Relax Your Way to Greater Health (and Energy)

relax1.gifThis is a four-part article. In addition to this introductory page, be sure to read the following three parts:

Relaxation and Energy Potential

How Muscle Tension Affects Hearing and Eyesight

What Causes Tension and How to Relieve It


My father was a painting contractor and a hard worker.  I was fortunate to be able to work with him in my teens and early twenties. He didn't have a lot of business know-how, so he never had employees or large contracts. Three of his brothers were also painting contractors and each of them had equipment and crews. My father and I would often help them on various jobs.

My father also cleaned apartments, washing walls and cleaning surfaces coated with flat paint with something called a “miracle sponge.” He was incredibly fast at this cleaning work—especially for his age.  He was in his sixties, yet he could outwork young men in their 20s. I know, because he always outworked me.

On one occasion my dad told me his secret. He said that the key was to stay relaxed—to not let your muscles get tense. He said that to work faster you had to learn to increase your speed without getting tense. I didn't really understand what he was talking about until much later.

Working summers with my dad and his brothers, painting and cleaning houses was how I earned money to put myself through college. It was also something I fell back on for a short period of time after graduation. I've always been glad that my father and uncles taught me these practical skills and, more importantly, how to work hard.  However, it has only been recently that I've come to understand what my dad tried to teach me about staying relaxed.

How relaxed or tense we are has a direct affect on our energy level, and our energy level has a direct affect on our health. In fact, our level of health is pretty much connected to our level of energy. Fatigue opens the door for disease and is one of the early signs that we are losing health. The body needs energy to repair and maintain itself. Increasing energy prevents disease and helps the body heal.

Relaxation Increases Energy


Growing up, I was both tense and sickly. Changing my diet was part of my healing process, but getting regular chiropractic care (which helped relax the tension in my neck and back) was also a big part of my healing process. Through the years, I've noticed that getting massages and chiropractic care have both relaxed me and given me more energy.

Still, I've run on a kind of nervous, tense energy for much of my life. As a young father, I was often going from early morning until late at night, staying constantly occupied. I rarely got eight hours of sleep and often played “catch up” with a Sunday afternoon nap.

Once or twice a year the fatigue would get to me. That's when I got sick. I honestly felt it was my body's way of seeking revenge for how hard I pushed it. If I wasn't going to voluntarily take some time off to relax, then, my body was going to force me to do so by getting sick and refusing to co-operate with my hard-driving demands.

It's not that there was anything wrong with me being a hard-worker. My dad was a hard worker, too. It's just that my father wasn't an “up tight” worker, and I was.

As I turned 40, I noticed that I just couldn't push myself quite as hard as I used to, and now that I'm nearly 60 my ability to push myself that hard has continued to decline. The nervous energy I once used to push myself is gone, and sometimes I've felt so tired that I struggled to complete a modest amount of work.  It's not that I'm suffering from chronic fatigue or something; it's just that my energetic capacity has been slowly fading.

Last year, I finally had a chance to take two vacations. During the first, I stayed for a week at a condo in Mexico and just walked barefoot on the beach, swam, and got a massage every day. By the end of the week, I realized that I'd forgotten what it felt like to be relaxed. During the second, I went camping with my sons and again noticed again how much energy I had by simply taking it easy.  So, one of my commitments to myself this year has been to relax more, get more sleep, and otherwise stop pushing myself so hard. It's making a big difference.

Supplements for Increasing Energy Production

During this time, I have sought out ways to increase my energy and have found some useful aids. For instance, herbs and supplements which support my adrenal glands have been lifesavers.  In particular, I have found Nervous Fatigue Formula (a Chinese herbal formula from Nature's Sunshine for enhancing heart yin) and Adrenal Support (an adrenal glandular formula) have helped me have more stamina, particularly during times of intense stress. They have helped me through the periods when I was going through divorce, financial troubles and the death of loved ones.

These kinds of stressful experiences always exact a toll on our adrenal glands, which can result in a serious loss of energy and our ability to get a peaceful night's sleep. Adaptogen Formulas (like Nervous Fatigue) and Adrenal Tonic Formulas can restore healthy sleep patterns, reduce confusion and feelings of stress, while increasing energy levels. You can find listings of such formulas in the book Modern Herbal Medicine. In some cases, extra pantothenic acid has also proven helpful.

I have also found it helpful to support my thyroid. This is the other major gland that is involved in energy production. Thyroid Support (a thyroid glandular formula) and iodine supplements have helped me here, too. In the past I've used liquid dulse, but I've also started using Iodoral (a high potency iodine supplement) and Nascent Iodine. Those have helped my energy level as well.

Another key that has proven helpful in maintaining energy is detoxification. I'm not just talking about staying regular (although that's part of it). I'm talking about the whole process of helping the body rid itself of toxins. This involves lymphatic flow, liver function, kidney function, bowel function and the skin. I've noticed that when my lymph nodes are a little congested, my kidneys aren't working quite right or I'm a little constipated, my level of energy goes down. Flushing my body with fluids (particularly a little lemon water) and taking a good Blood Purifier Formula and some enzymes really helps. I use All Cell Detox from Nature's Sunshine a lot, but you can also find a list of other blood purifiers in the book Modern Herbal Medicine.

Supplements that help your thyroid and adrenals can help energy production, but they can't increase energy storage. A relaxed body has more energy storage capacity than a tense one, and, if you're too tense, then your body won't be able to store the extra energy it is producing. That's where relaxation comes in. In part two of this article, Relaxation and Energy Potential, I explain why this is the case.

Click here to go to page 2.