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Guide To Relaxation

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Vatche Bartekian
Men generally tend to consider relaxation to be a waste of precious time. We simply do not put high value on relaxation. We evaluate ourselves more on measurable things such as personal achievements and financial worth -- not emotional wellness. We often tend to feel guilty if we aren't constantly being productive.

This sense of guilt usually arises from our parents' pre-adolescent brainwashing. They taught us to achieve and perform; to continuously strive to become Superman. I know what you're thinking: "Yeah well, I do sometimes have problems unwinding, but it's not going to kill me." I'd hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it could.

According to medical experts, stress has become a major health problem that men face today more than ever. It has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, and other serious illnesses -- even impotence. According to the American Institute of Stress, up to 90% of all visits to doctors are for stress-related disorders.

The problem remains within us. Men often wait too long to do something about stress. In my experience, not more than 20% of the people enrolled in my typical stress management courses are male. The solution is to learn how to unwind. This learning process, however, is not easy -- especially if you're the stern, workaholic, achievement-oriented type.

- Carry a water bottle and drink often. Stress makes you sweat more.

- Become a social bug. Let off some steam by going to sports bars, pep rallies, political conventions, hockey/baseball games, and any such social activity. You can blow off steam at these environments where it's normal for people to scream and shout.

- Take a hot bath. To get the most relaxation from a hot bath, soak for 15 minutes in water that is just a few degrees warmer than your body temperature. But be careful because longer soaks in warmer water can actually lower your blood pressure too much.

- Get a grip! At work, keep a hand exerciser or a "stress ball" handy. Medically speaking, when stress shoots adrenaline into the bloodstream that calls for muscle action, squeezing something provides a release that satisfies our bodies' "fight-or-flee" response.

- Become a volunteer. Isolation only magnifies any worries you might have. Helping others will give you that sense of accomplishment you're always looking for, not to mention self-respect.

- Correct your posture. A good upright posture improves breathing and increases blood flow to the brain, hence decreasing blood pressure and stress.

- Smile more often. It's true what they say: a smile is contagious. It also lowers stress.

- Hold your breath. I teach this following technique to my new students and it always works: take a deep breath and keep it in. Holding palm to palm, press your fingers together. Wait 5 seconds, then slowly exhale through your lips while letting your hands relax. Do this 5 or 6 times until you unwind.

- Use aromatherapy. Studies have shown that certain aromas like apple/cinnamon, vanilla and coconut induce relaxation in men. Visit your local convenience store and buy some essential oils and incense.

- Find your mantra. Guys who tune out the world for 20 minutes, twice a day, not only live longer, but they look and feel younger. Try finding a martial arts or yoga school in your area that emphasizes on meditation.

- Are you doing too much? If so, then prioritize your activities and get rid of the ones that you can live without. Decide what gives you the most pleasure and do only that.

Vatche Bartekian

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