Relaxation and General Health

Relaxation and General Health

In today’s world, it can be very hard to find a moment in the day to relax. Finding and using that time will make huge differences to how you function in your current lifestyle.

Relaxing can help lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, minimise oxygen consumption by slowing down the breathing rate, reduce muscle tension and calm brain activity.

Making time to relax can have a positive effect on arthritic pain, anxiety, depression, infertility, cancer, insomnia and even ageing.

The relaxation response can improve the immune system and also increase attention levels and decision making.

It can therefore be seen that fitting relaxation into your day will have a very welcome and positive effect on your general health and how you are as a person.

Maybe for some, the only place to relax is in the bath.

The Magic of Bath Time Relaxation

Bathing is so important to our health. Whilst the bathroom is classed as one of the two most dangerous rooms in the house, the room itself can provide a lot of elements which make life pleasing.

An inviting bathroom can offer many comforts:

  • away from the clutter found in other rooms, the bathroom can quickly bring on a relaxed feel
  • quieter colours give the eyes a chance to relax
  • a bathroom can quite often be a light-filled space, raising the mood, especially on cold winter days
  • for the fully independent adult, the bathroom can be the room in which to escape the world, be responsible only for oneself and enjoy that ‘me’ time
  • relaxing in a bath is more relaxing than being in a shower, as your body is fully recumbent and can relax more fully
  • using your own personal toiletries and perfumed goods make the experience so personal
  • whilst in a state of such tranquillity, the thoughts of the day can either float away, or be re-assembled into better ideas for the next day
  • in complete relaxation, the brain can sometimes solve problems which seemed to be unsolvable (hence the famous ‘eureka’ moment of Archimedes in the bath tub).

Choosing the Right Bath Tub

Bath tubs come in different shapes and lengths. Those which are suitable will depend on the size and layout of your bathroom, as well as your personal needs.

Always measure up the space available in the bathroom, before purchasing the bath tub for you.

Take your height, and the height of other users, into consideration, when purchasing the right bath tub length.

Decide whether the bath tub base should be smooth or textured. Textured bases and those with a matt finish will go a long way to preventing slipping, when getting in or out of the bath.

For users who may have balance or mobility difficulties, choosing a bath with integral grab handles is a must.

Choosing the Most Appropriate Accessories

Depending on a user’s health, balance, strength of grip and mobility, several extras will lead to a safer and more independent experience. Items could include:

  • grab rails attached to the wall within the bath space and also the wall just outside the bath tub, to allow the user to safely ease him- / herself in and out of the bath
  • mixer taps, to get the water to the right temperature
  • specially-designed tap handles, which prove suitable to those with weakened grip
  • a rubber bathmat inside the bath, to aid standing and prevent slipping
  • a bath board or bath seat, to allow the elderly and people with balance issues to get safely in and out of the bath water
  • mounted toiletries, cutting down on the need to bend to pick up soap or shampoo.

Appropriate accessories will enhance the bathing experience, making it smoother and fuss free.

Thinking Outside the Box

Whilst these accessories are regular items for bathrooms, thought should also be given to how your head and neck are doing on the upper edge of the bath, as well as against the wall behind your head.

The upper edge of a bath can cause your head to bend too far back. If the wall is immediately behind the edge of the bath, this will cause your head to be upright, as there will be insufficient depth to tilt back slightly.

True relaxation means also relaxing your head and neck, leaving the muscles of the entire body with less to do. Supporting your neck and head over the top of the bath is therefore a must, as it will help align the whole of your body, whilst lying outstretched in the water.

Supporting your head and neck will lead to the whole of your body resting and all muscles will reduce their tension.

A bath pillow can give that very important support to your neck and head and also enhance comfort.

Bath Pillows

Bath pillows come in different shapes, so as to match against different bath designs and whether the bath position is freestanding or against a wall. Some bath pillow designs can also support your upper body, making a smooth transition between your shoulders and your neck.

Choose a waterproof bath pillow, as these are less likely to lose their shape.

Choose one which also has suction grips, which will hold the pillow tightly to the bath at neck position.

Look also for a bath pillow that will be mildew-free and also has an attached hanging loop, to allow you to hang the bath pillow to dry.

Bath Mattresses

A pressure-relieving bath mattress may complement the experience. Adding a plush feel to the bath base, extra support is given to your body, which can reduce pain on pressure sores and bony areas.

A bath mattress may be filled with gel, which helps remove the abrasive feel of the body against the bath base.

Suction cups will help keep a bath mattress in place and will give extra security when getting in and out of the bath water.

How Soaking in Hot Water Can Improve Your Health

Relaxing in warm water is said to ease pain by loosening your muscles. Getting into a good position in the first place will be important to overall relief.

Hot water increases the body temperature and relaxes the muscles. Using hot water to encourage the flow of blood and improve circulation gives more oxygen and nutrients to the body and has a similar effect as to having a mini workout.

Relaxing the muscles soothes us both physically and mentally.

Daily hot baths can reduce the risks of heart attacks and strokes.

Having a warm bath at night can help you sleep better. After getting out of the warm water, your body temperature drops and this encourages the production and release of the sleep hormone, melatonin.

When nasal passages become inflamed from colds and flu, the steam from a hot bath gets your face and nose muscles moving, which in turn can release any blocked mucus and encourage a swift recovery.

A fever is the body’s way of heating up the body temperature to fight off bacteria and infections. Research has shown that regularly relaxing in a hot bath raises the body temperature and can increase the production of white blood cells, improving the body’s ability to fight off infection.

What ‘Relaxed’ Feels Like

Being relaxed is an overall state of calm and can be recognised in:

  • a feeling of cleanness and openness in your body and mind
  • mind chatter slowing down to a halt
  • slower and deeper breathing
  • a sense of peace and warmth
  • a feeling of hope and of new ideas and possibilities.

Pleasing Things to Have at Hand

Adding a touch of luxury can help you sink into that relaxed mode. Think: a glass of wine, a bubble bath, gentle or soothing music you truly appreciate, a book, scented aromas and soothing oils or, if possible, pure silence.

Steer clear of loud music and mobile phones, as neither induce peace or clearness of mind.

In busy households, having a lock on the bathroom door may be needed to keep noise at bay.

Summary

Fitting relaxation into your day will have a very welcome and positive effect on your general health and how you are as a person.

Relaxation can help slow down your speed of life, improve your immune system and increase your attention levels.

For individuals who are not fully independent, an appropriately accessorised bathroom can give extra support.

True relaxation includes relaxing your head and neck, leaving the muscles of the entire body with little to think about but relaxing.

A bath pillow and bath stool is the accessory which complements the whole experience of relaxing in the bath.

The state of relaxation clears the mind and makes way for positive thoughts and ideas.

For many, the bathroom may be the only place to remove oneself from daily routines and find time to relax.

Forget the diary, forget the responsibilities, forget the noise and enjoy the time you allocated to only you.

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Sally Madeley-Carr, OT

Sally Madeley-Carr, OT

Sally qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 1996 and is a well-respected professional in the field of rehabilitation equipment and living aids. She has worked in private practice and within the NHS, developing a broad experience with adults and children. Click here for Sally's registration with the Health and Care Professions Council. The HCPC regulates health, physchological and social work professionals in the UK.

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