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Relaxation Techniques I


Progressive Relaxation | Toe Tensing | Deep Breathing | Guided Imagery | Quiet Ears

      Relaxation Techniques

      Relaxation techniques often can help people with sleep problems get a good night’s sleep. Several relaxation techniques are listed below; click on any of the links to learn more.

      Progressive Relaxation

      This technique is often most useful when you tape the instructions beforehand. You can tape these instructions, reading them slowly and leaving a short pause after each one.

        • Lie on your back, close your eyes.
        • Feel your feet. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and sink into the bed. Start with your toes and progress to your ankles.
        • Feel your knees. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.
        • Feel you upper legs and thighs. Fell their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.
        • Feel your abdomen and chest. Sense your breathing. Consciously will them to relax. Deepen your breathing slightly and feel your abdomen and chest sink into the bed.
        • Feel your buttocks. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.
        • Feel your hands. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.
        • Feel your upper arms. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.
        • Feel your shoulders. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.
        • Feel your neck. Sense its weight. Consciously relax it and feel it sink into the bed.
        • Feel your head and skull. Sense its weight. Consciously relax it and feel it sink into the bed.
        • Feel your mouth and jaw. Consciously relax them. Pay particular attention to your jaw muscles and unclench them if you need to. Feel your mouth and jaw relax and sink into the bed.
        • Feel your eyes. Sense if there is tension in your eyes. Sense if you are forcibly closing your eyelids. Consciously relax your eyelids and feel the tension slide off the eyes.
        • Feel your face and cheeks. Consciously relax them and feel the tension slide off into the bed.
        • Mentally scan your body. If you find any place that is still tense, then consciously relax that place and let it sink into the bed.

      This one may seem like a bit of a contradiction to the previous one, but by alternately tensing and relaxing your toes, you actually draw tension from the rest of the body. Try it!

      1. Lie on your back, close your eyes.
      2. Sense your toes.
      3. Now pull all 10 toes back toward your face. Count to 10 slowly.
      4. Now relax your toes.
      5. Count to 10 slowly.
      6. Now repeat the above cycle 10 times.

      By concentrating on our breathing, deep breathing allows the rest of our body to relax itself. Deep breathing is a great way to relax the body and get everything into synchrony. Relaxation breathing is an important part of yoga and martial arts for this reason.

      1. Lie on your back.
      2. Slowly relax your body. You can use the progressive relaxation technique we described above.
      3. Begin to inhale slowly through your nose if possible. Fill the lower part of your chest first, then the middle and top part of your chest and lungs. Be sure to do this slowly, over 8–10 seconds.
      4. Hold your breath for a second or two.
      5. Then quietly and easily relax and let the air out.
      6. Wait a few seconds and repeat this cycle.
      7. If you find yourself getting dizzy, then you are overdoing it. Slow down.
      8. You can also imagine yourself in a peaceful situation such as on a warm, gentle ocean. Imagine that you rise on the gentle swells of the water as you inhale and sink down into the waves as you exhale.
      9. You can continue this breathing technique for as long as you like until you fall asleep.

      In this technique, the goal is to visualize yourself in a peaceful setting.

        1. Lie on your back with your eyes closed.
        2. Imagine yourself in a favorite, peaceful place. The place may be on a sunny beach with the ocean breezes caressing you, swinging in a hammock in the mountains or in your own backyard. Any place that you find peaceful and relaxing is OK.
        3. Imagine you are there. See and feel your surroundings, hear the peaceful sounds, smell the flowers or the barbecue, fell the warmth of the sun and any other sensations that you find. Relax and enjoy it.
        4. You can return to this place any night you need to. As you use this place more and more you will find it easier to fall asleep as this imagery becomes a sleep conditioner.
        5. Some patients find it useful to visualize something boring. This may be a particularly boring teacher or lecturer, co-worker or friend.

