Relaxation is a Learned Skill
Some of you may disagree with this statement, but hear me out...
Many of us are inundated every day with more and more compiled stresses and responsibilities in our lives, but how many of us prioritize self care, taking a full day off from work, or choosing not to check our phones constantly? The truth is, even those of us who are healers, and professional care takers, struggle to make space in our lives for what is most important, and really, a skill that could save your life!
Relaxation: What is it and How do you do it?
I have worked with thousands of people over the years, and it has taken me a long time to realize, no matter how much you jiggle someone’s arm and say, “let go! Relax,” if they are not familiar with how to deliver that command to their own body, it is not going to happen! So how do we talk to our bodies in order to enter a fuller state of tranquility? (and why would you want to be in that state in the first place?) This is something I teach my clients, because it is something that all of us can learn and practice.
Learning to relax requires 3 elements:
It may seem weird to think we need to give ourselves permission to do something like take care of ourselves, but since most of us have cultural roots that subscribe to the good ol’ “boot-straps” mentality, it actually requires first, overcoming some pretty deep seeded philosophies that de-value self care. For a lot of people, the concept of relaxing equates to laziness, lack of productivity, being slow or useless--or maybe it's too much of a luxury that you can't afford and don't deserve.
However, without moments (or hours, for some folks) of decompression of the spine, intentionally releasing muscle, nerve, and fascial tension in the body daily or intentionally restoring range of motion to your joints, your body can suffer very real, very debilitating consequences. What would change if you started to think of self care as a necessary and valuable investment in your health, your relationships, and your productivity?
Step number one, then, is challenging your mentality about what it means to relax, or thinking more creatively about what activities do provide you with relief from stress, and tension.
Learning a new skill or language always requires practice. When your body is used to being a certain way, it can take time to learn what it feels like to slow down, to get in touch with your own breath, and to notice the sensations in your body (my hands feel warm, my low back feels tight and my breathing is shallow right now). Literally, our bodies create neural pathways to reinforce movement and behavior patterns in order to operate most efficiently. In order to change a life time of moving in a certain way, it takes time and positive reinforcement to succeed! Before even making any changes, however, it's critical to develop and practice body awareness.
Developing body awareness is primarily about using observational skills, and being curious about what your body is experiencing moment by moment. Once you have a sense for how your body feels, then you can start to learn how to shift from one state of being (tense, stressed, anxious) to another (calm, grounded, easeful).
Lastly, when learning about our bodies, we are not only developing new skills but unlearning old habits, and mentalities that no longer serve us. Sometimes the habits we have learned to protect ourselves do actually keep us safe (being hyper alert living in a city with lots of traffic and scary drivers--X.O.X., Philly) but we can learn to fine tune these protective behaviors and let go of them from time to time. This is what makes relaxation possible in our bodies. It is not only mental (telling ourselves we need rest), nor physical (sensing/experiencing a warm bath as restful), but it requires self compassion and patience as we learn, and practice, and give ourselves permission to recalibrate and recenter our sense of safety.
If you are interested in learning more about how to develop these skills, and create a more sustainable practice around them in your life, book a consultation today to learn how bodywork sessions at ReCenter Massage can help you do just that!