Posts tagged #stress management

The Relaxation Response Revisited

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When I established Breathe Holistic Therapy back in 2008 my aim was simply to give my clients time to breathe. A break from their lives, time just for themselves to relax and recharge. I love all the benefits of reflexology but for me the relaxation response and its value for well being is key.  I explored the relaxation response in a post a few years ago so I thought is was time to revisit how relaxation effects your body

The relaxation response is a powerful skill you can  use to increase your well being.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S.A recognises the relaxation response as having a wide variety of health benefits including the reduction of pain and restoration of sleep.  In addition, research on the relaxation response has shown that this simple technique can: increase energy, decrease fatigue as well as increase arousal from a drowsy state.  It can increase motivation, productivity, and improve decision-making ability.  The relaxation response lowers stress hormone levels and lowers blood pressure.  Their are many research papers available on the NIH site for example a study finding the relaxation response was a viable treatment for irritable bowel syndrome.

There are many was to trigger the relaxation response such as enjoying reflexology or meditation, but you can learn to include this in your daily life in between your appointments.
Relaxation Techniques 

What is the Relaxation Response? The relaxation response is defined as yourability to make your body release chemicals and brain signals that cause your muscles and organs to slow down and increases blood flow to the brain. IN many ways the result of this response is the opposite to the stress response. The Relaxation Response is unfortunately not achieved by  laying on the sofa or sleeping! It is a mentally active process that leaves the body relaxed.
There are many ways of achieving the relaxation response. Some of these techniques are called: ➣ Progressive Muscle Relaxation (tense & relax) ➣ Visual Imagery ➣ Deep Breathing ➣ Meditation ➣  Yoga ➣ Biofeedback
We will look at one technique for simulatingthe relaxation response and the benefits will grow with practise.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (Tense & Relax Technique)

Everyone has a resting level of muscle tension.  Some people have a high level of tension at rest, others less.  When people are under high stress, their muscles tend to have higher levels of resting tension that can be painful and fatiguing.  After you tense and relax muscles, the tension level not only returns to the original level but automatically drops below the original level, producing even greater relaxation to the muscles.    

Start the exercise by getting comfortable.   You can keep your eyes open or shut.  Most people prefer to close their eyes. Try not to fall asleep, I know it is very tempting and sometimes you will drift off but try to stay awake.   As you perform this exercise, you will tense different muscle groups,  but you need not tense to the point of pain – simple tensing for 2 seconds is generally enough.   Focus on how the tension feels.  Then, let the tension go.  Focus on the sensations of relaxation. During the exercise it can be tempting to hold our breath, but do remember to breathe!  If you experience any discomfort during the exercise do not continue to tense those muscles and if you need to change position that is absolutely fine. Please speak to your health care provider if you are concerned about your physical or mental health.
The Tense & Relax Exercise: 
Preparation 1) Make yourself as comfortable as possible in a seated position 2) Try and sit up straight with good posture with your hands resting in your lap 3) Remove your glasses if you wear them, some people prefer to remove their contact lenses
 1. Relaxation of the feet and calves:  Flex your feet (pull toes toward the knees)  Contract calf muscles and muscles of lower leg. Feel the tension build and hold the tension  Take a deep breath  and as you exhale say the word “RELAX” and let the tension go. If the word relax doesn't feel natural to you then try others such as "calm" or " ease".
2. Relaxation of the knees and upper thighs:  Straighten your knees and squeeze your legs together. Contract your thigh muscles and all the muscles of your legs. Feel the tension build and hold the tension .Take a deep breath and as you exhale say the word “RELAX” and let the tension go
3. Relaxation of the hips and buttocks, tense and relax the hips and buttocks in the same was as above.
4.  Relaxation of the abdomen: Observe your abdomen rising and falling with each breath Inhale and press your navel toward the spine then tense the abdomen. Feel the tension build and hold the tension. Take a deep breath and as you exhale say the word “RELAX” and let the tension go
5. Relaxation of the upper back: Draw the shoulder blades together to the midline of the body and contract the muscles across the upper back. Feel the tension build and hold the tension. Take a deep breath and ss you exhale say the word “RELAX” and let the tension go
6. Relaxation of the Arms and Palms of the Hands: Turn palms face down and make a tight fist in each hand then raise and stretch both arms with fists.  Feel the tension build and hold the tension. Take a deep breath and as you exhale say the word “RELAX” and let the tension go
7.  Relaxation of the Chin, Neck, and Shoulders: Drop your chin to your chestDraw your shoulders up toward your ears. Feel the tension build and hold the tension. Take a deep breath and asyou exhale say the word “RELAX” and let the tension go
8.  Relaxation of the Jaw and Facial muscles: Clench your teeth together and tense the muscles in the back of your jaw. Turn the corners of your mouth into a tight smile and Wrinkle the bridge of your nose and squeeze your eyes shut. Feel the tension build and hold the tension. Take a deep breath and as  you exhale say the word “RELAX” and let the tension go
9. Take a deep breath. As you exhale say the word “RELAX” and let the tension go. Finally  become aware of your surroundings (location, people, noises)  -  Move your feet, legs, hands, arms, rotate your head– open your eyes feeling re-energized, refreshed, and relaxed

