How can Relaxation be Your Superpower?
Fear is a common emotion that underlies many peoples’ days.
So how can relaxation be your superpower in dealing with this? Think about what you do on a daily basis where you:
• find yourself confronted with challenges – things that are outside your daily routine
• anticipate scary experiences that haven’t happened, but might
• ruminate over events that have happened in the past
• use the following language, which disguises the deep fear that’s really there:
‘I’m concerned about …’
‘I am worried that …’
‘I’m thinking about …’
‘I’m wondering if …’
Relaxation and Fear
When you’re experiencing fear or anxiety, become aware of your body’s posture. Notice where you’re feeling tension – the most likely places are:
• your shoulders
• face (jaw, mouth, brow)
- Let yourself soften and release the tension.
- Straighten your spine and relax your shoulder blades, so whether you’re standing or sitting, your upright posture is now associated with strength and balance.
- With your relaxed but alert posture, you’re reducing feelings of fear, it immediately sets the scene for greater confidence.
- When your body starts to relax, your mind will follow.
- Focus on your breathing – slow, deep breaths – so mind and body can experience full relaxation.
You can’t be relaxed AND fearful. So as you relax, your fear will diminish.
And Where your Mind Goes, the Body Follows
‘To the extent you can relax … fear dissolves.’
Body and Mind are Connected
- When you smile to yourself – even if it feels like a false smile, this movement sends a little ‘feel-good’ reminder to your mind.
- Alternatively, if you can remember a happy experience, this memory floods your body with endorphins, feel-good hormones.
So you have these two approaches which actually work well together: mind and body awareness. You can elicit your own relaxation response either through your thoughts or via your body’s movements.
Your mind might be ruminating again and again, over the same experiences of sadness, resentment, regret or fear. Relax your hold on these stories by guiding your focus on to your body and your breath.
Remember, we’re not talking about relaxation that is ‘the lazy, semi-conscious state of mind that one gets while resting and dozing’, says Thich Nhat Hanh.
When you are bringing mindful relaxation to yourself, as described above, you experience a relaxed alertness. Think of images of wild cats – lions and tigers, super-cool, super relaxed yet focused and alert!
Your body is superbly designed to experience a state of relaxed alertness or ‘homeostasis’.
Stress tends to build up when your body is constantly eliciting a fear response.
To alleviate stress and encourage yourself to feel more relaxed, Rick Hanson suggests you take five breaths, inhaling and exhaling a little more fully than usual.
This both energises you with the inhale and relaxes you with the exhale. It creates a ‘combination of aliveness and centredness’.
You could even imagine you are breathing in the scent of a rose.
Be aware of deepening into a few breaths throughout your day. So when you’re experiencing fear, give yourself a moment to access your relaxed, focused and alive state, through posture awareness and mindful breathing.
And all of these tips apply when you are formally sitting in meditation.
Relax at Bedtime
At bedtime too, it’s essential to open to relaxation and let go of the day’s worries for a good night’s sleep.
- Scan your awareness around your body, release and soften tightened muscles in your limbs.
- Slow down your breathing.
- It might help to visualise colours or places that support this feeling of calm – a green woodlands, a sunny beach or a bright mountain view.
- Regular nights of deep, replenishing sleep contribute to your overall ability to stay relaxed during challenging days.
Relaxation – it’s a superpower! Use it!
Useful references relating to the mind-body connection:
If you liked this, dip in here for: 5 Simple Tips for Stress-busting
Yvette Jane – Mindfulness & Meditation Guide
Develop your superpower of mindful relaxation with Place of Serenity