On this special episode of the Wellness Inspired Podcast, join us in commemorating National Relaxation Day as we delve into the transformative power of relaxation. Discover how the simple yet profound techniques explored in this episode can bring a sense of calmness to your hectic life. From stress awareness to enhanced emotional resilience, unlock the key to true well-being. Tune in and embark on a journey of self-care, mindfulness, and lasting tranquility.
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Hello wellness friends. Welcome back to the wellness inspired podcast, a place where you can find inspiration, motivation and empowerment in the pursuit of a wellness lifestyle. I'm your host, sherry Davidson. I'm a wellness coach and acupuncturist in Houston, texas, and I am deeply passionate about health and well-being. And, as always, I am here with my co-host, finn. If you're new to the podcast, finn is my Terrier, mix Rescue dog, trail runner and loyal companion. He is also a therapy dog and greeter at Element 5 acupuncture and wellness. We have a special episode for you today. We are celebrating National Relaxation Day. August the 15th is a day dedicated to relaxation. This episode will probably come out a day or two later, but that's okay. We can still honor the day and dive into the art of unwinding, recharging and reconnecting with ourselves In life's chaos. National Relaxation Day is a reminder that finding peace and tranquility is essential for our overall health and well-being. Finding moments to unwind is a luxury and a necessity. So, whether you're caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life or simply in need of some well-deserved downtime, this episode will guide you towards embracing relaxation in its purest form. Before we get started, I want to mention something. I am planning a European Wellness Riverboat cruise in 2024. My dear friend, tammy Heroka is a travel concierge and friend. She's also been on the podcast we talked about wellness travel. She's helping me plan this amazing adventure. I have yet to commit to a river, but I'm thinking of a seven night cruise on the Danube River. We'll cruise through Austria, germany, hungary and Slovakia. We're thinking maybe October could be September. We'll make some decisions here pretty soon and I'll let you guys know. But there will be active sightseeing. So hiking, biking I keep saying maybe I'm going to try and get some running in there if you're interested in running. There will also be yoga, wellness talks, relaxing and locally sourced cuisine. So stay tuned for more details. I already have many people interested, so get ready to grab your spot. All right, let's do this. In a world that constantly races forward, pausing to embrace relaxation, to unwind, recharge and reconnect becomes an essential pursuit. In the face of constant activity, stress and pressure, our bodies release stress hormones. Over time, this can have a detrimental impact on our overall health and well being. You see, living under this pressure cooker activates your body's fight or flight response. Now, this is a good response, but it has a time and a place. It is a natural survival mechanism that prepares us to deal with perceived threats or challenges. This is how we survive and grow. Now I want to share with you what happens when your body is under stress. The brain signals the adrenal glands to release stress hormones, primarily cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones increase alertness and energy, preparing the body to respond quickly. The heart rate and blood pressure rise to deliver more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and vital organs, preparing the body for physical action. The breathing becomes faster and more shallow to oxygenate the blood and provide the body with more oxygen for heightened sense of awareness and the potential for physical exertion. The muscles tense up, ready for action and, if the stress is chronic, over time this can lead to achy, soreness and potentially long term muscle tension. The pupils dilate to improve vision, allowing you to detect potential threats more effectively. The stress hormones trigger the liver to release glucose into the bloodstream, providing extra energy for the body's response. Now get this. The body temporarily shuts down non essential functions like digestion and the immune system, directing resources toward immediate survival. Now in Chinese medicine, we have a pattern called liver overacting on the spleen and the stomach, and it is when the stomach we say the liver chi is in excess and it begins to cause digestive issues. Now, stress is a liver chi stagnation. When we have too much stress, it tends to beat up the digestive system, so we can have things like Crohn's disease or IBS or anything. Any gas bloating, anything that is digestive related can be due to stress, and I think there's probably many people out there that know that their digestive issues get worse with stress, so just wanted to throw a little Chinese medicine in there. So another thing that happens is that stress can impair cognitive functions like memory, concentration and decision making. It does this so the brain can focus immediate on the physical response of fight or flight, so there is no time for decision making when you're in fight or flight. Stress also leads to feelings of anxiety, irritability, frustration and even anger. And, last but definitely not least, prolonged stress suppresses the immune system, making the body more vulnerable to illnesses and infections. Here's a question for you Does this sound like a place that you want to hang out in long term? You want to go on a vacation here because it just sounds tense and unbearable, especially for a long period