This is one type of relaxation technique and there are many more to choose from. I believe their is a technique to suit every one so do experiment with techniques to find what suits you best. Do not be put off if your first attempt is not what you expect. It can take some time to feel familiar with a technique and begin to feel the benefits.  If you have any questions about the technique please do not hesitate to contact me

Posted on October 18, 2017 and filed under stress management, mindfulness.

Hypnotherapy for confidence and relaxation

Anchoring is a hypnotherapy technique that can help you gain confidence and manage your stress and anxiety.

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When I was lucky enough to be chosen to run with the Olympic torch in Kidderminster I felt both proud and privileged. Whilst running through my home town on the torch relay I was filled with such confidence and feelings of support and happiness. When I see pictures of that day I can see all those feelings showing on my face. These positive affirming emotions could be available to me whenever I choose with the technique called anchoring.

An anchor is a physical or mental signal or stimulus that elicits a response. In day to day life we experience such anchors without even realising. We may feel anxious when we hear an alarm bell or feel calm when the sun light is on our faces. This stimulus–response process can happen without us being aware of it, but we can control it to enable a particular event to be linked to a desired response. The stimulus can be anything sensory, such as touch or sound.

Learning to anchor desired feelings, such as a sense of calm, can be beneficial in many ways. Anchoring can be helpful for anyone experiencing unwanted anxiety or stress, poor confidence or lack of self esteem. This technique can also help when coping with cravings such as cigarettes.

The anchor can be developed during hypnosis utilising the calm relaxed feelings experienced during hypnosis. You could be guided to squeeze your a thumb and finger together whilst enjoying the relaxation and calmness promoted during hypnotherapy. By anchoring the feelings to the behaviour you can bring to mind those feelings whenever you want to. This process benefits from repetition and practise and may require a number of reinforcements to be fully successful,but it is worth taking time to secure your anchor as its positive influence on day to day life can be significant. Reflexology clients can anchor the relaxation they feel during reflexology without even trying, many report how just hearing the music in the treatment room immediately starts the feelings of deep relaxation.

An anchor can be developed when you are not having hypnosis.  Thinking of a situation when you felt the desired feelings and really focusing on the details and most importantly the feelings is the first part of the process. It doesn't have to be a hugely important event, just some time when you felt the positive feelings powerfully and sincerely.  By bringing to mind that situation then experiencing the feelings you can then anchor those feelings with a stimulus of your choice. This method also requires repetition and you can use more than one event to really develop those positive feelings.

How does relaxation change your body?

Relaxation explored.

Most people would agree it feels good to truly relax, we can feel there are positive changes as we sink into a calm state of relaxation.  I’m often talking about the benefits of relaxation with my clients in kidderminster, but what does relaxation actually mean for our bodies? 

According to the dictionary relaxation is defined as   "the state of being free from tension and anxiety". 

Relaxation in many ways counteracts the effects of stress on the body. Although the physiological and biochemical changes that happen during the acute stress response have been thoroughly studied, the contrasting changes of the relaxation response are less understood. The relaxed state in basic terms results in your heart and breathing rate slowing, your blood pressure goes down, your production of stress hormones decreases, and your muscles loosen and relax. The relaxation effect may also increase the levels of serotonin in your brain, a chemical in the body that positively affects emotions and thoughts.  Blood pressure reduction is among the changes most consistently observed during studies of the effects of relaxation on the body.  This alone can have a positive influence on many health conditions but is one reason why it is important to tell your therapist if you have clinically low blood pressure.

When relaxation occurs the nervous system is affected.  The sympathetic branch which is heightened by stress slows down and the parasympathetic branch takes over.  This part of the nervous system is concerned with restful activities: - the body and mind calm and the metabolic rate slows. When truly relaxed your body requires only  very low energy, similar to the low metabolic rate in deep sleep. In a sustained state of relaxation, oxygen requirement of our body tissues falls lower than during normal sleep. The blood lactate level falls significantly up to three times faster during therapeutic relaxation than a normal restful state. Lactate is the chemical that enters the blood through the metabolic activity of the muscles and is responsible for muscle fatigue.  It appears certain that while relaxing you are helping your body to recover from the negative effects of everyday stress.

