Here is my theory. Relaxation is a physical need. I would add it to the basic list that includes sleep, shelter, food, and water.
I had a massage recently. “I really needed that,” I told my husband when I returned home. “You didn’t NEED it,” he replied jokingly. He is right – of course I would not die without a massage, so in that sense it is not technically a need. It is a luxury that not everyone can afford, but an occasional massage is on my list of stress management techniques.
The ability to relax is a need in the same way that healthy food and physical activity are needs. Food will keep you alive, but healthy food will extend the quantity and quality of life you have. Similarly, you will not die immediately if you are a couch potato, but an active life will very likely give you a longer and better life.
The more I learn about the negative physical effects of stress on the body, the more I believe that the ability to relax is a need. Living a constantly stressed life, without taking the energy level down a notch from time to time, does not make time or space for peace and quiet contentment.
Isn’t that what we all really want? Excitement and positive stress are beneficial, and the contrast between action and relaxation make both more enjoyable. It is the inability to shut off when a break is needed that gets in the way of health and happiness.
Even in the toughest of times, people can (and need to) practice simple inexpensive ways of relaxing. Everyone can close their eyes and focus on deep breathing for a minute or two. We often forget that. Sometimes it is all we have time to do – but often it is all we need. The important thing is to realize that simple techniques can work – and then practice, practice, practice!