        Quiet Ears

        1. Lie on your back with your eyes closed.
        2. Place your hands behind your head. Make sure they are relaxed.
        3. Place your thumbs in your ears so that you close the ear canal.
        4. You will hear a high-pitched rushing sound. This is normal.
        5. Listen to this sound for 10–15 minutes.
        6. Then put your arms at your sides, actively relax them and go to sleep.

          Another Relaxation Technique

      Source: BrianMac

      Getting Loose

      Begin each session as follows:

      • Loosen your clothing and remove your shoes.
      • Lie down with a pillow under your head (on a bed or on the floor).
      • Lie flat on your back, feet about 12 to 18 inches apart arms at your sides.
      • Go as limp as you can from head to foot.
      • Let your shoulder blades go slightly flat.
      • Waggle your feet
      • Settle in with your legs.
      • Shake your arms gently, rolling the backs of your hands against the floor
      • Roll your head back and forth.

      Now begin the "Getting Loose" exercise for each part of your body, as follows:

      • Legs
        • Flex the muscles of your left leg by raising it 6 to 10 inches above the floor Point your toes slightly back toward your head. Hold this position of tension for as long as you can, about 10 seconds or so, until you begin to feel the muscles start to tremble. Then, say to yourself: 'Leg, let go. ' At this point, stop flexing it and let the leg drop. Let the leg rest for another 10 seconds or so, saying to yourself: 'I feel the tension flowing out of my leg ... My leg feels relaxed, warm, heavy ... completely relaxed
        • Repeat the flex-let go-rest procedure for that leg.
        • Run through the entire procedure again for your right leg.
      • Buttocks and thighs
        • Tighten your buttock and thigh muscles, as tightly as you can. Hold them as long as you can - longer than 10 seconds - until you have to let go. Then release them, saying 'Let go', to yourself. Pause for 10 seconds or so and focus your attention on the relaxed feeling in those muscles, on the tension flowing out.
        • Repeat the exercise.
      • Stomach
        • Do the same procedure twice for your abdominal muscles
      • Back and Neck
        • Arch your spine, tightening all along it from your tailbone to your neck, and finish by telling it: 'Let go'.
        • Repeat the exercise
      • Arms and Shoulders
        • Imagine there is a bar suspended above you that you want to use to pull yourself up. Raise your hands, palms upward, above your chest. Grab the imaginary bar and clench your fists around it as hard as you can. Flex the muscles in your arms and shoulders. Hunch your shoulders up as tightly as you can. Hold as long as possible. then say 'Let go. ' Rest for 10 seconds or so, soaking up the warm, relaxed feelings, letting the tension flow out.
        • Repeat the exercise
      • Jaw
        • I tighten your jaw muscles, clamping down on you back teeth. Say 'Let go' and relax.
        • Repeat the exercise.
      • Face
        • Tighten your facial muscles into a strong grimace . Say: 'Let go. ' Rest and focus on the relaxing feeling.
        • Repeat the exercise.
      • Eyes
        • Focus on a point on the ceiling. When, not moving your head, slowly roll your eyes to the right as far as they will go, then to the centre, then to the left, then back to the centre. Repeat . Rub the palms of your hands together until you. feel heat Close your eyes and cover them with your hands. Let the heat warm them. Rest, and tell your eyes: Let go,' and feel the tension flow out as you feel the warmth.
      • Entire body
        • Clench your feet and fists. Pull your shoulders up. Tighten your jaw and face. Now simultaneously flex your entire body, arching yourself as much as you can from your heels to the back of your head. Hold it for as long as you can. until you feel your body tremble. Then say: 'Let go' - and just let yourself go ... all the way, as much as you can.
        • Lie there and feel the tension drain away.
      • Get totally relaxed
        • Close your eyes. Let your attention wander slowly over each part of your body, from legs to face, as you did in the exercise. If any area seems to have some residual tension, tense it: Let you. Feel the tension draining out of you, but don't worry if there is still a little left. Keeping your eyes closed, stay in this relaxed state for the rest of the 10 minute session. Think of a very pleasant, peaceful place. Think of floating in a small boat on a peaceful lake with a soft breeze gently rocking you back and forth, back and forth. Or think of floating in space, lighter than air, weightless. Observe the pleasant, calm feelings. Tell yourself: 'I am relaxed now ... My legs feel relaxed ... My buttocks, thighs, and abdomen feel relaxed ... My back arms, shoulders, jaws, face and eyes feel relaxed ... The tension has been let go. '

