Celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year are fun and festive, but also a time many find exhausting.
As we go into a new year, we know in addition to our daily routine of juggling multiple responsibilities, there will be other life experiences that bring added stress — a troubled relationship, birth of a child, a job change, or perhaps the death of someone we love.
If we neglect rest and relaxation, we will find ourselves feeling — and acting — impatient, frustrated, irritated and angry. In addition, there likely will be health problems. Headaches, indigestion, gastrointestinal problems, sleep deprivation, back pain and depression are common. These health problems will add more stress and being chronically stressed will begin to feel normal. Our quality of life will begin to diminish.
Life lived on overload affects health, sexual function, relationships, job performance, athletic performance and our sense of self.
The antidote to stress is relaxation. That is why in recent years we've seen yoga, massage and meditation rise in popularity. They help us put our bodies in a comfortable position, guide our attention to our breath and we rest. However, this is nothing new.
In 1934, a physician named Edmund Jacobson wrote YOU MUST RELAX. In 1975, Harvard's Dr. Herbert Benson wrote “The Relaxation Response,” which could be done in as little as 20 minutes a day. In the past decade, internationally renowned cardiologist Dr. Dean Ornish, author of “Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease” concluded that daily periods of relaxation could prevent further deterioration of the heart.
What these physicians observed was that relaxing and releasing muscle tension resulted in a slower heart rate, slower rate of breathing, lower blood pressure and slower brain wave patterns. One's ability to think clearly was enhanced, the immune system functioned better and there was an improvement in one's overall health.
In fact, if you are considering a New Year's resolution for 2013, a good one would be to take some time out of each day to relax and renew because that is essential to living well.
Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.