“We will be more successful in all endeavors if we can let go of the habit of running all the time, and take little pauses to relax and re-center ourselves. And we’ll also have a lot more joy in living.” –Thigh Nhat Hanh

Towers Watson, a leading global professional services company that helps organizations improve performance through competent people, risk, and financial management, revealed its latest “Health, Wellbeing, and Productivity” survey. The survey showed that of those employers able to measure well-being, 86 percent thought that excessive workload or extended hours were the most significant causes of stress.

Do You Agree?

Consider these facts:

Fact 1:

One in five workers misses work due to stress.

Fact 2:

Two in 10 workers start the week stressed.

Fact 3:

Managers are too busy and stressed out themselves to help their team members deal with their anxiety and stress.

One solution for workers:

Learn how to relax.

Medical professionals, psychologists, and psychiatrists agree that learning how to relax minimizes many of our anxieties, frustrations, resentments, nervous tensions, and resultant physical disorders.

It takes no specialized knowledge, aptitudes, or preparations to learn how to relax and how to benefit from its soothing, healing and, calming influence.

But, unfortunately, many of us are too busy chasing material wealth to give much thought to our well-being and take time out to relax.

And so, we turn to stopgaps, to the temporary relief of opiates, barbiturates, and tranquilizers. They serve their primary purpose at first, but before long, they become a crutch, a necessity, a constant need.

And, as our system grows used to these temporary measures, we have to increase the dosage or use them more often, and eventually, we become mental casualties.

What Is Relaxation?

What IS relaxation? According to The Oxford English Dictionary: “To make or become less tense, anxious, or rigid; rest from work or engage in a recreational activity.”

A few synonyms for relaxation: To relax is to lighten, to reduce, to curtail, or to modify; to submit, to comply, to slacken, or give way; to rest, to recline, to repose, to let go.

All of the terms mentioned above, refer to relaxation and have an essential bearing upon our mental and physical well-being. We must take time out to rest and to replenish our energies or else we will go to pieces.

One of nature’s ways to guard against complete physical and mental exhaustion is the need for sleep. Sleep is one of the most critical metabolic functions essential to life. It is nature’s way to ensure the body gets the needed rest to replenish expended energy.

We can abstain from sleep for as many as forty-eight hours without apparent ill effect. However, tests show that beyond the first forty-eight hours, there is a growing loss of sustained attentive ability.

When we don’t get adequate sleep, we tend to develop dizziness, headaches, burning eyes, nervousness, irritability, and lightheadedness.

Lack of sleep also contributes to a growing dullness of perception, lack of awareness, and marked sluggishness in average reflect action.

Thus, sleep is a must! Sleep promotes rest under all conditions and circumstances.

However, the amount of sleep required by an individual is dependent upon her age, her work, her daily habits, and her physical and psychological make-up.

One person could require seven or eight hours, and another five or six hours. However, if you cannot sleep, soundly, and naturally during your customary sleeping hours or if you have trouble dropping off to sleep, you will not experience the rest for your tired muscles.

Restful sleep will allow you to let go of tension, of care, of worry, of anger, or uneasiness.

Sleep is one form of letting go and get the release from mental and physical fatigue and nervous tension.

A Relaxation Plan

Another way restful sleep helps us is muscular relaxation. In his book titled Release from Nervous Tension, Dr. David Harold Fink outlines a ten-week plan for learning how to relax.

Here is what you must do—

Weeks one and two:

“Find a time when you will not be disturbed and undress and stretch out face upwards on a bed. Place one pillow under your neck so that your head rolls back toward the head of the bed. Spread your legs a little and place pillows under your knees to bring them upward and outward at a slight angle.

Move your hands about eight inches from your body and put pillows under your elbows, with your hands hanging over the end of the cushions. “You are now in the right physical position to learn how to relax.

Start with your jaw. Let it sag and droop to your chin, but keep the lips together. Close your eyes, and let the lids meet naturally. Now, as you breathe in and out in your usual way, utilize the power of habit in following voiced suggestions and say to your arms: “Let go. Let go. More. A little more. “

Continue ordering them to let loose, to slacken, to let go, until they do.

“Soon, your inhalations and exhalations will slow down, your arms will loosen up and relax with every breath, and you will experience a new sensation.

Your muscular tensions will be lessened and you will gain a new sense of renewed muscular strength, of increased natural tone and vitality. Practice the arm relaxation twice a day, thirty minutes each time for two weeks.”

Week three:

Relax the chest muscles.

“Start with relaxing your arms as you have been doing. When you feel they are heavy and your hands grow warm, start talking to your chest muscles. Ignore your inhalations for the time being. Let them be as usual, but every time you exhale, say to your chest muscles, ‘Let go. Let go. More. A little more.’“

Continue telling your chest muscles to let go until you feel them loosen up. Keep this up for a week, twice a day, for half-hour periods.

Weeks four through seven:

“Start relaxing your back muscles on the fourth week, the leg muscles on the fifth, the back of the neck on the sixth, and the facial muscles on the seventh.

In each case, you start with the arms for a few minutes, then with the chest, and then the others in succession.”

Weeks eight through ten:

“For the eighth week, relax the muscles of your scalp to relieve nervous headaches. Let go of the muscles of your eyes for the ninth week. Pretend your eyes are so loose that they will fall out if you do not watch them, and soon you will be rid of the feeling of eye strain.

For the tenth and final week, learn to relax the muscles of your vocal cords. Practice speaking slowly, softly, in a smooth, calm voice, enunciating each word, each syllable, without any strain or particular emphasis.”

Dr. Fink concludes “. . . Ten weeks is a short time to learn to acquire a new skill. Yet, it is long enough to help you combat emotional conflicts, reduce paralyzing inhibitions, improve your general health, and gain a new sense of freedom from strain and nervous tension.”

Normal sleep and muscle relaxations are healthy ways to reduce nervous tension, to neutralize compulsions, and to minimize inner conflicts.

Try the above exercises.

Follow Dr. Fink’s 10-week plan to learn how to relax as this plan will surely bring you rest, ease, and comfort.

Following Dr. Fink’s 10-week plan to learn how to relax is also sure to improve your mental and physical health.