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Guide: how to relax

When work deadlines are looming, family and friends are asking for attention and your To-Do list is never-ending, taking time out to relax can seem like sheer luxury.

But relaxation is essential to your health. Discover the ways it can support your wellbeing, and some of the best techniques to help you unwind.

What is relaxation?

Relaxation is the release of muscle tension, and a deep, restful state that has been shown to reduce the impact of stress on your mind and body.1 It does this by having the following effects2:

  • slowing your breathing
  • lowering your heart rate and blood pressure
  • relaxing muscles
  • balancing blood sugar levels
  • improving digestion
  • boosting mood and concentration
  • improving sleep quality

What happens if you don’t make time to relax?

If you rarely relax, your stress levels could continue to rise, leading to a range of symptoms including3:

  • headaches
  • stomach upsets
  • extreme tiredness
  • sleep problems
  • anxiety

Prolonged stress is linked to long-term health problems, such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes, too.4

So, what stops us from relaxing?

Usually long-term stress. The ‘fight or flight’ response to a stressful situation keeps your muscles tense, your heartbeat racing and your body on high alert.

To calm down from this state, you have to consciously take steps to soothe your nervous system – and that isn’t always easy in today’s busy modern world.5

A 2018 UK report by the Mental Health Foundation found that the top causes of stress include long-term health conditions, work, money worries and social media.6

Another issue eating into our relaxation time is technology.

More and more of us now find it tougher to switch off amid the pressure to always be online, instantly responding to messages, notifications or emails.

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