesn’t have to be complicated either. What’s more, it doesn’t have to just be about sitting on a meditation cushion in a pretzel position doing nothing.”
To learn more about different ways of meditating, be sure to check out this article!
What meditation is, however, is an evidence-based and proven modality that elicits relaxation by directly lowering brain wave patterns. Various forms of meditation have been shown to help with trauma and PTSD, boost self-confidence, increase blood flow, increase cognitive ability, balance hormone levels (especially cortisol), and help with anxiety and depression.
My suggestion is that, even if you don’t consider yourself a meditator, give it a try for 10 minutes sometime this week. For gentle guidance with meditation and visualization on your Breast Cancer path specifically, be sure to check out what Tamara Green and David Dachinger of Loving Meditations have to offer!
Getting some sauna time in, especially far infrared sauna, is a sound way to kick in the healing effects of hyperthermia and help to deeply relax the body and the mind on all levels. Studies have found that raising the temperature of the body can actually kick in mechanisms in the immune system that can destroy cancer cells.
One review published in the Annals of Oncology found that hyperthermia modalities can lead to “[s]ignificant improvement” for “tumors of the head and neck, breast, brain, bladder, cervix, rectum, lung, esophagus, vulva and vagina, and also for melanoma.”
Saunas have been used for centuries, especially in Scandinavian countries. Recent studies have found that they can help with autoimmune conditions and fibromyalgia, improvements in the cardiovascular system, detoxifying environmental pollutants, and easing chronic pain.
The warming and soothing effects of a good soak have been experienced for eons. Not only does it raise body temperature, which can boost immunity, it is also easy and inexpensive since you can do it right in your own home. All you need is a bathtub and some clean hot water!
There are some tricks that can kick bath time up a notch, however. First of all, try adding healing substances to your water. This could be Himalayan salt, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, Epsom salts, or soothing essential oils like lavender, rose, ylang-ylang, or frankincense. Also, consider adding a filter to your spigot to remove contaminants and chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride.
You can also “set the mood” before your bath for deeper relaxation. Light a candle and play some soothing music. Bath time can be a great opportunity to simply unwind from the day as well as to contemplate situations that may have presented themselves during your week. Approaching challenges from a calm, relaxed place allows the mind to encounter fresh solutions.
Many creative breakthroughs have happened to artists, writers, and inventors through the years while they were in the bath!
Swiss writer, WM Digglemann, writes that “stories are weapons against disease.”
I love this quote because it is a testament to the power that sharing our own stories can have in encouraging healing mechanisms. Journaling is about more than just scribbling on a notepad. It is a proven modality for healing. When you journal, you are creating a real-time written account of the unique events, emotions, ponderings, discoveries, joys, and sorrows that you experience as you progress through your life every day.
And you don’t have to just write in your journal either. You don’t have to be an artist to doodle your thoughts and emotions down, create shapes and patterns for coloring, or do some collage in your journal. Studies have shown that art therapy can be greatly beneficial for everything from Alzheimer’s Disease to cancer.
What’s more, science is now discovering that using your imagination to “re-write into being” best-case scenarios to challenging situations can actually change behavior in the “real world” as well!
#5 Warm Teas
There are obvious benefits to many of the herbs and herb blends used in tea-making, especially matcha green tea. Besides what is inside your tea, there are relaxation benefits from the simple act of preparing and pouring tea, holding that warm cup in your hands, and taking a soothing, refreshing sip. A study aptly done in the UK found that the very act of “making a cup” can have an immediate calming effect, especially after a stressful event.
And if tea is not your thing (and you are not extra sensitive to caffeine), you may experience the same effect from brewing a hot cup of organic coffee. In fact, even if you don’t drink it, simply smelling freshly brewed coffee may stimulate your body to produce both calming and cancer-protective substances. A 2008 study done with rats at Seoul National University in Korea found that the aroma of coffee alone affected levels of brain proteins connected with calming and antioxidant action.
The BioMat was a particularly helpful part of my own journey with Breast Cancer the second time around. Using it, in addition to the sauna, helped me to elevate my core body temperature, which I knew would kick in immune function and stimulate Heat Shock Proteins.
So what is the BioMat? It is an amazing technology that utilizes the simple yet profound natural elements of far-infrared heat as well as both tourmaline and amethyst crystals to create negative ions that help both the body and the mind.
Personally, laying on the mat felt deeply relaxing to me. It also helped me greatly with fatigue. Other reports state that it can increase circulation as well as ease pain, especially in the joints, help with muscle spasms, ease arthritis, and increase oxygen levels in the tissues.
For more information, check out this BioMat link.
Why Practice Relaxation Every Day?
All of the modalities mentioned above work best when they are used regularly. Why? Not only are they very healing for the body in their own right, but the very act of practicing them regularly helps your body and mind get used to deep states of relaxation.
In today’s stressed-out world, maintaining a daily relaxation response is a rare thing. Yet it is a necessary skill if you want to a healthy vibrant life!
Right now it may seem hard to imagine that you can have that much control over how you respond to the stressful events that occur in your life, but, with practice, you really can!
In scientific terms, this means you are encouraging the body to be in a place of rest, also known as the relaxation response, every day. The relaxation response has been shown to:
-Lower and stabilize levels of both cortisol and adrenaline,
-Kick in immune system responses specifically related to inhibiting cancer tumor growth and metastasis,
…and much more!
Your stress responses have a purpose. They are designed to keep you safe and help you survive. Once the immediate crisis is over (and your life is not in danger any longer), then it is time to go back to calm. Practicing relaxation techniques regularly helps your body respond with resilience, no matter what is happening around you.
So What Modality Should I Use?
It really doesn’t matter which modality you use since they all have the potential to calm stress and help you elicit a relaxation response. The good news is that you get to choose!
My suggestion is that you take some time to try them all. Then pick two or three to use as your go-to’s throughout your week.