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Sharon Gillson

Relax your way to better health

By October 11, 2012

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Relaxation should not be the last thing on your to-do list. Relaxation is needed to decrease the wear and tear on our minds and bodies.

When you relax, you can reduce your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, increase blood flow to major organs and muscles, reduce headaches and back pains, and reduce emotional responses (e.g. anger and frustration).

Relaxing can also improve your digestive health, and reduce heartburn episodes.

While stress hasn't been linked directly to heartburn, it is known that it can lead to behaviors that can trigger heartburn. During stressful times, routines are disrupted and people may not follow their normal routines in regards to meals, exercise and medication. It is important to find ways to alleviate the stress, and thus make stress-related heartburn less likely.

How can you relax? Here are a few tips:

  • Change of pace
    Take a different way to work, eat in a nearby park instead of a crowded restaurant, spend some time involved in a favorite hobby

  • Visualization
    Take a quick "mental break." Envision a favorite place in your mind; anyplace that makes you relax just thinking about it. This can be imagining a walk by the ocean, a drive through the mountains, or being on a hillside watching the sun set. Concentrating seeing, hearing, and smelling the things you imagine will help you relax.

  • Maintain positive emotions
    Choose to focus on positive rather than negative emotions. This can help you stay on a more even keel emotionally, and when time is available to relax, recovery is swifter.

  • Practice self-control
    Indulgence after a stressful day may bring temporary pleasure but undercut long-term well-being. For example, overeating while trying to lose weight. Relaxation time offers a good opportunity to create a list of constructive and relaxing activities to do when stress levels climb.

  • Avoid ruminating
    Mulling over issues that occurred earlier only increases stress. Moreover, it can lead to taking out anger on others. Instead, moving thoughts in another direction can allow irritation to fade away.

  • Regular exercise
    This not only helps to lower stress and increase your natural "feel-good" chemicals, known as endorphins, but also helps with digestion.

For more on stress relief, go to About.com's Guide to Stress.

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