With National Relaxation Day upon us on Friday 15th August, we thought it a perfect opportunity to remind you why relaxation is SO important.
Don’t forget, relaxation is NOT a luxury, it is a necessity: without it, you will burn out, be susceptible to illness or stress related health issues and generally not function at your very best.
However you choose to relax, make sure you factor it in to everyday life. And here’s why:
1. Relaxation will protect your heart
High blood pressure, heart attacks and other heart problems can be instigated and exacerbated by stress.
Kathi Heffner, Ph. D Assistant Professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York, says, “There are studies to show that stress is comparable to other risk factors that we traditionally think of as major, like hypertension, poor diet and lack of exercise.”
2. Relaxation makes you a better decision-maker
When we’re stressed, we tend to think less clearly – that’s obvious. But a 2012 study deduced that stress actually changes how we weigh up risks and rewards and can therefore cloud our judgement when we’re faced with crucial decisions.
Unlike what you might expect, people under stress focus on the positives of a situation and may ignore the cons of a decision they’re about to make which can of course potentially create more stress in the long-term.
3. Relaxation keeps you slim
It’s the old adage ‘comfort food’ that comes into play here. Stress means junk food and food high in sugar and fat are even harder to resist. Cortisol, the hormone responsible in helping the body respond to stress, can even specifically encourage junk food cravings.
Stay relaxed, and your diet will benefit.
In a study conducted in mice in 2012, chronic stress impaired the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in abstract thought, cognitive analysis and detecting the appropriate behaviour for a given situation. The study also showed that shorter bursts of stress impaired the centre of the brain involved in memory and learning and left the mice struggling to remember how to find their way through a maze.
A number of studies have also found that stress increases the amount of certain proteins in the brain that have been linked to Alzheimer’s, possible accelerating the development of the disease.
5. Relaxation soothes acne
Researchers aren’t exactly sure why, but stress seems to build up the amount of oil produced by the skin, clogging pores and causing breakouts.
Stress also causes flare ups of other skin conditions such as psoriasis, but relaxation can quickly help: a 1998 study found that psoriasis plaques cleared up more quickly in sufferers that meditated.
Stay relaxed, stay flawless!
6. Relaxation lowers your risk of catching a cold
Sheldon Cohen, a Psychology Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has been at the forefront of stress research since the 1990s. Early on, he showed that chronic stress lasting more than one month but less than six months, doubled a person’s risk of catching a cold.
His more recent research has tried to figure out why and results seem to point to inflammation. It appears that stress hampers the body’s ability to inflammation by making immune cells less sensitive to the hormone that reduces it.
Studies have shown that stress can kill brain cells and even prevent the creation of new ones in the hippocampus – the part of the brain involved in a healthy response to stress – according to Time.com.
In 2011, a study in mice illustrated these findings: the mice exposed to a stressful situation stopped eating, gave up on tasks much faster and exhibited a “pleasurelessness” similar to human depression with symptoms like loss of appetite, sadness and hopelessness.
In humans, the prolonged presence of stress hormone cortisol can reduce levels of serotonin and dopamine which are linked to depression.
8. Relaxation could slow breast cancer
While research on the effects of stress on cancer growth are largely inconclusive, there is some evidence pointing toward a link between stress and breast cancer aggressiveness.
Relaxation not only seems to delay the progression of the disease, but also may speed recovery.
If you’re currently cancer-free, staying relaxed now can keep you healthy later. A 2003 study found that stress may double a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer further down the line.
I guess that explains why my Mum/Aunt/GP have always used the frown, head cock and ‘it’s stress’ excuse to any health issue that’s not immediately explainable…
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Don’t forget, if you need to get away from the trials and tribulations of everyday life, we can be your sanctuary. Come have a hug, a herbal tea and a nice long soak in the hot tub and you’ll soon start to appreciate the health benefits.
The Relaxation Centre is open every day for treatments and Tuesday – Sunday for spa sessions. For more assistance on how to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, don’t forget about the upcoming Mindfulness & Insight workshop on Saturday 13th September – click here for more information or call us on 0117 970 6616.