Written by Alexandra Taylor
Giving ourselves permission to relax is not something the average modern person allows for.
There is not enough time in the day to fit in making breakfast, dropping the kids of at school, going to work, attempting some exercise, making dinner, doing the laundry, feeding the dog, putting the kids to bed. Whatever it is that fills your day, there just simply doesn’t seem to be time enough to spare for relaxation.
The thing is, nothing is more important for your health and wellbeing than giving yourself the permission to relax, unwind and let the tension and stress of daily life go.
Living in a vibrant city such as London certainly has it peaks: Sunrise rooftop yoga, food markets, theatres, parks, canals etc. But unfortunately London also comes with an undesirable and unhealthy level of constant panic, stress and effort. Our bodies are relentlessly on high alert from the many millions of stimuli we expose ourselves to daily; noises, sights, smells and touch all constantly provoke our adrenaline and cortisol levels resulting in higher blood pressure. Not to mention we all live in a society where we are never satisfied, where we always want more, need more.
More money, more holidays, new shoes, a better job, a smarter car. And in addition to all this, the competition is so fraught, that if we aren’t prepared to do the work someone else is. This means that we are working crazy long hours and any spare time is dedicated, willingly or reluctantly, to socialising, partying and pushing our bodies into overdrive.
Unsurprisingly, this eventually leads to early burnouts, whereby over 37% of all work related ill health cases in 2015/16 were accounted for by stress and emotional exhaustion. And shockingly high is the report which states up to 90% of all visits to the doctors are in some way stress related conditions and complaints. It has become one of the world’s widest health concern, linking to severe complications such as dementia and heart failure.
So essentially, the time that we allow for ourselves, if even any at all, is minimal.
Surely these staggering facts alone are enough to convince you of the importance of allowing for some me-time each and every day, but just in case they’re not, read on to find out what exactly the benefits of including relaxation into part of your daily routine are...
1. Improved mood
Extended bouts of stress is known to cause high levels of cortisol which then prevents the body from producing healthy mood enhancing hormones known as serotonin and dopamine. By developing a relaxation practice, you are allowing your body vital recovery time after moments of heightened stress or anxiety. This enables the cells and hormones to refresh and revive in order to maintain producing the correct levels of positive hormones.
2. Clearer Decision Making Skills
‘Just relax’ – possibly the worst two words you could hear when you are in a stressful place.
But have you ever noticed that after a pause, or taking a deep breath you are able to approach difficult situations with a clearer mind-set? This is because exercises interrupt your body’s natural fight or flight instincts, grounding you in the present moment with a balanced, rational focus, as opposed to irrational or emotional ways of thinking.
3. Protects the heart
Stress can have a serious impact upon the heart, causing health risks such as high blood pressure, heart attacks and other cardiac illnesses. 15 minutes of meditation can help reduce the risk of death, heart attack and stroke by 48%  . Relaxation decreases the effects of stress on your mind and body, especially beneficial in slowing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure and increasing blood flow to the major muscles.
4. Improved Digestive System
Many digestive issues, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are believed to be disorders of the brain-gut/mind-body relationship . Recent Harvard research found that stress management techniques significantly improved the symptoms of patients suffering with chronic IBS . The study showed that regular practice directly affected factors such as oxygen consumption, heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety. Devoting some time each day to relaxation will enhance your natural ability to cope with daily stress and better manage your symptoms.
5. Improves memory and concentration
Research has been shown to suggest that prolonged periods of high stress can impair the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain which controls cognitive analysis. It has also been proven to affect the memory and learning faculty of the brain, by increasing the amount of proteins in the brain which are linked to diseases like Alzheimer and dementia. Taking the time to pause and slow down both physically and mentally, gives the brain a well-deserved rest to ensure that it can continue to function healthily and optimally.
6. Improves General Well Being
When we are feeling stressed or anxious our body can start to crave foods high in fat and sugar as high cortisol levels increase appetite. For those that struggle with poor skin, this can be a nightmare for spots breaking out. But stress also increases the amount of oil the body produces. Jon Kabat-Zinn conducted a study with patients suffering from stress induced psoriasis concluding that those who regularly meditated, found their symptoms clear up more quickly . People who take include relaxation into their daily life also reported feeling more energetic and lively than on days when they skipped their practice.
7. Improved Relationships and Connections
Feeling stressed can significantly impact negatively on our relationships with loved ones, friends and colleagues. A regular practice will not only help us to regulate our emotions, reducing heat of the moment reactions, but will also improve our emotional resilience. You will feel more connected and in tune with your values and beliefs as well as become more open and accepting to others.
So what’s stopping you? Give yourself permission to relax today!
 Health and Safety Executive Report Work related Stress, Anxiety and Depression Statistics in Great Britain 2016
 British Heart Foundation
 International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
 Kuo, Braden & Bhasin, Manoj (2015) Genomic and Clinical Effects Associated with a Relaxation Response Mind-Body Intervention in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease
 Kabat-Zinn, Jon (1998) Influence of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention on rates of skin clearing in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis undergoing phototherapy (UVB) and photochemotherapy (PUVA)