      Focus your relaxed feelings

      Now begin to focus this relaxation on your event. Tell yourself: 'When I am running and I begin to feel tension gripping some muscles, I will be able to tell those muscles: "Let go", saying "Let go " will recall the relaxed feelings I feel now and will release the tension from those muscles.'

      Breathing Easy

      Having completed the "Getting Loose" exercises remain lying on your back. Carry out the "Breathing Easy" exercise for 10 minutes, as follows:

      • Inhale
        • Inhale slowly and deeply, filling your chest with air, counting four seconds to yourself. 'One and two and three and four' The count is to give you a nice and easy, even pace. Try to breathe as fully as you can without discomfort. Imagine your chest slowly filling with air, from your diaphragm to your collar.
      • Hold breath
        • When you have inhaled fully, hold your breath for another four seconds, again counting to yourself: 'One and two and three and four'. This should be just a comfortable pause. Don't do it until you are blue in the face.
      • Exhale
        • Exhale - but don't blow. Just let the air out through your mouth slowly saying to yourself: 'Easy ...easy... easy... easy.' Let out as much air as you can, down to the lower part of the lungs. Feel yourself relaxing as you do. Feel your shoulders, chest and diaphragm letting go. As you exhale, think of the tension flowing out of you.

      Don't worry if the sequence isn't exact or the cadence perfect. It may seem a bit difficult to stay with at first, but just keep going. The important thing is to establish the slow relaxed breathing rate. After the ten cycles, your breathing rate will be automatically slower and you can dispense with the "one and two and three and four" cadence.

      Now do as follows:

      • Inhale - Breathe in fully.
      • Hold breath - Hold it very briefly.
      • Exhale - Let the air out slowly (don't blow), saying mentally: 'Easy ... easy ... easy ... easy ' with each exhalation.
      • Repeat this cycle ten times.

      You will soon begin to feel a calm, thoroughly pleasurable feeling - some say a warmth radiating from your chest throughout your body

      Now let yourself breathe normally and tell yourself relaxing phrases: 'I feel very relaxed ... All the tension is going out of me as I exhale and good feelings are coming into me as I inhale ... When I am playing my sport, I will be able to take a few deep breaths and by saying, "Easy " will be able to tell myself to relax whenever I feel overly tense ... When I'm playing, I will recall the good feelings I am experiencing now and they will automatically return to me ' Imagine all this happening as you say it to yourself.

      Now do as follows:

      • Inhale - Breathe in slowly
      • Hold breath - Hold it very briefly
      • Exhale - Let the air out slowly while mentally saying to yourself: 'Easy... easy... easy... easy.'
      • Repeat this cycle ten times.

      Now let your breathing go naturally, and pay attention to the pleasant feelings in your body. Repeat the same encouraging phrases to yourself that you did earlier. Listen to the sound of your own breath coming in and out. You will notice that the breathing is slow and deep without you having to make it that way. The exhaling will last longer - as long as an eight-count, perhaps.

      Continue to do the breathing exercises for the rest of the session, each time alternating the ten cycles of inhale-hold-exhale with the mental encouragement. After the last cycle of ten, just let yourself enjoy the feeling for a minute.


      Tell yourself for the rest of the day I will recall these sensations every time I tell myself 'Easy'


      Stress Relief: Yoga, Meditation, and Other Relaxation Techniques

      Source: HelpGuide.org

      Whenever we encounter a stressful event, our bodies undergo a series of hormonal and biochemical changes that put as in ‘alarm mode.’ Our heart rate increases, adrenaline rushes through our blood stream, and our digestive and immune systems temporarily shut down. If the stressors continue and we stay on high alert for a prolonged period of time, we experience exhaustion and burn out. None of us can avoid stress, but we can return to a state of balance and regulation through a variety of means: exercise, humor, play, music, prayer or meditation. These activities provide calming and relaxing sensory input for stress relief and can be selected according to lifestyle and preference.

