Almost everyone knows what stress is these days. Actually, this is the opposite of relaxation. To fully relax, it is good to be able to recognise when you are stressed. When you realise this point, you can either prevent it or manage it better in the future.
Stress is necessary to (survive) life. You need tension to move. Stress is therefore positive and functional as long as the situation requires a quick and adequate response.
Running from someone who is screaming after you is stressful, and that’s a good thing. The stress causes your muscles to tense, your metabolism and immune system slow down, and your blood pressure is raised so that you can flee quickly.
However, persistent stress produces the same reactions and, in the long run, has disastrous consequences such as digestive and metabolic diseases or cardiovascular diseases. In addition, burnout or depression is also lurking. So relaxing is very important, especially if you want to prevent health problems.
In this blog, we take a closer look at what happens in your body when you relax.
Endorphins and Oxytocin
When you relax, you release the hormones endorphins and oxytocin. Physically, these substances, as counterparts of the stress hormones: adrenaline, cortisol and CRH (Corticotropin Release Hormone), lower your muscle and connective tissue tension and improve the blood circulation in muscles, skin and mucous membranes.
Stress hormones are described in further detail in Lesson 7.
In addition, endorphins and oxytocin lower your blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels. They remove waste products and improve the functioning of your immune system. They set processes in motion that stimulate your body’s natural regenerative capacity.
As if that were not enough, they also increase your pain threshold, have an anti-anxiety effect and stimulate social interaction.
When we relax, the muscles can also relax. This means that the substance ATP (adenosine triphosphate) can be produced. Your own fuel production system. ATP is only produced when muscles in the body are relaxed or stretched. So in Phase 2 and 3 of the muscle cycle (see more in lesson 13).
When stressed, this substance is naturally consumed, and you lose energy again. It is, therefore, no wonder that you become (very) tired.
Body and mind as a unity.
Since physiological and psychological effects are difficult to distinguish (we function as one unit, as it were), our physical condition influences what we think and feel and vice versa.
For example, a massage, sports, dancing, or making love can relax the body and the mind and is an excellent therapy to reduce stress.
After all, you make the right hormones that counteract the effects of stress. This ensures a pleasant feeling and physical recovery.
Sports: good for the brain
When you relax through sports, you mainly produce endorphins and dopamine that positively influence your mood. Endorphins are released so quickly during exercise that they can shut down a stress response within a minute. They give you a wonderful feeling, and when you exercise more often, you store these hormones / neurotransmitters better, and you become more sensitive to them. So it is a bit addictive. This is, of course, a positive addiction!
You also make the substance BDNF during exercise. BDNF is the abbreviation for Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor. This substance plays a crucial role in the repair processes in the brain, especially in the hippocampus. It also slows down the ageing of our brain.
In some cases, this can delay or prevent Alzheimer’s or dementia. It also counteracts the effects of chronic stress or burnout by promoting recovery. Never too late to seek relaxation in sports!
Hugging is good!
We’ve mentioned oxytocin before. Oxytocin is mainly released by touch and heat. It can also be released with other forms of sensory stimulation, such as by smell, sound or light.
Pure psychological mechanisms can also cause oxytocin to be secreted. For example, a positive interaction involving touch and psychological support – i.e. with warmth and empathy – can be beneficial for your health. Enough cuddling with your partner, your children and/or your pets!
How do you relax?
For some, it is relaxation going out with friends. For others, it is sitting on the couch with a good book. Another seeks relaxation in sports.
You can seek relaxation mentally or physically. It would be best if you found out what is relaxing for you and what you enjoy. So that your head becomes empty and your body.
If you are curious about how Tai Chi can help you, be sure to visit our website.