Why Is Relaxation Important for You and Those You Love?

Heather Campbell
 min read

Why is relaxation important? It’s not a case of self-indulgence.

Why Is Relaxation Important for You and Those You Love?Stress is killing us. Literally. So take care of yourself, and plan shorter and longer breaks during the day.

As a whole, people with chronic stress are more likely to suffer from obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and depression. Research shows that we recover better from stress if we schedule enough time for pursuits that we intrinsically enjoy, in addition to work and caring for others.

You’ll see that your health and happiness will improve by leaps and bounds.

This article explores the impact of stress on our bodies and how more relaxation is good for us and those around us.

Why is relaxation important? Introduction

Close your eyes for a moment. Place your feet side by side and place your hands loosely in your lap.

Were you a little slumped? Then sit up a little straighter.

Inhale deeply through your nose, and exhale gently through your mouth, like blowing towards one of those fluffy dandelions and wanting all the seeds to be carried away by the wind. Repeat this about ten times.

Perhaps by now, you can see yourself outside, on your favorite bench in the park or in a sturdy chair at the beach. Warm and with a fresh breeze. Comfortable, carefree, relaxed.

Now open your eyes again. How do you feel?

Relaxation is vital against stress

Relaxation is essential, although the emphasis in our society is often on effort, working hard, studying, achieving something, taking care of your family, doing the housework, etc.

Relaxation is the cure for stress. A little stress is not bad in principle, it spurs us into action and allows us to peak, but chronic stress is downright bad for our health.

We need to take breaks, time to recover, every day, several times a day.

Some tips to relax

  • Moving in nature. Biking, running, or walking in a forest, along the beach, in the dunes. It helps you relax during busy times and has been shown to improve sleep quality.
  • Go offline for a while and enjoy it. Get your mail off your phone. Turn off notifications. Turn your phone off completely at night, and don’t take it outside when you go for a walk. He could do without you for a while.
  • Music. Whether it is singing alone or in a choir, playing an instrument, or simply listening to music. It can be an excellent outlet to let go of everything for a while.

Stress and our nervous system

To know what stress does to us, we first need to know a bit more about our autonomic (independent) nervous system, which controls, among other things, all kinds of organs in our body.

The autonomic nervous system consists of:

  • a sensory part, and
  • a motor part, which in turn consists of:
    • the ‘sympathetic’ nervous system, which provides action, and
    • the ‘parasympathetic’ nervous system, which provides recovery.

The sympathetic nervous system spurs us into action

The sympathetic nervous system can be compared to a gas pedal that ensures we can survive in the face of danger, act quickly, and perform.

Imagine having to jump away from a car that almost runs you over. The sympathetic nervous system goes into action:

  • You automatically produce adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol.
  • Your heart rate and breathing speed up, and your blood pressure rises.
  • A lot of blood goes to the muscles and little to the digestive system (not needed right now).
  • We get into peak readiness: we are alert, sharp, and ready to fight or flee, the so-called fight or flight mode.

You also need, for example (but to a lesser extent), adrenaline and cortisol when you give a presentation or help your child who has fallen. Those substances allow you to peak.

The parasympathetic nervous system lets us rest

The parasympathetic nervous system is the counterpart of the sympathetic nervous system.

It is responsible for recovery, rest, rebuilding, and repair:

  • It causes our heart to start beating normally again, our blood pressure drops, and more oxygen and blood go to our organs and digestion.
  • When the parasympathetic nervous system goes into action, our breathing slows down, and we relax.
  • We get to breathe again and recharge.

For example, compare it to charging your cell phone. The battery is filling up again.

A balance between effort and relaxation

When you are in balance, you alternate effort and stress with relaxation and rest. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are alternately (most) active.

Throughout the day, you need moments when you accelerate and moments when you slow down.

Unfortunately, our society is demanding; there is a lot to do, and people want everything done right away. Examples include:

  • We often work through “a little” after dinner.
  • We check email and get messages through our smartphones.
  • From 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., we are “on.”
  • We are constantly accelerating (just a little more this, just a little more that), sometimes because we often can’t say “no.”
  • Turn off your smartphone more often and don’t check (work) email after work hours.

Or we get into overdrive because we worry and keep fretting about what has happened in the past or may happen in the future.

In other words, we can no longer find the brake pedal.

Consequences of chronic stress

The sympathetic nervous system is working overtime, and our bodies react as if there is a constant danger. Unwind, recover and repair no longer succeed.

People who experience stress for long periods in a row may feel constantly agitated as if there is a knot in their stomach.