      What is Yoga and how can it help with stress relief?

      Yoga is a broad term for a series of practices that were developed over several millennia to bring practitioners into a state of wholeness and completeness. The sanskrit word yoga, which literally means ‘to unite,’ has many branches, including Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga consists of concentration techniques, breathing exercises, dietary guidelines, and a series of stationary or moving poses—also called asanas. These body movements are what we commonly refer to today when we use the word ‘yoga.’

      Yoga postures balance the different systems of the body, including the central nervous system, the endocrine (or glandular) system, and the digestive system. By slowing down the mental activity, and by gently stretching the body and massaging the internal organs, yoga creates a climate of dynamic peacefulness within. This relaxing and rejuvenating experience momentarily removes us from involvement with the stressors in our lives—our “to-do” lists, unresolved issues from the past, or worries of the future. By practicing yoga on a regular basis, we build up a natural response to stress, and bring the relaxed state more and more into our daily lives.

      The health benefits of yoga are tremendous. Feeling better physically counters the effects of stress. Yoga produces the following physical health benefits:

      • improves flexibility and muscle joint mobility
      • strengthens and tones muscles
      • increases stamina
      • relief from back pain
      • increases vitality and improves brain function
      • improves digestion and elimination
      • decreases cholesterol and blood sugar levels
      • increases circulation
      • boosts immune response

      Even more directly related to stress reduction, the mental benefits of Hatha Yoga include:

      • increases body awareness
      • relief from chronic stress patterns in the body
      • refreshes the body by relieving muscle strain
      • relaxes the mind and body
      • centers attention
      • sharpens concentration
      • frees the spirit

      When beginning a yoga practice it is advisable not to extend yourself beyond what feels comfortable, yet moderately challenging. Always back off on a pose at the first sign of pain. For the best results, it is recommended that you seek qualified instruction when embarking on a yoga routine. The Yoga Alliance provides an international, searchable list of Registered Teachers who hold R.Y.T. (Registered Yoga Teacher) credentials. In lieu of taking classes at yoga studios, instructional CDs and DVDs are readily available online.

      What is meditation and how does it help with stress relief?

      The history of meditation goes back even further than that of Hatha Yoga, with its origins beginning around 3,000 B.C.E. Meditation evolved as a way for the ancient spiritual seers—known in India as Rishis—to gain direct knowledge of the nature of the Ultimate Reality. Today, meditation is recognized for its myriad health benefits, and is widely practiced as a way to counteract stress. Meditation brings together all the energies of the mind and focuses them on a chosen point: a word, a sound, a symbol, an image that evokes comfort, or one’s own breathing. It is typically practiced in a quiet, clean environment in a seated posture with the eyes closed.

      As with yoga, a regular practice of meditation conditions you to bring the meditative state into your daily life. Holistic-online.com reports that “hormones and other biochemical compounds in the blood indicative of stress tend to decrease during (meditation) practice. These changes also stabilize over time, so that a person is actually less stressed biochemically during daily activity.”

      In meditation there is both effort and passive participation. You continually bring the attention back to a chosen focus (effort), and simply become a witness of all that transpires (passive participation)—incorporating thoughts, sensory input, bodily sensations, and external stimulus into the meditation experience. The result of centering the mind in this way is a corresponding calming and relaxing of the body, down to the cellular level, providing stress reduction.

      Herbert Benson, M.D. developed a technique called The Relaxation Response, which makes the basic steps of meditation easy to understand and apply. Dr. Benson’s website offers the following steps as a simple way to begin practicing meditation:

      1. Pick a focus word, short phrase, or prayer that is firmly rooted in your belief system, such as "one," "peace," "The Lord is my shepherd," "Hail Mary full of grace," or "shalom."