of time. But unfortunately, this is where many of us live our days, and while the stress response is crucial for dealing with immediate threats. Chronic or excessive stress can harm physical and mental health, so finding healthy ways to manage and cope with stress is important to prevent its negative impacts. Now, on the other side of the spectrum lies relaxation. When we relax, our body's stress response diminishes. And now I want to share with you what happens in your body when you're in a relaxed state. Relaxation triggers a decrease in the production of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. This alleviates the fight-or-flight response, leading to a calmer and more balanced state. As we relax, our heart rate slows down and blood pressure decreases. This reduces the strain on the cardiovascular system and promotes better heart health. Relaxation releases the muscle tension, and this is important if you experience chronic muscle tightness or pain. When you relax your muscles, it leads to improved flexibility and reduced discomfort. I see this all the time. In the clinic I treat a lot of musculoskeletal disorder and many of them are due to stress, especially in the neck. And a little acupuncture cupping bam whole new person. I just love it. Alright, let's get back. During relaxation, our breathing becomes slower, deeper and more regular. This type of breathing, known as diaphragmic or deep breathing, can enhance oxygen exchange and contribute to a sense of calm. Also, relaxation positively impacts mental well-being. It can reduce feelings of anxiety, stress and even symptoms of depression In this state, allows the mind to unwind, fostering mental clarity and focus. And, as I mentioned earlier, chronic stress can suppress the immune system, making us more susceptible to illness. Now relaxation helps counteract this effect by promoting the immune system function and improve our overall health. Another cool thing about relaxation is that it promotes the restorative process. When we relax, the body can allocate more resources to repair and rejuvenate processes. This can aid in recovery from physical exertion, illness and injury. And, last but not least, relaxation supports emotional stability by reducing the intensity of negative emotions, it helps cultivate a more positive outlook and can contribute to better managing of emotions. When I think about this one, or really any of these, I think about vacation, when you're really able to step outside of your life completely, drop yourself in a different environment and really let go, think about how you feel. It really is relaxing, it really is rejuvenating and you get a chance to reconnect with yourself. And I think all of you that are listening to this can say you've had some experience of this relaxation process that happens in your body when you allow yourself to do that. The problem is, we need to do it more than once a year. We need to invite this relaxation into our daily lives for better health. Most of us take a vacation once or twice a year and I just don't think that's going to do it. I think it's good, if you can't do any, at least do that. But I think we need to invite relaxation into our lives every day. We need to carve out the space for it, or at least weekly. As you can see, relaxation allows the body and mind to shift from a heightened alertness and tension to a state of calm and restoration. The shift supports various aspects of our health and well-being, contributing to a more balanced and fulfilling life. Okay, let's have some fun here. Let's apply the Chinese medicine theory of yin yang to stress and relaxation. This will provide a holistic perspective on the importance of both states stress and relaxation. They're both important. First, I want to give you a brief explanation of the yin yang theory, just in case some of you have not heard of it. Most of you know the yin yang symbol. It is the black, it's the circle, it's the black and white. Half of it's white, half of it's black, it looks like it's in movement, like it's turning. In the black there's a dot of white, in the white there's a dot of black, and the black is yin and the white is yang, and then the little black in the white is the yin within the yang and vice versa, you have the black with the white in it and that is the yang within the yin. So that's the symbol, and it's a very simple symbol, but there is a lot of meaning behind that symbol and we use it in Chinese medicine a lot when we're diagnosing. So I just want to give you a very simple definition of yang yang theory so I can compare the two. Yang yang theory in Chinese medicine is a fundamental concept explaining the inherent dualistic and complementary nature of all phenomena. This theory recognizes that everything in the universe, including health and disease, can be understood through the interplay of yang yang. Yang embodies passivity, darkness and coldness, while yang embodies activity, light and warmth. So that is the simple basics of yang yang, and this theory helps TCM practitioners like me assess and balance these opposing forces within the body to promote overall well-being and restore health when imbalances occur. So let's get into comparing it or applying that to stress and relaxation, because stress represents the yang. So in that symbol it represents the white, it's the active, the demanding phase where the body and mind face challenges. An excessive emphasis on activity the yang without adequate relaxation can lead to an imbalance in potential health issues like stress, fatigue, burnout and lack of harmony in the body and mind, and if this goes on long enough, like chronic stress usually does, it will lead to chronic diseases. Okay now, relaxation represents the other half of