They may suffer from palpitations, breathing problems, sleep problems, and gastrointestinal problems such as constipation.

We also see in studies that chronic stress causes decreased resistance. So you may become more susceptible to disease.

People with chronic stress are more likely to have obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and depression.

Sleep problems can exacerbate those problems and make depression more likely.

In short, chronic stress is not good for your health.

RelatedHow Does Stress Affect the Body? Negative Effects of Stress on Your Body: Review

Do something you enjoy

Research shows that we recover better from stress if, in addition to work and caring for others, we schedule enough time for pursuits that we intrinsically enjoy, such as:

  • baking,
  • dances,
  • listening to music,
  • signs,
  • write,
  • painting,
  • reading, etc.

What do you really like? Write down five leisure activities that make your heart leap.

Do you have no idea? Then think about your childhood. Did you prefer to play outside or help your parents in the kitchen?

Try to translate such a hobby into the now. For example, take a baking or cooking class, start an eating club or fill an Instagram account with your baked goods.

Allow yourself to do something you enjoy every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes.

Relaxing on command

Of course, just choosing not to have stress anymore is not that simple!

Maybe you have financial concerns, are worried about a sick child or one of your parents, or are about to lose your job.

Consciously make time to relax

Sometimes the circumstances are not there to go through life calmly and smoothly. However, what you can do is consciously build in moments of rest and set aside time for relaxation.

What makes you calm(er) or even relaxed is personal. Choose something that suits you, and you will continue to enjoy it.

Some people become calm in their minds from exercise, that is, actually from exertion.

Thanks to a (creative) hobby, others can get into a flow state in the here and now without thinking about work or laundry.

Still others feel good with yoga, meditation, a warm bath every day, listening to music, petting the cat, watering the plants, staring out the window, or doing nothing at all.

All possible remedies in the fight against stress. Loafing, lazing, napping.

Doing nothing at all for a while will make you more creative, happier, and ultimately more effective because you’ll be fresh on your feet afterward. Long live (mini) breaks!

The power of nature

The presence of greenery around us can help us experience less stress.

The Japanese forest experiments proved that a stay in nature is stress-relieving, even without taking a long walk or meditating.

Looking at or exercising in a green environment has a beneficial effect on how relaxed people feel and the number of stress hormones in saliva, heart rate, cholesterol, and blood pressure.

(Sources: Twohig-Bennett et al, 2018; Ideno et al, 2017; Kondo et al. 2018)

Also, allow yourself to relax

Idleness is the pillow of the devil. In other words, those who do nothing allow the devil to use them as a pillow.

Of course, that’s not good news when the devil is so close. Then, the devil can whisper all kinds of bad ideas to you.

Now hopefully, we can laugh at such an old-fashioned saying. However, many people are still incredibly strict with themselves and always have to do something useful of their own accord.

Never loafing, lounging, or napping because they don’t allow themselves to do so.

While several studies show that it is precisely after a (short) break that you can focus and perform better and be fresh and creative again.

Other people worry that it’s selfish to sit in a warm bath while the house is a mess or that one work email hasn’t been sent yet.

But ultimately, your environment benefits when you allow yourself that much-needed relaxation from time to time. You can only be there for another when you yourself are strong in body, mind, and spirit.

Your employer benefits more if you take good care of yourself and stay healthy and upright in the long run than if you trudge on in the short run at your own expense.

Don’t think too quickly that yoga, meditation, or relaxation exercises are not for you. There are hundreds of colors and flavors. You can find them, for example, via YouTube.

Why is relaxation important? Conclusion

Although it is difficult in today’s demanding society, where everyone wants everything immediately and the urge to perform is high, it is vital to provide adequate relaxation.

This maintains the balance in our nervous system between exertion and relaxation.

If this balance is disturbed by too much exposure to stress, it can lead to chronic stress.

This lack of relaxation can then lead to sleep problems, heart palpitations, breathing problems, gastrointestinal problems, and reduced immunity.

Relaxation is something we should consciously make time for. Choose something you enjoy so that you will stick with it in the long run.

Also, try to get yourself to a green environment in nature regularly if at all possible, as this has a proven beneficial effect on heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, and overall sense of well-being.

Finally, allow yourself to relax once in a while! Do you have difficulty taking time for yourself? Then remember that it not only benefits yourself but also those around you.

Related: Relaxing to reduce your stress levels are part of living a healthy life, which can then help prevent and even cure diseases, as explained in our other article Can a Healthy Lifestyle Prevent Diseases? And Possibly Cure Them?

About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More