      2. Sit quietly in a comfortable position.

      3. Close your eyes.

      4. Relax your muscles, progressing from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head, and neck.

      5. Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, say your focus word, sound, phrase, or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale.

      6. Assume a passive attitude. Don't worry about how well you're doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself, "Oh well," and gently return to your repetition.

      7. Continue for ten to 20 minutes.

      8. Do not stand immediately. Continue sitting quietly for a minute or so, allowing other thoughts to return. Then open your eyes and sit for another minute before rising.

      9. Practice the technique once or twice daily. Good times to do so are before breakfast and before dinner. (Mind-Body Medical Institute)

      There are more active forms of meditation as well, such as the walking meditations taught by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh and Jon Kabat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Walking meditations employ the practice of mindfulness, which involves being fully engaged in whatever is happening in the present moment, without becoming involved in thinking about it. Therefore, when you walk you focus on each step, the sensation of the feet touching the ground, the rhythm of the breath while moving, and the feel of wind against your face.

      This type of meditation is “portable,” and can be practiced in other activities, such as driving or engaging in work tasks. Mindfulness meditation relieves stress because it relieves preoccupation with the habitual thoughts about the past or the future that perpetuate stress. As mind-body medicine pioneer Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., says, “Meditation helps to keep us from identifying with the ‘movies of the mind.’”

      Another meditation technique involves guided imagery or visualizations. In this method, the meditator imagines a scene wherein he or she feels very at peace and is able to let go of all concerns and tensions. In many cases this form of meditation is practiced by listening to guided audio instructions. Visit the online guided meditations section of the references and resources for a sampling of some free guided meditations.

      What is Tai Chi and how can it offer stress relief?

      Tai Chi Chuan, or Tai Chi for short, is a self-paced, non-competitive series of slow, flowing body movements (“forms”) that emphasize acute concentration, relaxation, and the conscious circulation of vital energy throughout the body. Though Tai Chi evolved as a martial art sometime in the 13th century, it is primarily practiced today as a way of calming the mind, conditioning the body, and reducing stress. The basis of Tai Chi is the principle of “softness defeating hardness.” Proper stance, which involves lowering the center of gravity (“sinking”), is emphasized over muscular strength as a way to access one’s innate power. Depending on the style of Tai Chi taught, there are between 13 and 108 forms that make up a set when performed continuously. As in meditation, Tai Chi employs focusing on the breath and mindfulness, or maintenance of the mind’s attention in the present moment.

      Tai Chi works with the concept of Qi (pronounced “chee”)—a “bio-energy” that moves throughout the body via invisible energy channels called meridians. Qi regulates and maintains health in the various systems of the body by supplying healing energy to the organs. When there are constrictions in the movement of Qi due to injury, a “slumping” posture, or other problems, “dis-ease” or stress results. The muscular movements of Tai Chi remove any blockages and stimulate the Qi to flow freely.

      The reported health benefits of Tai Chi include:

      • less stress and more peace of mind
      • improved ability to deal with difficult situations
      • improved balance and proprioception (internal body awareness)
      • more strength, stamina, and suppleness
      • improved functioning of the internal organs
      • easier breathing and better sleep

      Tai Chi can improve balance and minimize falls, and is especially suited for older adults because of its low impact movements. As the Mayo Clinic points out, Tai Chi is a good exercise of choice because:

      • It is self-paced and noncompetitive.
      • You don't need a large physical space or special clothing or equipment.
      • You can do tai chi anytime, anyplace.
      • It is easy to do in groups as well as by yourself.
      • You can add new movements as you become more proficient.

      The International Taoist Tai Chi Society provides a World Directory of Tai Chi practitioners as a way to find qualified instruction in or near the area where you live.

      What are some other activities that relieve stress?

