Have you ever found it hard to sit quietly in silence? Do you ever feel your mind wandering during relaxation exercises? These are normal sensations, and many people express similar feelings when they first begin relaxation practices. It’s a good idea to try a few different methods of relaxation to find the one(s) that will work well for you; trust that, with time and practice, it will become easier to find that quiet place.
Why do we feel restless when we try to relax? Why does it take time to settle into a slower pace? And, why do you feel like your “to do list” pops up when you do these exercises? These are all great questions!
The mind is an active, amazing place, which is constantly processing all your different experiences throughout your day, such as sounds, smells, conversations, emotions, events and stressors. Your brain is taking in all of this information to learn from your surroundings, to help keep you safe, and to prepare you for the future. It’s important to allow the mind to process all these inputs to decrease the impact of stress on your body.
There are many ways to find a more relaxed state. Often, you can listen to soothing music, guided imagery, or your favorite author recite a story. The most important thing to remember is to just let any thoughts you may have gently flow in and out of your mind. In these moments, there is no need to analyze them, explain them or worry about them. This is your mind’s way of processing what it has felt and learned throughout the days, weeks and months. In this manner, you can begin to see many of the day’s events and interactions from a more balanced state. This can improve how you react or don’t react to those situations over time.
Studies have found that with practice, it is easier to enter a more relaxed brain wave state, and during this phase, healing can occur. Inflammation can decrease, stress hormones can go down, and the heart- beat can decrease to more beneficial rates.
Try this experience of listening to a brief poem while you focus on deepening your breathing. Sometimes, a guided relaxation such as this can be very helpful for settling into a more peaceful place:
For more information on guided imagery, visit https://www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTH/professional-resources/Guided_Imagery.asp.
VHA’s My Life My Story initiative believes in the strong connection between telling your story and healthcare. To learn more about this, visit https://www.va.gov/HEALTHCAREEXCELLENCE/news-room/newsletter/spotlight-on-excellence/2018/special/my-life-my-story.asp.
Kavitha Reddy, MD FACEP ABoIM, is a national whole health champion with the VHA Office of Patient-Centered Care and Cultural Transformation and Whole Health System Clinical Director for VASTLHCS.