that circle. It represents the yang the passive, restorative phase, and allows for rejuvenation and recovery. So relaxation is the other half of that circle, it's the other half of stress. So we have stress, that's yang, that's the white. And then we have relaxation, which is yang and that is the white in that symbol. And I believe by understanding stress as the active and demanding phase, yang, and relaxation as the passive and restorative phase, yang, you can gain insight into the interconnectedness of these two contrasting yet complementary aspects of our lives. By incorporating the yang-yang lens, it helps you not only gain insight but appreciate that a harmonious interplay between stress and relaxation is essential for overall well-being. By maintaining this balance, you can navigate challenges with resilience and recovery through rejuvenation, promoting a healthier and more sustainable approach to stress management. The question arises how do we weave this state of relaxation yang into the stressful fabric yang of our lives? So let's dive into some practical ways to embrace the art of relaxation, crafting a tapestry of serenity in the hustle and bustle of our daily existence. One more thing before we get into the different ways to relax. The ones I'm mentioning here are the most common ways and the most popular. If these don't resonate with you, that's okay. I highly encourage you to take some time and do some self-discovery to find out what does work for you, what are the ways that you can relax throughout your weeks and your days, because consistency is going to be what gets you where you want to go. Consistency is going to be what gets you to that place of health that you want to be. So I highly encourage you to do that. There is not a one-size-fits-all. However, the ones I do mention here, they are popular and effective. So all right, well, let's jump into it. The first technique we're going to talk about is mindfulness, or mindful meditation. Our minds love to wonder. It's the nature of the mind, it's what it does. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing your attention on the present moment, without judgment. It activates awareness and helps you stay grounded in the here and the now, and over the past few years actually many years we've heard a lot about mindfulness and its effectiveness and stress reduction. Mindful meditation is of immense importance due to its ability to counteract modern life stress and fast-paced nature. We live in a world full of distractions, constant stimuli and information overload. Mindfulness helps you find a calm and centered space within yourself which promotes relaxation and reduces chronic stress's harmful effect on the body and mind. Let's talk about all the different ways mindfulness or mindful meditation can help you. As I already mentioned, mindful meditation is known for its stress-reducing effects. By focusing on the present moment and observing thoughts without attachment, you learn to respond to stressors with greater clarity and composure, thus reducing the overall impact of stress on your well-being. It can also improve mental health and enhance relaxation. That's what we're going for. Mindfulness promotes relaxation by encouraging the release of tension in the body and calming the mind, leading to improved sleep quality, reduced muscle tension and overall sense of ease. It can also enhance your self-awareness. We always want this. It's super important when we're trying to make change. It can help regulate our emotions and it also has cognitive benefits. It can also improve physical health. It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and reduce inflammation. And last on my list here, but not the least, it's actually one of my favorites is mindful meditation, and mindfulness can increase resilience Through practice. It teaches you to stay in the present moment, with whatever arises, even in challenging situations. In turn, this enhances your ability to bounce back from setbacks. So mindful meditation is a powerful tool that promotes relaxation, emotional well-being and overall health. By being fully present in each moment and observing the experience with non-judgmental awareness, mindful meditation empowers you to navigate life's challenges with greater ease and a heightened sense of inner balance. Now number two, one of my favorites if you want to relax, nature escapes. The healing power of nature offers relaxation like no other. That's why I love trail running. Spending time in nature can have a remarkable soothing effect. You know, try taking a leisure walk in the park, biking through the woods or sitting outside to soak up. The sun, the sights, the sounds. The sense of nature can help you unwind, rejuvenate and find a deep sense of calm. So let's explore how spending time in nature can be a transformative relaxation technique. First, there is a symphony of smells. We are immediately immersed in a symphony of senses. When we step into nature, the gentle rustle of leaves, the chirping of birds, the fragrance of blooming flowers and the touch of a breeze against our skin create a multi-sensory experience that gently unwinds the knots of stress within us. These sensations evoke a primal connection to the natural world, reminding us that we are part of something much larger than ourselves. Nature escapes provide a golden opportunity to unplug from our digital lives and reconnect with the present moment and ourselves. Instead of screens and notifications, our focus shifts to the intricate details of a flower petal, the dance of sunlight on water or patterns of clouds in the sky. Our minds let go of distractions and we find ourselves immersed in a state of mindfulness, allowing worries to dissipate and inner stillness