The New “R” and “R”: Relaxation and Recovery

When recovering from any type of substance abuse or emotional problem, relaxation is one of the most important, yet unrecognized skills that needs to be learned. We live busy lives and forget the importance of learning to relax and rest. If you are someone who struggles with knowing when to take time for yourself, then please read on.

We spend so much of our free time watching TV, using our laptops, and texting on our phones. Sometimes we do this all simultaneously. We get excited about our technology, but we do not always remember to take time to slow ourselves down. Our brain is used to being constantly stimulated. Distraction and escapism can be a useful technique in dealing with our stressful lives. However it is not the same as relaxing.

Taking time to yourself can be the difference between you having a week where you feel like you are going to have a breakdown, and a week where you have some difficult moments that you make it through unscathed. When we are tired, everything seems more dramatic. Think about times when you look back at something that you were upset about and actually wonder why you got so upset. Were you tired?

Getting enough sleep is important, but also learning to relax while you are awake is equally as important. The easiest strategy to achieving this is to practice deep breathing techniques. Focus on counting your breaths and make sure they are slow and deep, rather than short and fast. When we are stressed, we do not remember to take long breaths, which further promotes our bodies to maintain the “fight or flight” response that it is reacting to. Focusing on slowing this down promotes a natural physiological response that is calming.

Another way to relax is to lie down, close your eyes and listen to some relaxing music. Listen to the different instruments in the music, the voice, or some of the lyrics. Make sure you turn off the phone and the television. Focus on the tension in your body and focus on letting that tension go. Sometimes it helps to actually flex that particular part of your body and then release. This can help illustrate how much stress is held in our bodies.

Set boundaries with your children and partner regarding your relaxation time. This is a time that you will hopefully set for yourself daily, but at least set it several times a week. Making it an hour would be ideal, but putting a half-an-hour aside for yourself would be beneficial as well.

Keep in mind that learning to relax can take some training. Because we are so used to being over-stimulated, we easily become bored. Relaxation takes practice. This practice, however, will be worth it in the long run. You will improve your longevity, your ability to deal with daily stressors, and your overall contentment.


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