      • Sleep – While there are many things you can do to reduce stress, the first line of defense against stress is to make sure you are getting enough sleep. Sleep restores the body systems and provides rejuvenation. Sleep-deprived bodies will be too depleted to perform the important stress-reducing physical and mental activities we have described.
      • Cardiovascular exercise – Exercise is good for the mind, not just the body. Exercise can help with stress relief because it provides a way for the body to release tension and pent-up frustration. It can also help stave off the depression that can set in when stress levels become too high by raising the output of endorphins, one of the ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain. Any form of exercise can combat stress, but it is important that the activity be enjoyable, vigorous enough to discharge energy, and have a relaxing effect when you are finished.
      • Spending time in nature – Psychologists today recognize the mental health benefits of spending time in the natural world. Activities done in nature tend to calm the mind and emotions, and to bring greater body awareness as a way to let go of mental stress. From taking walks in your neighborhood, to observing animals in the wild, to planting a garden, there are myriad ways to connect with the grounding and nurturing energy in nature. See the article Spending Time in Nature for suggestions on how to begin tapping the healing power of nature.
      • Massage Therapy – A professional massage from a trained therapist can provide soothing, deep relaxation and can improve physiological processes such as circulation. A stress-relieving massage targets specific muscles that may be tense and painful. As the tense muscles relax, so does your entire body as well as your overstressed mind. According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), the most common type of massage is a Swedish massage, which is specifically meant to relax and energize.


Quick Relaxation Techniques

Source: Saint Josephs's University

      As you become more experienced with how the body relaxes, some quick methods of relaxation may be useful. This exercise describes several "quick-release" techniques which can be done almost anywhere.

      But first, here are some pointers that apply to all the exercises that follow:

      • Get as comfortable as possible. Some of these exercises can be done while waiting in the doctor's office or at some other time when there is nothing to do but wait. It is not necessary to lie down to do them.
      • Remain passive. Just watch your mind work. Whatever thoughts come to mind are okay. Do not work at it, just let it happen.
      • Take note of all sounds in the environment and let them pass.
      • Focus inward on breathing as a natural, easy process.


      Tense everything in your whole body; stay with that tension, and hold it as long as you can without feeling pain.
      Slowly release the tension and very gradually feel it leave your body.
      Repeat three times.


      Open your imagination and focus on your breathing.
      As your breathing becomes calm and regular, imagine that the air comes to you as a cloud - it fills you and goes out. You may imagine the cloud to be a particular color.


      With your head level and your body relaxed, pick a spot to focus on (eyes are open at this point).
      When ready, count five breaths backward. With each breath allow your eyes to close gradually.
      When you get to number one, your eyes will be closed. Focus on the feelings of relaxation.


      Allow yourself to feel passive and indifferent, counting each breath slowly from ten to one.
      With each count, allow yourself to feel heavier and more relaxed.
      With each exhale, allow the tension to leave your body.


      Try to raise your shoulders up to your eyes.
      Hold for the count of four.
      Now drop your shoulders back to a normal position.
      Repeat three times.


      Rotate your shoulders back, down and around, first one way, then the other.
      Do one shoulder, then the other.
      Now do both at the same time.
      Note: This is also good for back, arms, and neck.

      CAT S-T-R-E-T-C-H:

      Stand - feet slightly apart.
      Take a deep breath as you stretch arms over head.
      Slowly exhale as you lean forward, bringing arm and head down.
      Do slowly and gently five times.


      Alone in a quiet place, get as comfortable as you can.  Then focus on a repeated word or phrase such as "calm" or "let it go," silently reciting it with each exhale.  Let other thoughts, feelings and images drift away.   Practice for 10 to 20 minute sessions.


      A warm bath, good book, or soothing music are excellent ways to counter stress.   In fact any hobby which absorbs your undivided attention will help you attain peace of mind.


      BBC Relaxation Technique

      Source: BBC

      How to do it

      Before starting, choose your location. It should be a quiet place free from draughts and bright light. Loosen clothing and lie or sit down in a comfortable position.

      1. Place your hands on either side of your ribcage and close your eyes. Softly inhale through your nose, visualising the air passing through the nostrils and throat and into your lungs. Allow your ribcage to expand by moving your palms outwards.

