Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you find yourself tense and anxious when your weekend arrives, it may be time to access some relaxation. Relaxation is the key to getting free of the old patterns of worry and frustration.
When I talk about relaxation, I’m not talking about going to the spa, getting a massage, or going on vacation. These can be good things for moments of relaxation, but this type of relaxation doesn’t last.
A recent poll taken of 1,000 workers speaks to this. When asked, “Is vacation a cure for the work-stress blues?” 57% of respondents reported no relief from stress as a result of vacation. And that’s not all. Twenty-seven percent reported more stress as a result of vacation!
Instead of trying to check-out but still finding signs of stress waiting for you, you can use the body’s relaxation response to stop the stress for good.
In 1973, Dr. Herbert Benson, then Associate Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, discovered that by using simple breathing techniques, you can elicit bodily changes that decrease heart rate, lower metabolism, decrease breathing rate, enhance well-being, and bring the body into a healthy balance.
Dr. Benson coined this body function the “relaxation response”—the converse to the stress response (fight or flight). There are four essential elements to turning on the relaxation response:
- A quiet environment
- An object of focus or attention
- A passive attitude
- A comfortable position
When used for 10-20 minutes once or twice daily, the relaxation response stops the body from producing stress hormones while calming rampant thoughts, ending fidgetiness and anxiety, and creating more space to breathe.
In time and with practice, the relaxation response helps Type A dispatchers become more Type B. Traits that exemplify “Type B-ness” include being relaxed, easygoing, seldom impatient, not easily irritated, not preoccupied with social achievement, and taking the time to enjoy.
In this Type A society with your Type A job, you might fear being more relaxed. You see everyone around you running here and there getting so much done so you feel you have to do the same—just another aspect of keeping up with the Joneses. But at what cost?
There is more to life than increasing its speed. ~Mohandas K. Gandhi
You’re even told or shown that if you’re not stressed about the things in your life, you don’t care enough.
Think about a recent argument you had with your spouse. In that moment where you finally surrender your point, you lower your voice, relax your shoulders, and disengage from battle, your spouse says, “Oh, I see, you just don’t care!” Because you no longer seemed stressed about what’s going on, it’s interpreted as detachment, complacency, or lack of interest.
With the relaxation response, you can meet your daily experiences in the moment, without the tension and aggression of the stress response of fight or flight. All it takes is a little practice.
About the Author:
Adam Timm is the author of the #1 bestselling book, Stress Is Optional! How to Kick the Habit, and the cofounder of The Healthy Dispatcher, a law enforcement training company that offers stress resilience, communication and leadership classes designed for Emergency Dispatchers.
A 9-1-1 telecommunicator for over a decade, he brings his stories from the frontline into his writings and classes. His second book, Dispatcher Stress: 50 Lessons on Beating the Burnout, is out now.