Being able to relax is an essential life skill. Being able to manage your own nervous system so that you are not overwhelmed by life, is a must. The rewards of greater well-being are worthwhile.

When we are stressed, the focus of our attention is narrowed down. When we invoke the fight/flight response and have its accompanying hormones coursing through our bodies, the nervous system is primed for survival which means that the ability to think logically or creatively is suspended; we only need to get away from the immediate danger. When we have been under stress and haven't taken the opportunity to allow the system to really unwind and relax over a long period of time, then we have limited access to our resources because we are living in survival mode. As a result, we may end up acting and reacting in ways that do not really serve us.

And yet, how many of us learned how to relax as part of our upbringing and education and were guided to understand the importance of being able to relax in accessing our creativity, inner resources and insight for problem-solving, decision-making and self-care?

Many years ago when I did outcall massage therapy, I had a client who worked on Wall Street. During the massage, he suddenly exclaimed that's it! Startled, I asked him what had happened. He told me that whenever he had a problem he didn't know how to solve, he would have a massage. Invariably, the answer would then come to him.

Often the only way people know how to change their state from a harried, stressful one is with things that actually don't do them much good and yet relieve the immediate uncomfortable feelings. These can include alcohol, excess food and drugs. Others have healthier ways of dealing with stress including exercise and hobbies.

True relaxation is being free in body and mind from tension and anxiety. Sadly, many people find it nigh on impossible to allow themselves to experience this. Many people have become so disconnected from the natural state of repose that they are unable to recreate it. Many people need a lot of help before they are able to switch off long enough to guide their own minds and bodies to a deeply quiet and restorative place.

Workplace expectations haven't helped. Certainly living in a large city like London, UK as I do, many people I meet work in an environment where taking a lunch break away from your desk is frowned on, as is leaving the office at the contracted time. No wonder people cannot later experience true relaxation and return to work the following day uptight and possibly after a night of less than excellent sleep.

Consequently, staff are not turning up to work with renewed energy, a clear mind or indeed a mind firing on all cylinders. In his book "The 20-minute Pause", the eminent psychologist and psychotherapist Dr. Ernest Rossi posited that every 90 minutes or so, the human brain naturally wants to switch off in order to process the activity, whether physical or mental, of the previous 90 minutes. He further suggested we can support this natural propensity of the mind by taking a 20 minute break every 90 minutes or so where we engage in something that is different from what we have been doing and is deeply relaxing. Separately, the Cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson, who is well-known for his work in developing the protocol known as the Relaxation Response, found that those who switched their minds from focused activity to relaxation and non-doing on a regular basis, more frequently experienced insight than those who did not.

The part of the human nervous system known as the autonomic nervous system innervates the smooth and cardiac muscles of the body, that is organs we cannot consciously control. It has two parts to it; the sympathetic nervous system often referred to as Ëœfight/flight and the parasympathetic nervous system, often referred to as rest and digest. Most of us lead our lives leaning heavily on our sympathetic nervous systems. Nature though seems to have given equal place in the body to both strands.

Excessive sympathetic stimulation can lead to exhaustion and less than optimal use of our resources, thinking processes and creativity. By invoking our parasympathetic nervous systems through true relaxation, we restore and rejuvenate and are able to respond to life with more wholeness.

Author's Bio: 

Catherine Chadwick is a Hypnotherapist based in London, UK. She trained at the well-known London College of Clinical Hypnosis where she received her Practitioner Diploma in Clinical Hypnosis. She is the Relaxation and Visualization Practitioner at a cancer support centre.

"Relaxtion Magic" designed as a 4-week course to greater peace is available in her website shop.