The term, ‘Relaxation Response’ was first used by Dr. Herbert Benson, professor, author, cardiologist, and founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute.  He studied the effects of this relaxation response on the body.   In his book The Relaxation Response, Dr. Benson describes the scientific benefits of relaxation; he explains that regular practice of relaxation can be an effective way of managing a wide range of stress-related disorders.  The changes can occur from the first time someone enjoys therapeutic relaxation. Research looking at subjects brain activity has shown the there are observable reductions in cortical arousal, meaning heart rate lowers breathing slows and muscle tone relaxes.

Regularly enjoying therapeutic relaxation can be effective in improving day to day wellbeing, and result in an increased control over the body's response to stress. A recent study (2013) also discovered that the relaxation response also affects the way our genes influence body systems including the immune function, metabolism and insulin control.  This requires further research but suggests that the relaxation response may have a positive effect beyond that of counteracting the stress response.

There are many ways to elicit the relaxation response. I advise clients to try different methods that can be included in their day to day lives. Reflexology and massage are great ways to feel the full body effects of relaxation but few people can include these treatments in daily life. There are a number of methods to encourage deep relaxation such as:

  • Breathing techniques can be easily learnt and included regularly in your life.
  • Yoga poses are renowned for relaxation benefits.
  • Art therapy such as colouring in or sewing can be beneficial  as you become absorbed in the activity and allow stresses to be forgotten.
  • Meditation can be hard to begin with but is an ideal way to promote the relaxation response.

The physiological changes caused by relaxation may not have been as fully explored as the negative effects of stress but it seems clear that the benefits go beyond just counteracting stress. If you'd like to experience deep relaxation through reflexology then please do contact me 07531 121199.

Listen to a free relaxation MP3 here.

If you are concerned about your stress levels and the effects on your body then please contact you GP or health care practitioner.

Posted on October 24, 2014 and filed under stress management.

New Year Resolutions: Don't forget stress management!

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Its that time of year again, many of us look at our lives and pledge to change the things we're not happy with. Taking time to assess our lifestyle choices is a positive thing to do especially if we develop achievable goals to move forward with.

Do you have a new year resolution? I wonder if its in the years top ten:

1.  Exercise more

2.  Eat better

3.  Cut down on alcohol

4.  Stop smoking

5.  Spend less time on Facebook / Twitter

6.  Learn a new language

7.  Learn a musical instrument

8.  Spend less money

9.  Secure dream job

10.  Average eight hours of sleep a night

Maybe it's in last years ten favourite choices:

1.    Lose weight

2.    Get fit

3.    Eat more healthily

4.    Save money/spend less

5.    Get a new job

6.    Spend more time with people who matter

7.    Try new experiences

8.    Get out of a rut

9.    Visit a country you’ve never been to

10.   Read more

These are all great choices but I'm always surprised to find that people don't resolve to reduce stress. I believe that stress management would help people achieve a lot of their other goals. We often eat badly when we are stressed, drink more alcohol, spend more money, and find it harder to stop smoking. If we make stress management a priority then 2014 may well be the year we eat better, loose weight and stop smoking too!

Stress goes on and on without relief can lead to a negative stress reaction. This can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and problems sleeping. Research suggests that stress also can bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases.

Stress also becomes harmful when people use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to try and relieve their stress. Unfortunately, instead of relieving the stress and returning the body to a relaxed state, these coping methods tend to keep the body in a stressed state and cause more problems.

Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress. Up to Seventy-five percent of all GP visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.

Long term stress affects your thoughts and feelings too. You might notice signs of stress in the way you think, act, and feel. You may:

    Feel unable to deal with even small problems.

    Feel frustrated and angry.

    Feel jumpy or tired.

    Find it hard to focus on.

    Worry too much about small things.

    Imagine that bad things are happening or about to happen.

My new years resolution is to make time to manage stress. There are many options to choose from and holistic therapies such as reflexology can be ideal for many people. You don't have to choose this route though, maybe walking or reading would work for you, a soak in the bath with relaxing music or simply taking time out of your busy life to sit still and quieten your mind.

Whatever you decide to tackle this year I wish you luck and have a great 2014

Posted on January 8, 2014 and filed under stress management.

Mobile Reflexology

Try reflexology to boost you in 2013

Its the new year and as a combination of the Christmas period and the grey weather many of us are feeling emotionally drained and physically exhausted. To lift ourselves out of this we often focus on new year resolutions as a way to move into the year in a positive frame of mind.  Looking at our behaviour and aiming to change it to help us feel better is a great move, but we all know how hard it is to make those changes.

New year resolutions often fail before January is over, leaving us feeling unsatisfied with our life style choices. Unhealthy behaviours can be adopted as a way to cope with stress, for some its smoking and for others its drinking alcohol or eating sugary foods. Trying to stop these things can cause more stress and so the unhealthy circle continues.  Why not choose to add in behaviours to help manage stress and cope with anxiety instead of stopping the unhealthy coping methods straight away. If you can lower stress then those behaviours can be easier to stop.