      2. Breathe out through your nose or mouth, gently compressing the sides of your ribcage with your hands to ensure full exhalation.

      3. Continue this diaphragmatic breathing for about five minutes. Then lower the palms to your sides or place them in your lap, and begin visualisation while continuing deep, relaxed breathing.

      4. Visualise a beautiful place where you feel really relaxed. It may be a garden, beach, mountain or a particular beauty spot. Picture it vividly with all your senses.

      5. Picture yourself enjoying this special place and feeling relaxed and happy. Mentally repeat phrases that confirm this, such as "I feel very relaxed" and "I'm content and at peace." Stay in this place as long as you like.

      6. When you’re ready, picture yourself leaving and returning to your current environment. Stretch your limbs and slowly open your eyes. Drink a glass of water.

      You can return to this place whenever you need to relax. Just close your eyes, breathe deeply and picture the scene anew. With regular practice, relaxation quickly follows.

      This article was last medically reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks in September 2005.
      First published in October 2002.


      Relaxation UK Style

      Source: The University of Liverpool


      Learning to relax is a skill that requires practice. The more you practice the less time it will take to achieve a state of deep relaxation.

      Most relaxation exercises involve systematically relaxing all the muscle groups in the body. The advantages of reducing muscular tension in the body are that the physical symptoms of anxiety are reduced, so the heart rate is reduced, blood pressure is lowered and breathing will be slower. If the body is relaxed this helps to promote a feeling of mental calm and thus leads to an enhanced feeling of well-being. If relaxation techniques are practised regularly they can help to prevent feelings of anxiety.

      Firstly, if you are feeling relaxed you will be able to cope with difficult situations easier. Secondly, if you learn to release anxiety at the time you feel it, through relaxation, it prevents a build-up of uncomfortable physical symptoms, thus enabling you to cope more effectively.

      One of the most effective and simplest techniques for reducing feelings of anxiety is learning controlled breathing.

      The following technique will become easier with practice, especially the length of time you can take to release the outgoing breath.

      • First find a comfortable chair with good back support for your back and head.
      • Sit back in your chair with your feet on the ground and hands relaxed (you might like to take your shoes off).
      • Breathe in through your nose and be conscious of the air going right down to your stomach to the count of 4.
      • Hold the breath to the count of 2.
      • Release the breath through your mouth slowly to the count of 6 (with practice this could be extended to 10).
      • Repeat - try doing doing this for ten minutes a day. Variation When you feel comfortable about the breathing, alternate concentrating on outside noises, smells and sensations for 30 seconds and then switching your awareness to internal sensations and feelings (such as the air entering and leaving your body) for 30 seconds.
      • This can induce a deeper sense of relaxation.

      Quick Relaxation Techniques

      • Say sharply to yourself STOP .
      • Breathe in, hold your breath and slowly exhale, relaxing your shoulders and hands.
      • Pause for a moment, breathe in and then out, relaxing your jaw and forehead.
      • Pause for a moment, breathe in and then out, relaxing your legs and feet.

      Exercise when sitting at a desk, during revision or in an exam.

      • Stay quiet for a few moments then continue slowly and smoothly with what you were doing.
      • Pull in stomach muscles tightly - hold for 5 - relax
      • Clench fists tightly - hold for 5 - relax
      • Extend fingers - hold for 5 - relax
      • Grasp below seat of the chair - hold for 5 - relax
      • Press elbows tightly into side of body - hold for 5 - relax
      • Push feet hard into floor - hold for 5 - relax
      • A Wave of relaxtion through your body

      Sit comfortably in a chair or lie in a comfortable position.

      • Close your eyes - imagine yourself to be transparent, filled with your favourite coloured liquid. Imagine it to be exactly at the temperature you find comfortable.
      • Start at your crown, imagine this liquid draining from your body - imagine each part that is drained to feel lighter, relieved of tension.
      • Imagine the liquid eventually flowing out through the tips of your fingers and toes.
      • It is often useful to develop your own relaxation routine based on an existing programme.


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