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2021 January

Ways to Relax During Stressful Times (such as lockdowns)

17th January 2021

Three, two, one… yes, relaxation can be that easy for some. But it takes practice. This is because we spend so much of our lives being stimulated and programmed by mainstream media and social networking sites, that we can get over excited, anxious and agitated. Why? Because those are the states of mind that make us better consumers and more obedient citizens. Social media companies take our dopamine-reward response levels to exhaustion because that way, we obsessively interact with them and they, in turn, can harvest a lot of our personal data which they use to sell targeted advertising. The anxious human is a profitable and compliant human!

From our own perspectives — in our own skins — a life of stress and anxiety leads to illness and depression. Chronic stress leads to increased inflammation throughout the body. The anxious human may be profitable to big tech and to government initiatives, but he or she is also unhappy, often neurotic and can feel expendable. Stressed humans die younger.

Of course, COVID and the government lockdown response have been extremely detrimental to our stress levels. Both the perception of the disease and the remedy have made us far more stressed and fearful than we would normally be. We already have a natural inbuilt aversion to infection, and so a reported pandemic is bad enough, but over the last year an unholy alliance of our governments and the mass media have used psychological conditioning techniques and constant scare propaganda to maximise the fear in society towards the end of getting lockdown and vaccine compliance.

If you think that these remedies are effective and they are the primary solutions, then you may be justified in thinking that Project Fear has an important role to play in our recovery. But whether these remedies are effective or not, it is an unassailable fact that we are collectively more stressed and more fearful than we have ever been, and to such an extent that many of us are now willing to forfeit freedom for safety.

The consequence is that any government plan presented as a public-safety plan gets a good chance to be pushed through into legislation with majority approval. Those of us focused on natural health reject this route to recovery for the following reasons:

  1. We believe that supporting immune function and promoting overall health is the most effective way to minimise our chances of getting ill, and maximise our chance of getting well in the event we do become ill. Nothing is a surety, yet the evidence clearly supports the case that the healthier you are, the less likely you are to succumb to any sort of infection. Therefore, a focus on natural health is a acceptance of our responsibility to keep relatively healthy, rather than seeing health merely as the absence of disease.

  2. As the natural health approach sees the body has a holistic system, we believe that there are serious consequences to deliberately instilling fear in the general population, no matter what the justification. Fear not only directly damages the body just as any virus or bacteria might, but it also diminishes our confidence in our natural immunity’s innate ability to recover from an infectious disease, or resist one to begin with. Few seem to have confidence in their body these days because of mass-media conditioning that presents us as biologically fragile and weak, and in constant need of pharmaceutical help and interference.

  3. A natural health perspective accepts that pulmonary infections naturally move through populations, usually during the winter months in the northern hemisphere. Disease is seen as a natural part of life and when we near the end of our lives, we accept that it is often a pulmonary infection that finally finishes the biological process. Given this perspective, we do not fear infection but responsibly do all we can to protect the most vulnerable, without taking away their right to make a calculated risk. This is called humanity.

  4. The way of natural health is to avoid as much as possible unnatural solutions. We do this because we see the human body as the product of millions of years of evolution in a natural setting, so introducing man-made chemicals and other “unnatural” (either in form or quantity) agents into our environment or our body, is likely to cause imbalances and so should only be used when there is no effective alternative. This is not meant as a rejection of the modern world, but an embracing of the evolutionary perspective. (Many in the natural health arena have strong religious beliefs, which means that they reject evolutionary science and embrace a natural way because that is what their forefathers did. That can work in their favour too.)

So natural health advocates are not Luddites avoiding modern interventional medicine, but those looking to maximise their health and happiness in the most rational way — by giving the body what it was designed to have (either by evolution or God). It represents an optimism in our natural capacity to resist disease (both infectious and chronic lifestyle diseases), if we have unprocessed diets, nutrients and healthy habits. Those of us in natural health do not avoid modern medicine when it is absolutely necessary, but the unnatural approach is always a last resort as it can involve so many side-effects and other repercussions. So what is the natural health route to relaxation during lockdowns?

