When one looks up the opposite of “relaxation” one may find the following words: agitation, worry, tension, irritation, unhappiness, intensification, pain, sorrow, disturbed.
Have you ever tried use a fork with a clenched fist? It doesn’t work out that well, does it? Maneuvering food towards your mouth like this becomes shaky and inaccurate.
- Have you ever tried to concentrate, work or study while having a headache?
- How would you describe your eyes after a long day of focusing on a computer screen or driving through an evening snow storm?
- How would you feel if you had to withdraw from all of your activities like Friday night gatherings with friends, shopping, playing your favourite sport or watching your favourite TV shows?
If you took stock of yourself at these times, would you describe your muscles as being “tense”, your mind as being “agitated”, your eyes as being “irritated”, and your feelings as being “low”?
Now imagine all of the above at the same time…This is how it feels for many concussion patients.
The state of relaxation is a function of your nervous system.
The autonomic nervous (sympathetic and parasympathetic) system is important for regulating many of the body’s subconscious actions like blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, eye-focusing ability, bladder function, mood, energy level, sleep and much more.
Concussion patients have autonomic dysfunction and as a result, difficulty with some of the functions of the autonomic nervous system. For many of us, learning to consciously control these specific functions seems impossible. However, many of us recognize that these functions work better when we are relaxed.
Ironically, relaxation is not easy for many individuals, it is a skill that requires practice.
3. Relaxation Strategies
Relaxation strategies are as diverse and varied as the individuals that use them, and sometimes the activities that an individual found to aid in relaxation prior to the concussion may not be possible or may not provide the same results post injury. There are many techniques for relaxation. The strategies that are recommended by our clinic reflect this diversity and often combine both psychological and physical strategies.
For example, mindfulness meditation can be effective in reducing depression, stress, emotional regulation, relaxation, awareness and improving physical and mental health in those with and without mental health diagnoses.
Similarly, examples of other strategies that show merit include mindful progressive muscle relaxation, passive muscle relaxation, autogenic training, guided imagery and visualization, diaphragmatic breathing, and muscle tension awareness.
Some additional resources for relaxation strategies can be found here.
Research & writing: Caitlin Heino
Last update: March 2018