Rest and relaxation are good for the body and soul. Many men over 50 struggle with the idea of relaxing. We often associate relaxation with "wasting time." Concepts like meditation and mindfulness were not part of the man code when we were growing up. This can leave many of us in a difficult if not toxic situation in today's high stress, high-pressure world. Stress and anxiety engender physical and emotional responses within our bodies. The physical responses include:
an increased pulse
a burst of adrenaline
redirection of blood away from extremities and towards major organs
the release of cortisol and other hormones, which bring other short- and long-term changes
This combination of responses is known as the "fight-or-flight" response. It evolved as a survival mechanism, enabling our ancestors to react quickly to life-threatening situations. The carefully orchestrated yet near-instantaneous sequence of hormonal changes and physiological responses helps someone to fight the threat off or flee to safety. Unfortunately, this carefully orchestrated near-miraculous sequence of physical changes once so important to our survival have when triggered by today's not life-threatening stressors, such as traffic jams, work pressure, and family difficulties become a real problem. If your stress response is triggered and you are unable to relax afterwards and return your body to its regular state before your stress response is triggered again well you can find yourself suffering what has been called chronic stress.
Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your health, contributing to a host of stress-related health problems including high blood pressure, the formation of artery-clogging deposits, obesity, sleep disorders and changes in your brain which may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction.
Learning to relax can help deal with stress/stressors better, enabling you to restore your body to its natural state following a fight or flight response, and potentially helping you to reduce your sensitivity to the stressors that we all face everyday.
Some of us relax by vegging out in front of the TV in the evening, but that doesn't really help us very much when we're feeling stressed at work in the middle of the day or in the car on the way home, or after an argument with our other half, or after you've just heard the latest disastrous news report. In these situations, it is good to have a plan for relaxation which you can deploy.
Here are 7 relaxation strategies that you can use to combat stress.
1. Breathing Exercises. Breathing exercises are excellent relaxation tools, you can do them at any time and in any place, they work quickly and are easy to master. Try this basic exercise anytime you need to relax or relieve stress.
Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position.
Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move.
Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling. Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to push all the air out.
Do this breathing 3 to 10 times. Take your time with each breath.
Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.
2. Meditation. I know that some people swear by it, but for many men over 50 meditation sounds like nonsense. Perhaps it's something you tried when you were younger and didn't get very far, perhaps it's something that you've always waved away. Whatever your views on meditation may have been, I suggest that it's time for you to take another look. Try Mindfulness meditation. Sit comfortably, think about your breathing, and try and focus your mind on the present moment without allowing your attention to drift off into concerns about the past or the future. Research suggests that this form of mediation may be helpful for individuals dealing with anxiety, depression, and pain.
3. Music. Play some music that you enjoy. OK maybe everybody doesn't want to hear it, but today's world of wireless headphones and earbuds, that's not a problem. Music is a great way to relieve stress and promote relaxation. So if you feel your anxiety levels rising pop in your earbuds, put on one of your favourite tunes and let the music take you away. Haven't played any tunes in a while? Check out our blog on music streaming at 50plus.
4. Exercise. Have you noticed that it's very difficult to stay stressed when you work out! Physical activity not only allows you to blow off some steam when you're stressed but also releases endorphins into your bloodstream which can raise your mood aid relation. Haven't exercised for a while? Check out our blogs on getting fit @50plus.
5. Have Fun! Having fun with friends and family or even on our own is a great stress buster. Sometimes it can be difficult for us to prioritise it, but we are making a mistake if we don't. Having fun is as important when you're over 50 as it is when you're in your twenties. Having fun is an important part of getting that work-life balance that we all hear so much about right. So if you haven't had a laugh in a while now might be a good time to contact a friend and have one.
6. Decompress. Take a moment for yourself. For me, this is something I like to do standing in a hot shower or sitting in a warm bath. Close your eyes and relax your face, neck, upper chest, and back muscles. Allow the stress and tension to slip away.
7. Get your head below your heart. Really feeling stress. Maybe even feeling a panic attack coming on? Put your head between your knees, or stand and hang your head and arms toward your toes. Getting your head below your heart has restorative effects on the autonomic nervous system (ANS), lessening your reactivity to the fight-or-flight response