Reflexology and massage is a brilliant stress buster. Clients often say how they have never felt more relaxed as they feel the stress melt away. With mobile treatments you don't even have to travel. There is no need to plan your route to the salon, search out a parking space or run the always present errands on your way into town.  Simply book your treatment and relax. The mobile reflexology therapist at Breathe Holsitic Therapy will bring everything you need. You just put your feet up and feel your stress melt away.

Mobile reflexology treatments are available within 12 miles of DY11, including: Stourbridge, Droitwich, Hagley, Worcester and Bewdley.

If you would prefer to visit the reflexologist at the treatment room that is also available

For Reflexology in Kidderminster. Please contact 0753 1121199

Therapeutic massage, a slow calm and effective approach

We all have our own ideas about what makes a great therapeutic massage. Many people expect the painful pummelling and pressing on knots and tight muscles, whilst others prefer a relaxing gentle rhythmic massage. Whatever we expect to feel during the massage we all want to feel positive results from the treatment.

A massage technique called myofascial release absolutley provides results, and it combines both expectations of massage treatment. The massage technique is slow and calming whilst also being deep and intense, you can actually feel your tissues releasing the tightness and tension. For me this is a perfect combination.

Myofascial release techniques focus on relaxing deep tissue within the body providing lasting and effective relief.  Myofascial release is a safe and very effective hands-on technique that involves applying gentle sustained pressure which works to free restrictions and can relieve pain and restore motion.  Each Myofascial Release Treatment session is performed directly on skin without oils, creams or machinery. This enables the therapist to accurately detect restrictions and apply the appropriate amount of sustained pressure to help release them.  Myofascial release is a very effective treatment that can significantly improve many soft tissue and orthopedic conditions.

During a massage treatment a multitude of Myofascial Release techniques can be used, and they can be combined with other massage techniques to provide a treatment tailored for each individual.  A massage does not have to be vigorous to work wonders on your aches and pains.  Working with your body to ease away tightness and restrictions can feel great and really benefit your wellbeing.

Find out more about Breathe Holistic Therapy on our main reflexology page


Introducing Massage at Breathe Holistic Therapy

One of the best ways of lowering stress levels and staying happy and healthy is by having a therapeutic massage.  Massage can help you manage stress by relieving anxiety and tension, promoting relaxation, increasing your energy, improving sleep, reducing muscle soreness, and decreasing pain.  Reflexology is a specialised foot massage which promotes relaxation and can lead to a wonderful sense of calmness and tranquillity. At Breathe Holistic therapy back massage or body massage is now also available.

What is massage?  Massage is a manual therapy that uses hands-on manipulation of the muscles and other soft tissues. Techniques include rubbing, kneading, tapping or otherwise manipulating the soft body tissue with the hands or with some instrument designed for this purpose. Massage relaxes tense muscles, eases stress, relieves pain and can help you get to sleep.  Although massage affects the whole body, it is especially therapeutic for the musculoskeletal, circulatory, lymphatic, and nervous systems.

Treating yourself to a massage can really help you to feel calmer and ease your aches and pains.  A back massage is a great introduction to massage and is a lovely addition to a reflexology treatment. Reflexology and massage can help you to feel healthier and happier. 

Reflexology in Kidderminster. Please contact Jo 0753 1121199

Back to school Stress.

September heralds the start of a new school year, and although it can be an exciting time, for some children it's just plain hard.  Many children seem to struggle with anxiety and stress at the start of a new school year. There may be many reasons for this and often they are too young to explain what they are feeling and fearing. This can be very distressing not only for the child but also the parent who may feel helpless to ease their child's struggle.  The fact is they have to go into school at the start of the day no matter how much they may cry and cling to you.  Not easy.

I'm a mum and know first hand how difficult and exhausting this experience is.  My son struggles with back to school stress every year.  He loves school but finds that initial separation difficult after the long fun school holidays.  I have no magic cures but I have found a number of ways to help my son manage stress and overcome anxiety  during this time.

After lots of talking and trying to understand why he was so anxious I decided to try some of the tools I use to help with stress and anxiety. Massage and reflexology can help a child to manage their stress. Some calming reassuring massage for just a few minutes accompanied by lots of positive words about their ability to cope can be a powerful tool.  For my son lavender is a magic potion, I apply a little on his cuffs and tell him to sniff it when he feels bad and  it will keep him calm and happy.  He loves this and uses it for reassurance throughout the day.  I am not a aroma therapist but please do explore this area and get advise before using essential oils yourself.

And finally, don't forget your own needs. It can be draining and painful when our children are suffering and struggling so take time out to relax yourself. Be kind to yourself and try not to feel guilty for leaving them at school. You are doing your best so treat yourself with love and know this struggle will pass.

And if all else fails, remember the father Christmas bargaining tool.. all children want to be on the good list!!

For Reflexology Treatments in Kidderminster. Please contact Jo 0753 1121199