  1. Stop watching TV news and current affairs programs, or reading this sort of material online or offline. All you need to know are the government guidelines for your area. It is extremely bad for us to be fixated on ‘fear porn’ as this will certainly be detrimental to physical and psychological health. If you can take up the challenge to avoid the news for just 7 days, you will certainly find a huge improvement in your psychological wellbeing and positivity. And that change will reflect in an upsurge in immunity and general health. Remember, nobody actually relaxes in front of a TV.

  2. Minimise your time on the big social media sites… yes, even during a lonely lockdown. Social media sites are like salt water to a thirsty traveller — satiating in the moment before triggering even more thirst. Direct message interaction is far healthier than grandstanding interaction, so find those platforms that give you a little more intimacy with your group and allow you to express a full range of more authentic emotions.

  3. Regular sleep is vital for resetting the brain and soothing accumulating stress. The clockwork nature of the biological and psychological rhythms we have evolved with, called circadian rhythms, mean that regular sleep times are preferable. (Spontaneity is not necessarily a good thing when it comes to basic biological habits!) So pick a time for bed, preferably in the hours before midnight, and stick to it as much as possible, and see your stress start to diminish.

  4. Sleep, though, is not enough to fully reset the brain of humans living in the modern world of relentless stimulation: we need the discipline to actively disengage. If you do not do it already, try taking at least 10 minutes out of the day for meditation, pray, deeper reflection, listening to relaxing music or deep breathing exercises — whatever works best for you. It is important to get out of the destructive cycle of obsessive thinking. This can most effectively be done with regular focus either on something internal or something external.

  5. The less exercise we do, the more difficult it can be to relax. Tension in muscles is a vital preliminary to relaxation, and it stimulates the vascular system (great for the heart) and releases feel-good neurotransmitters. During a lockdown with many avenues of exercise closed, that may be limited to walks, runs, cycling and basic home exercises (including yoga).

  6. Food is a great comfort for many of us and it is easy to overindulge when we are stressed, especially in sweet or fatty foods. But this sort of overindulgence unfortunately means an increase in weight. And increased body fat, especially in the stomach area, is correlated with raised long-term cortisol levels (the stressful fight-or-flight hormone). This is likely to be part psychological as well as part metabolic. So cutting down on excess sugar and unhealthy fats and focusing on more complex carbohydrates that release sugars more slowly is preferable. As is finding a calorific balance with our level of activity over a lockdown is important and can take time to find.

  7. Alcohol is used by many of us to cope with stress, but alcohol is a chemical depressant in the long term, and regular intake over time as a means to deal with stress will unfortunately increase that stress over time. So limiting intake of alcohol can be helpful for stress relief.

  8. Certain nutrients can also help us relax, some of which were covered in our last health article. These nutrients can make a real difference in supporting us out of stressful psychological loops.

  9. Give stressful friends and acquaintances a wide berth, both offline and online. Other people can be a huge source of stress for us for multiple reasons. While it is good to be socially challenged now and then (isolated people can develop grumpy intolerance), there are certain people we know that we are stressed around because they are hard work to deal with or are an energy drain (which sets up stress in us as we try to resist that drain).

Whether you choose one or two of the above to concentrate on, or whether you give your stress a more blunderbuss approach, you can considerably reduce it. What often holds us back from letting go to relaxation, however, is our addiction to it. We become addicted to the stress hormones, addicted to the delirium of modern life, addicted to feeling the adrenal accelerator, addicted to fear, so that relaxation can seem just plain too boring. And it is that boredom threshold that is the biggest challenge for many of us.

To get through that boredom threshold requires some determination… some discipline. Learning to relax can feel uncomfortable at first because so much of our metabolic and psychological momentum is in the opposite direction towards stimulation. The world stimulates us because it wants something from us. So many of the suggestions above might seem prosaic and monotonous, at least to start with. But we can surprising quickly break free from that fixation on stress and start to relax back into our lives. And when we do that, true health and balance on every level is not far behind.

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