Category Archives: stress

Relaxation to Reduce Stress, Anxiety, & Depression

Here is another handout that I often give to clients/patients. I should add that I do all of the ideas in my handouts. No point talking about something if you can walk it too.

The body’s natural relaxation response is a powerful antidote to stress. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and yoga can help you activate this relaxation response. When practiced regularly, these activities lead to a reduction in your everyday stress levels and a boost in your feelings of joy and serenity. What’s more, they also serve a protective quality by teaching you how to stay calm and collected in the face of life’s curveballs.

The relaxation response is not: The relaxation response is:
laying on the couch

sleeping

being lazy

a mentally active process that leaves the body relaxed

best done in an awake state

trainable and becomes more profound with practice

Starting a relaxation practice

A variety of relaxation techniques help you achieve the relaxation response. Those whose stress-busting benefits have been widely studied include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, visualization, yoga, and tai chi. f-202

Learning the basics of these relaxation techniques isn’t difficult. But it takes practice to truly harness their stress-relieving power: daily practice, in fact. Most stress experts recommend setting aside at least 10 to 20 minutes a day for your relaxation practice. If you’d like to get even more stress relief, aim for 30 minutes to an hour.

Getting the most out of your relaxation practice

Set aside time in your daily schedule. The best way to start and maintain a relaxation practice is by incorporating it into your daily routine. Schedule a set time either once or twice a day for your practice. You may find that it’s easier to stick with your practice if you do it first thing in the morning, before other tasks and responsibilities get in the way.

Don’t practice when you’re sleepy. These techniques can relax you so much that they can make you very sleepy, especially if it’s close to bedtime. You will get the most out of these techniques if you practice when you’re fully awake and alert.

Choose a technique that appeals to you. There is no single relaxation technique that is best. When choosing a relaxation technique, consider your specific needs, preferences, and fitness level. The right relaxation technique is the one that resonates with you and fits your lifestyle.

Do you need alone time or social stimulation?

If you crave solitude, solo relaxation techniques such as meditation or progressive muscle relaxation will give you the power to quiet your mind and recharge your batteries. If you crave social interaction, a class setting will give you the stimulation and support you’re looking for. Practicing with others may also help you stay motivated.

Research Identifies How Stress Triggers Drug Relapse

Recent research from Brown University could pave the way for new methods of treatment for those recovering from addiction. Researchers identified an exact brain region in rats where the neural steps leading to drug relapse take place, allowing them to block a crucial step in the process that leads to stress-induced relapse.

Prior research has established that acute stress can lead to drug abuse in vulnerable individuals and increase the risk of relapse in recovering addicts. But the exact way that stress triggers the neural processes leading to relapse is still not clearly understood. The Brown study provides new insights on how stress triggers drug abuse, and could lead to more effective treatments for addiction.

According to the study, stress has significant effects on plasticity of the synapses on dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the brain region where the neural activities leading to a stress-induced drug relapse take place.
Stress activates kappa opioid receptors (KORs) in the VTA, and the researchers found that by blocking the KORs, they could prevent the rats from relapsing to cocaine use while under stress.

Published this week in the journal Neuron, the study shows blocking these receptors may be a critical step in preventing stress-related drug relapses in humans, as well. The chemical used to block the receptor, “nor-BMI,” may eventually be tested on humans, according to the study’s authors.

“If we understand how kappa opioid receptor antagonists are interfering with the reinstatement of drug seeking we can target that process,” senior study author Julie Kauer said in a statement. “We’re at the point of coming to understand the processes and possible therapeutic targets. Remarkably, this has worked.”

Kauer noted that the study builds upon over a decade of research on how changes in brain synapses relate to behaviors like addiction. The advance is significant, and could accelerate progress towards a medication for those struggling to recover from addiction.

“If we can figure out how not only stress, but the whole system works, then we’ll potentially have a way to tune it down in a person who needs that,” Kauer said.