The relaxation response is a physiological state of deep rest. It is the opposite of fight-or-flight. The relaxation response is associated with decreased heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension, and increased energy and self-control. Regular practice of the relaxation response reduces anxiety and repetitive worry patterns, increases resistance to stress, and reduces symptoms of many medical conditions.
Nurses, especially new nurses, can benefit from practicing the relaxation response to help manage their stress. Some days can be incredibly overwhelming, and you can use this technique, or share it with others.
By adopting a daily practice, people can:
- Develop a sense of purpose and wisdom. By turning down the outside noise of pictures, words, and sounds, we become more attuned to the silence within, and our own intuition. We can listen more deeply.
- Create a space between stimulus and response. By increasing concentration, awareness, and centeredness, we become more able to listen, to hear, to reflect, and to respond out of choice. This is especially important during stressful days at work.
- Align behaviors with life purpose and meaning. By transcending our self-defeating attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions that act as filters for the way we perceive, we are more able to override our conditioned response and behave in new ways.
- Health and Renewal. Quieting the bodymind through relaxation helps to reduce pain and anxiety, promote deep rest and sleep, reduce muscle tension, increase blood flow and reduce blood pressure, improve immune function, improve overall sense of well-being.
Methods to Elicit Relaxation Response
- Focused Belly Breathing
- Repetitive Exercise
- Mindful Walking
- Repetitive Prayer or Mantra
- Body Scan
Basic Components of Relaxation Response
- Mental focusing, such as your focusing on the breath; repeating a word, phrase, prayer, or sound; or using repetitive muscular activity.
- Passive disregard toward distracting thoughts, sounds, or intrusions.
- Find a comfortable position.
- Take several deep breaths.
- Begin to relax muscles and quiet the mind by being still.
- Find and maintain a mental focus for 10 – 20 minutes.
- Let go of distracting thoughts and judging attitude.