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Stress V 19 - 09 - 2003

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Stress V Greetings, Last week we mentioned about another important factor in stress management and that is…Relaxation. Rest, sleep, relaxation, poise, equanimity – whatever you want to call it – is absolutely essential to the continued health of the organism. In fact, the opposite of stress is relaxation. Every muscle, cell, and portion of the body is in a continually alternating state of stress and relaxation. As long as we alternate periods of stress with periods of relaxation, then all is fine. At times, however, stress gets the upper hand and relaxation – true and total rest – never occurs, even, while asleep. A young woman who had just accepted a top executive position with one of the nation’s leading banks was sitting in a dentist chair. She had a strange problem, but one that this dentist had seen in dozens of his patients: while she was asleep at night, the women ground her teeth continually. She had so much tension and was going through stress with her new job that she actually ground her teeth down through a gold crown covering, and was now grinding away at the tooth underneath. “It’s a common problem of the last ten years” the dentist told me” People have so much stress in their daily lives that the only way they can release it is by grinding their teeth in their sleep. Some patients have to wear plastic bits in their mouth when they go to bed so they won’t grind their teeth down to the bone. And, just because you get 7 or 8 hours of sleep does not mean that you are getting adequate rest and relaxation. No, relaxation is different from sleep and strangely enough, you may have to learn how to relax in order to manage stress. Dr Herbert M. Shelton wrote in his book Human Beauty: Its culture and hygiene: Worry, strain, aid stress exhaust the nervous system more rapidly than physical activity, producing such danger signals as tension, irritability, and a tendency to worry over trifles. If we neglect the necessity for adequate relaxation and repose, we have no chance to replenish our energies or repair our worn tissues” Dr Shelton then concluded that “relaxation is an essential condition of continued healthy existence. Without it, the most vital and necessary processes of life are not carried on or they are conducted with much lower efficiency. But how can we relax if we are feeling stressed? The trick is to relax before stress develops and tension sets in. After all, doesn’t it make more sense to use relaxation as a preventative treatment for stress instead of as a “curative?” Just like regular exercise and a sustained good diet, relaxation and rest should be a normal daily activity that you engage in – whether you need it or not! Modern life can sometimes fool us that we have no time or no need to relax. We feel that we can handle anything, and we take on one more project, more work, and more responsibility. Eventually, the body that has continually been deprived of rest and relaxation will rebel, and illness may result. Rest and relaxation must become part of your daily activities. Give up an hour a day to constructive rest and contemplation. You may engage in some restful hobby or activity that make no mental or physical demands. You may take a walk by yourself or listen to music. There are many ways to relax, but don’t fool yourself that you are relaxing when actually you are just doing some other type of work or watching TV. Many people are worried about the “right” way to relax. Some people have been told that meditation is essential, and others believe that relaxation can only come by taking some course or by reading a book. As far as stress reduction goes, it makes absolutely no difference which relaxation method you use. The important thing is that the relaxation be total: both body and mind must be free from tension and stress. Next week we will be talking about the relaxation of the mind. Stay well and, as always, wishing you good health, Elise

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