to emerge. In embracing nature, the concept of time takes on a different dimension. The cycle of day turning into night, the changing of seasons and the slow, deliberate pace of natural processes remind us of life's natural rhythm. Walking along forest trails or running are gazing at the horizon. From a mountain top, we gain perspective on the transient nature of our concerns. This realization can bring about a sense of liberation and serenity. Most people are drawn to nature in some way you might oppose to being out on the trails for 8 hours like me, but you might really enjoy going out to eat and sitting on a patio. You might like watching a sunrise or sunset. You might like going to a park with your family. This connection we have has a name, and it's called Biofilia. It was coined by EO Wilson, and he suggests that humans have an innate connection to nature due to our evolutionary history. This connection isn't merely aesthetic either. It has profound implications on our mental and emotional well-being. Scientific studies have shown that spending time in nature or natural environments can reduce stress hormones, lower blood pressure and enhance mood. Nature acts as a natural antidote to the pressures of modern life. If you want to learn more, you can check out Episode 7, biofilic Design Hill with Nature, with Jackie Berry, and Episode 15, biofilic Design for Health and Sustainability with Kimberly Phipps-Nickel. I'll probably do some more, because this is a topic that I really, really enjoy. Check those out they're great episodes, and let me know what you think. Another way nature can help us relax is nature is a mirror. It has an uncanny way of reflecting our inner landscapes. Just as the weather can shift from clear skies to storms, our emotions can ebb and flow, and by observing the changing moods of nature we can find resonance with our emotional journeys. This recognition can bring about a sense of acceptance and an invitation to let go as we witness the impermanence inherent in nature and life. I'll wrap this up by saying a nature escape is more than just a leisurely walk or hike. It is a sacred communion with the earth, a dance with the elements and a conversation with the universe. I highly encourage you, the next chance you get, to venture out into the embrace of nature, whether it's a sprawling forest, a serene lakeside or a vibrant garden. Allow yourself to be present, open and rejuvenated by the natural world's boundless beauty, and in return, you'll find relaxation and a renewed connection to yourself and the world around you. Okay, another way to invite more relaxation into your daily life is creative outlets. Creative activities like drawing, painting, writing or playing a musical instrument can transport you to a state of flow where time seems to stand still. These activities allow you to disconnect from the demands of the day and tap into your inner creativity. This can positively affect mental, emotional and even physical health. Let's talk about some ways that creative outlets contribute to relaxation and overall well-being. The first on my list is stress reduction. When you are engaged in a creative outlet it could be again painting, writing, playing a musical instrument or crafting can act as a form of mindfulness. This encourages you to stay focused on the task at hand, temporarily, allowing you to escape from stressors and anxieties. Also, creative outlets often lead to a state of flow where you become completely absorbed in the activity. This state of deep concentration and engagement is associated with feelings of accomplishment and happiness, promoting relaxation and positive emotions. Creative outlets can also encourage self-expression, can stimulate the brain, it can boost the mood, and one that I really like when it comes to relaxation is engaging in creative activities can provide opportunities for social interaction and connection. Lifting in group activities like art classes or music classes can foster a sense of community and belonging, and this is essential for our mental and emotional well-being. You can also, through a creative outlet, take time for yourself. Some activities are solitary endeavors that allow you to spend time with yourself. This solitude can be a valuable way to recharge and reflect, promoting relaxation and self-awareness. Engaging in creative activities involving movements, such as dancing or gardening, can also have physical health benefits. Physical movement releases endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers that promote relaxation. This is one of my favorite things about running. Sometimes I really struggle getting out there, but once I get it done I feel amazing. Like I say, I've never regretted a run. One last way pursuing creative outlets can give you a sense of purpose and direction. Promoting on something enjoyable and meaningful can contribute to a more fulfilling and balanced life, again promoting overall well-being and relaxation. That brings us to the end of how creative outlets can help with relaxation and well-being. A side note before we move on is to remember that the effectiveness of creative outlets and promoting relaxation and well-being will vary from person to person. Doing some self-discovery and exploring different activities to find what resonates with you is super important. On to the next. The next area we're going to dive into is nourishing your inner world. There might be some overlap with some of these. I think they all start to overlap a little bit, but I will say that nourishing your inner world is foundational to all the things I've talked about up to this point, because it is a journey of self-care, self-discovery and self-love. It is a reminder that our well-being extends beyond