Why is relaxation important?
It is very common for new parents to feel stressed at times. Managing stress when you are anxious or depressed is very important because stress can make these problems worse.
When we are stressed our mind and our body are affected and relaxation helps to calm them down. Stress can build up slowly over time until we feel like we will explode. Like a bottle filling up, this stress needs to be emptied regularly so that it doesn’t overflow. Regular relaxation can help to keep stress levels down to a minimum.
Types of relaxation
When stressed our breathing becomes quick and shallow. Breathing exercises can be done quickly anywhere, anytime to slow this down.
Take a deep breath in through your nose, feel your stomach expand. Hold it in for a few seconds. Then breathe out slowly and feel your stomach going in, breathing out as long as you can. Then take a deep breath in again and continue this cycle for a few minutes.
Physical or muscle relaxation:
When stressed the body becomes tense. Relaxing the body can reduce feelings of stress. These techniques can help you to become aware of the difference between tension and relaxation.
You can do this by concentrating on any part of your body, such as your hands and arms. Make a fist as tight as you can with your hands. As you are doing this take a deep breath in. Notice the tension in your hands, fingers and arms. Then, breathe out, let go and loosen your fingers. Notice the feeling of relaxation in your hands and arms.
Note: new mums wanting to do full body muscle relaxation must have had their six week check.
This is a mental relaxation method. You build a picture in your mind that makes you feel good, distracts you and creates a mental ‘reality’ of being somewhere pleasant and calming. Pick images that are easy and comfortable for you to picture. This may take some practice.
Find a quiet and comfortable place where you will not be disturbed. Imagine an experience when you have felt safe and calm. It may be a holiday you had, a place you have visited or somewhere you would like to go to. In your mind’s eye create an image of this. Notice what you can see, the colours, the shapes, the forms. Notice the sounds and smells. Now focus on the pleasant sensations you can feel with your body, such as the temperature and the breeze. Can you experience any tastes – what are they like? Notice the pleasant feelings whilst you are in your safe and calm place. You can choose to stay there for a while and enjoy the peace and calm. When you are ready open your eyes and come back to the present ‘here and now’. In your own time you can gently move and carry on with your day.
Common problems with relaxation
Worrying about succeeding: Relaxation is a skill which needs to be learned and practised. Worrying about succeeding or trying too hard can create more tension rather than less. People learn and do things at different rates, take your own time to develop this skill.
Concentration problems: It is common for people’s attention to
wander off when attempting to relax. If your mind does wander, don’t worry, just gently bring yourself back to the relaxation exercise.
Being too tense: It is more difficult to relax when you are very tense. Choose a time for relaxation when you feel more calm.
Odd sensations: You may experience odd sensations such as tingling, shaky hands, pins and needles, and so on. Yawning can occur. These can be signs that the body is beginning to unwind.
Falling Asleep: Sometimes people fall asleep when they are practising which is great if your difficulty is sleeping. If relaxation is aimed at helping you to cope with difficult situations during the day, it is best to remain awake during and after the relaxation.
Fear of losing control: Some people fear they might lose control during relaxation. Remember you can decide how much or how little you want to let go and when you have had enough.
Difficult areas of the body: Some people find certain parts of their body more difficult to relax than others, these parts may be prone to tension. Exercises for relaxing the difficult parts can be usefully repeated to achieve relaxation. Please ask staff if you need advice.
Tips for relaxation
- Practice makes perfect: the more you relax the easier it is.
- Set the scene, choose a quiet, warm and relaxing room.
- Use aromatherapy to aid relaxation.
- Choose the best time, make sure you are unlikely to be disturbed, perhaps when baby is in bed or having a nap.
- Watch what you eat, don’t do relaxation just after a big meal.
- Don’t get up too quickly, this may make you feel dizzy.
- Find out which techniques work best for you.
- It may feel strange at first – it will come right with practice.
IF YOU WANT TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT RELAXATION PLEASE SPEAK TO A HEALTH PROFESSIONAL