You deserve to relax

May 07, 1999

Relax with TVBy KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer

photos: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

Do you beat yourself up if you spend an evening reading a novel instead doing laundry? Do you feel guilty if you watched a game on TV instead of cutting the grass?

Do you ever relax? Can you? Should you?

The answer, for a variety of reasons, is "yes."

[cont. from lifestyle]

"Relaxation is an important factor in managing stress," says Jim Cannon, coordinator of business and industry training programs at Hagerstown Community College. Cannon has conducted seminars, workshops and training in stress management.

Stress needs to be managed. Studies have found that psychological stress has been associated with increased susceptibility to viruses, including colds and influenza; mental stress can act as a trigger for acute cardiac events, even sudden cardiac death, according to information on the Web site of National Institute of Health at


Not all stress is bad. "Healthy stress" gives you the energy to keep motivated and focused, Cannon says. But too much stress will have an impact on productivity. If you don't take time to relax, your productivity will decline, he adds.

Barbara Tingle, Washington County Hospital's childbirth education coordinator, teaches childbirth preparation classes. Those classes include instruction in Lamaze childbirth, which emphasizes relaxation and breathing - deep-chest, adapted and fast breathing. Childbirth can be easier if the woman is relaxed. Tingle compares it to getting an injection. If you tense up, your arm will more likely be sore from the shot.

Lamaze techniques can be used in other situations. Tingle says she starts deep-chest breathing as soon as she gets to the dentist's parking lot.

Try some of these ideas

Relax with sleepRelaxation should be a part of planning and goal setting, according to Cannon. It should be scheduled. "Get it on your planner." The mind and body need to regenerate, Cannon says.

How? Cannon provided some suggestions:

* If you're chained to your desk, your laptop or your cell phone - change your environment, take a break, Cannon advises. "Kind of stop and smell the flowers."

He follows his own advice by sometimes eating his lunch outside. Or he'll go to a restaurant he likes at 11:30 a.m. - before the crowds come. He will eat very slowly, even chew his food slowly. "I feel better," he says. He gets more ideas, he's more creative.

* It's important to make sure you are getting enough sleep and proper nourishment.

* Although it may seem like the opposite of relaxing, exercise is an important tool. Even a 20-minute walk is beneficial. The body begins to release hormones, natural muscle relaxants. Exercise can help to "smooth things out," Cannon believes.

* Think about the people among your friends and relatives who make you feel better after even a phone conversation. Call one of those positive people and let your mind disengage.

* Ask yourself if all the areas of your life - physical, mental and spiritual - are balanced. If home and work issues are not in balance, you will be distracted both at home and at work.

"We know this stuff," Cannon says. It's common sense but not common practice. Look at your life, he advises.

"Do what you love," says Margie Schaeffer, a nationally certified massage therapist, who has operated Synergy Therapeutic Massage Center and Training School in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., since 1996. Do what makes you feel peaceful inside, what makes you feel healthy and vibrant, she advises. In her practice, she looks at the whole person - the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects.

"The body cannot heal unless it is relaxed," she says.

Schaeffer counsels her students to ask themselves how they feel giving as well as receiving a massage. She has them keep journals. Being a massage therapist is hard work. If you don't feel good about it, you will burn out, she believes.

Everyone is busy. But Schaeffer believes that each day, everyone needs to take some time - it doesn't have to be a great amount of time - but some time to be fully present, to relax. Savor that time, she recommends.

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