the physical realm and encompasses the deep reservoirs of our emotions, thoughts and spirits. So everything I mentioned before is an act of self-love. Let's dive into the art of nurturing our inner selves and the profound impact it can have on our overall harmony. I'm going to keep this part short because I don't want to keep repeating myself, but this practice offers a range of benefits that positively impact our mental, emotional and even physical state, ultimately contributing to a more balanced and relaxed life. Here are the ways that nourishing your inner world can help. It reduces stress. It improves emotional well-being. It also improves mental clarity. It can help with anxiety management. It can also help with better relationships. When you nurture your inner world, you tend to communicate better and exhibit more empathy. It also enhances self-esteem. It increases resilience. Nourishing our inner world improves our overall quality of life. So all the things that I've talked about. You know. Addressing your emotional and psychological needs creates a more satisfying and fulfilling existence, naturally promoting relaxation and contentment. It also helps with the mind-body connection. Nourishing your inner world encourages a positive outlook and it helps cope with change. And what I really love about nourishing your inner world is it offers a holistic approach to well-being. It acknowledges that your mental, emotional and spiritual health are interconnected and when these aspects are nourished, your entire being benefits. And last, I love this because you have to embrace the journey. It is not a destination. It is a continuous journey of self-discovery and as we explore our passions, confront our fears and cultivate our strengths, we unravel the layers of our being. This journey isn't always smooth, but it's profoundly rewarding. It is a journey where we learn to love ourselves, our faults and all, and where we find the courage to be authentic In a world that constantly demands our attention. Nourishing your inner world is a radical act of self-love and a commitment to a life of harmony. As you go on this journey, remember that you deserve the time and energy you invest in yourself. By nurturing your inner world, you create a foundation of well-being that ripples outward, positively impacting your relationships, work and world. Self-care isn't just an indulgence. It is a self-compassion revolution, fostering a truly harmonious life. Remember, self-care isn't selfish. It is vital to a happy, relaxed life. Okay, well, I'm going to start to bring it to a close here. I have some other relaxation techniques to share with you. I thought about sharing them here on the episode, but I think I am going to put it in a Word document and I'm going to put it in my link tree that way you can access it there the relaxation techniques. There's a deep breathing exercise. There's a progressive muscle relaxation meditation, a guided imagery and visualization meditation. There's also a roma therapy and forest bathing technique in there. Although we did talk about a little forest bathing before, I'm going to put it in a document and I'll put it in my link tree and that link will be in the show notes. So, if you want, you can go and explore a little bit more. If you find something that you really enjoy, I would love to hear about it. That's not on this list. Like I said, these are some of the most common ones. There are a million ways to relax and reconnect with yourself, so if you have anything unique, I would love to hear about that. All right, well, let's wrap this up and as we celebrate National Relaxation Day, let's commit to prioritizing relaxation in our lives. Remember, relaxation is not a one size fits all approach. It's about finding what resonates with you and carving out time and your schedule for those activities. Incorporating these techniques or others into your routine can help you find moments to unwind and transform your wellbeing A little yin within the yang. Thank you for joining me today on this journey to embrace relaxation, unwind, recharge and reconnect. Until next time. May you find your path to harmony and inner peace. All right, what did you all think? I really enjoyed sharing this information with you. I hope you got a lot out of it and are able to start applying it to your life and, as always, I would love to hear from you if you have any questions, comments or suggestions. If you like what you hear, please subscribe to the podcast and share with your family and friends. You can also give me a rating and review. Wherever you listen to your podcast, it helps others find me as well. To get updates on new episodes and wellness inspiration in your inbox, please join the Wellness Inspired Community. Go to the wellnessinspiredpodcastcom to sign up. I'll put the link to the website in the show notes so you can click and join. Also, there is a Facebook community at the Wellness Inspired and you can follow me on Instagram at wellness underscore inspired. If you're in the Houston area or just visiting and interested in our services acupuncture, herbal medicine, cupping, zinchiatsu or dry needling therapy contact us. You can find out more on our website at element5omcom that's element5, the number 5, omcom, and again I'll put the link in the show notes. If you're interested in health and wellness coaching. We can connect in the clinic or on Zoom. Reach out to us and we'll get you on the schedule and, as always, I would love to hear your feedback. I am dedicated to bringing you great content that is inspiring and informative, with an artsy fun at G-SPIN. Thank you so much for listening. We'll meet here again next time and remember never stop exploring, learning, loving and being you. Bye.