To put it mildly, Americans are stressed. Money, work, the economy, relationships- all contribute to our overall stressed state of mind. A recent survey performed by the American Psychological Association states that, seventy-eight percent (78%) of Americans report that they feel stressed. The same study reports sixty-one percent (61%) of adults say that managing stress is extremely or very important, but only thirty-five percent (35%) say they are doing a good job managing it.
So, we know we’re stressed. We know we should do something about it. But what should we do? Teach our bodies to engage in the Relaxation Response.
The Relaxation Response is a physical state of deep rest that changes a person's physical and emotional responses to stress. There are several ways to trigger your body’s relaxation response: progressive muscle relaxation, visual imagery, deep breathing, meditation, yoga and biofeedback are a few.
Some of these techniques are well known and used by many Americans. Yoga has grown in popularity because of its relaxation benefits and over 20 million people practice in the United States alone. Deep breathing is also easy to do and widely used (I’ve covered its benefits in past articles). Biofeedback and muscle relaxation are also highly effective, but lesser known.
In addition to reducing stress, research on the relaxation response has shown that this simple technique can: increase energy, decrease fatigue, and create an uplifting effect on one’s mental state. It can increase motivation, productivity, and improve decision-making ability. The relaxation response lowers stress hormone levels and lowers blood pressure- creating less feelings of stress.
Americans are stressed, but there are ways to combat it. All we have to do is try!
Next month: Biofeedback and Muscle Relaxation techniques.