We all have stress just getting up in the morning. In the past we’ve written about the importance of taking the edge off of yours. This month we’re going to tell you why and how because exercise and relaxation are an integral part of the program to relieve stress.
Just meditating can help you to clear your mind for problem solving. In people with diabetes, the fight-flight reaction does not work well. Insulin is not always able to let extra energy into the cells, so glucose builds up in the blood. In people with diabetes, stress can alter the blood glucose levels in two ways.
First, people under stress may not take are of themselves. They may drink more and exercise less. They may forget or feel they do not have time to check blood glucose levels or plan for healthy meals. Second, stress can change blood glucose levels directly.
Scientists have studied the effects of stress on glucose levels in both animals and people. Diabetic mice have elevated glucose levels when under physical or mental stress. The effects in people with type 1 diabetes indicate that glucose levels may go up as they do in the majority of people, but they can also go down in some. In type 2 diabetes, stress often raises blood glucose levels.
Relaxation is not a substitute for exercise; it is an adjunct which will allow you to feel better all day long. In fact relaxation includes brief or quick relaxation, a stress walk and then the longer relaxation techniques as well as deep breathing. Try the ones that appeal to you. You won’t be unhappy. The best thing about learning to relax is that you can take these techniques with you wherever you go. Some are quick and some take a bit more time. Let’s look at some of these.
The Stress Walk is just what it says. If things are getting to you at work, get up and walk around the office a few times, walk the steps or walk around to another part of the work place and back a few times. At home, walk your living room or home. Even a short walk can give you a needed time out, releasing muscle tension and allowing more oxygen to enter your body and brain.
This is amazingly effective. You have no idea how often I get up and walk to other rooms or pick up clothes, make a bed etc. just to relieve the tension of sitting at the computer.
- Loosen your clothing to get more comfortable. Remove that extra sweater and take off the glasses.
- Tighten the muscles in your toes. Holds for a count of 10. Relax and enjoy the sense of release of tension.
- Flex the muscles in your feet. Hold for a count of 10. Relax.
- Move slowly up through your body-legs, abs, back, face-contracting and relaxing muscles as you go.
- Breathe slowly and deeply.
In the 1920’s Dr. Edmund Jacobson developed a system of relaxation he called Progressive Relaxation. It involves tensing and totally relaxing specific muscle groups. It is a structured relaxation somewhat like what we described above, but it has rules you will want to learn.
In the 1930’s Johannes Schultz and Wolfgang Luthe developed Autogenic Training. It uses the healing powers of the brain and the power of suggestion. It involves repeating certain mental directives and concentrating on them until the body responds. An example of this might be “My arms are heavy and warm.”
Progressive Muscle Relaxation:
You may need a teacher to help you get this. It takes some training. To do this you will need to sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Here we share the first lesson of three with you. You can find the program on the Net.
It takes six to eight weeks to get through the training and takes twenty minutes of practice each time. It is preferable to do this with your eyes closed. When you tense a muscle, hold the tension for 5 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds before you go on to the next tensing movement. After you are done, breathe in deeply and stretch. Open your eyes and fell great.
- Right hand and forearm. Make a fist and then release
- Right upper arm. Bend the arm and make a muscle, then release.
- Left hand and forearm. Make a fist and then release.
- Left upper arm. Bend to make a muscle and then release.
- Forehead. Raise your eyebrows and then relax your face.
- Eye and Cheeks. Squeeze the eyes and then relax.
- Mouth and jaw. Clench your teeth and pull the corners of mouth down and relax.
- Shoulder and neck. Lock your hands behind your neck and push the back of the head against this resistance (don’t move the head). Pull up your shoulders and press your head back against their resistance in a horizontal movement.
- Chest and back. Breathe in deeply and hold your breath, pressing the shoulders together at the back at the same time, then let your shoulders hang, and breathe normally.
- Belly. Tighten the abs and then release
- Right thigh. Shovel the right foot forward against resistance and then release.
- Right calf. Lift up right heel and then relax.
- Right foot. Crook the toes and then release.
- Left thigh. Shovel left foot forward and relax.
- Left calf. Lift up left heel and then relax.
- Left foot. Crook toes and then relax.
Autogenic training is a technique that teaches your body to respond to certain commands. Using these commands you can tell you body to lower blood pressure, control breathing and even body temperature. It consists of six standard exercises that make the body feel warm, heavy, and relaxed.
For each exercise you get into a simple posture (sitting in a chair or reclining), concentrate without any goals, and then use visual imagination and verbal clues to relax your body in some specific way. The goal is to achieve deep relaxation and reduce stress.
After you learn the process you can use it whenever you need it. This is not a quick teach. It takes four to six months to master all six exercises. You learn each exercise by reading about it or watching a teacher and then practicing it for a few minutes several times a day. It does, however, take training and practice to gain the benefits of the program.
Experts believe that this is a process that is similar to self-hypnosis and biofeedback, both of which we used in our practices at times. Many people continue to use all three. It is safe for most people but you do need a complete physical before your begin this process.
People with diabetes and heart disease should practice it only under the care of a physician. It needs to be stopped if you have any adverse effects from doing the exercises. For some people there is drop or increase in blood pressure that may cause problems so, as we said only with a medical person in charge. Also children under 5 years of age and people with severe mental illness are advised not to use this technique.
After any relaxation technique you are ready to begin your day. In many aerobic classes relaxation is a part of the cool down process. The techniques can be taken with you and after you open your eyes and come back to the class, that last deep breath gets you ready for the rest of the day. Our teachers used bits and pieces of many types of relaxation.
We used Yoga, meditation, progressive relaxation and even some visualization techniques to release and lower stress. Our stretches followed and our muscles sang after a really hard workout which came first. Now that you have an idea of what you can do for yourself, it’s time to learn more and get more information and medical advice. Take care of your self and let’s relax.