Relaxation is allowing physical and/or mental
tension to be released. Tension is the body's natural response to threat,
part of the body's alarm or survival mechanism. It can be a very useful
response, but a lot of the time, we don't need this tension, so it's okay to
learn to let it go, and learn some relaxation skills.
living is a matter of balance. Relaxation is part of the balancing process
alongside other aspects of your lifestyle such as what you eat, your physical
activity and how you handle stress. Learning to relax takes
practice, as with learning any new skill.
It’s a great help to learn a relaxation
technique, to help us unwind and bring our tensions and anxiety under control.
There are several books, leaflets or audio recordings which we can use ourselves.
It’s a good idea to practise regularly so we can be more prepared for the more
How relaxation helps
– if you can manage everyday life without excessive tension
– your performance in work, sport or music can be raised through self awareness
and control of tension
– pain can occur as a result of tension e.g. headaches and backache. Relaxation
can help you to cope by raising your pain threshold and reducing the amount of
Coping with stress
– relaxation helps you to reduce the effects of stress and to breathe
– by allowing you to be calm and peaceful
– by increasing your self-awareness and ability to cope with daily life
Improves personal relationships
– it is easier to relate well to other people when you are relaxed and
Relaxation and stress
When we feel anxious or stressed, it's our body's
natural response to feeling threatened, the alarm system which helps us deal
with danger: our breathing
rate increases, as does our blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension,
sweating, state of mental arousal and adrenaline flow. A lot of the time,
we don't need those survival responses, so relaxation helps to decrease that
adrenaline response, to let it go.
Breathing and Relaxation
Our out-breath releases
tension in the chest muscles and allows all muscles to release their tension
more easily. Breathing is far more effective when we use our diaphragms,
rather than with the chest muscles. Sit comfortably in a chair and place one
hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen (hand on navel). Take two or
three fairly large breaths – which hand moves first and which moves most?
Practise so that it is the lower hand on your abdomen that moves rather than the
one on your chest. People often think that their tummy goes in when they
breathe in - but the reverse should be the case.
When you’re feeling tense or
hoping to relax, try breathing out a little bit more slowly and more deeply,
noticing a short pause before the in-breath takes over (don’t exaggerate the
in-breath, just let it happen). You might find it useful to count slowly or
prolong a word such as “one” or “peace” to help elongate the out-breath a little
(to yourself or out loud).
There are various ways in which to
achieve relaxation, most use breath control in some way. Whichever method you
choose, regular practice will help. Some examples are:
Autogenic Training – mental exercises to link body and mind to bring about
Alexander Technique – teaches the importance of posture, which improves mental
and physical wellbeing.
Feedback – self-regulation of bodily functions, e.g. Slowing heart rate
Music (music is very personal, so use
whatever helps you relax) either used alone, or with any of the above methods
We’ll start with a
simple breathing exercise which can be done in a few seconds, no matter where
you are. It is particularly helpful at stressful times, but it’s also useful to
do it at regular intervals throughout the day.
deep, slow breath in and hold it for 5 seconds. Feel your abdomen expand as you
out slowly, to a count of 5. Breathe in again, make every breath slow and
steady and exactly the same as the one before it and the one after it. As you
breathe out, concentrate on expelling ALL the air in your lungs. If you’re
alone, you could make a noise like “whoo” as you do this to help you feel the
air being let out. Keep the outbreath going for as long as you can. Keep it
relaxed for a few seconds before you inhale again.
Wherever you are (e.g. in the car, supermarket, awaiting appointment etc)
TAKE 2 OR 3 SLIGHTLY SLOWER,
SLIGHTLY DEEPER OUT-BREATHS (just let the in-breath happen)
CARRY ON WITH WHATEVER YOU WERE
DOING, BUT JUST A LITTLE SLOWER
For a fast and effective
calming technique in a stressful situation, visualise the colour blue.
Visualise breathing in that blue calm, and breathing out red tension.
other relaxation exercise
Before any relaxation exercise, go to the toilet
if you need to, and wear loose comfortable clothing. Lie or sit somewhere with
the whole of your body supported.
Make yourself totally comfortable. Close your
vSit in a comfortable chair ( or
lie on the floor, or on a bed). Ensure you will not be disturbed by other
noises. If you become aware of sounds - just try to ignore them and let them
leave your mind just as soon as they enter. Make sure the whole of your body is
comfortably supported - including your arms, head and feet. (Rest your arms on
the arms of the chair, with your feet flat on the floor - if sitting!)
Close your eyes. Feel the chair
supporting your whole body - your legs, your arms, your head. If you can feel
any tension, begin to let it go. Take 2 slow and deep breaths, and let the
tension begin to flow out.
Become aware of your head -
notice how your forehead feels. Let any tension go and feel your forehead
become smooth and wide. Let any tension go from around your eyes, your mouth,
your cheeks and your jaw. Let your teeth part slightly and feel the tension go.
Now focus on your neck - let the
chair take the weight of your head and feel your neck relax. Now your head is
feeling heavy and floppy. Let your shoulders lower gently down. Your shoulders
are wider, your neck is longer.
Notice how your body feels as you
begin to relax.
Be aware of your arms and your
hands. Let them sink down into the chair. Now they are feeling heavy and limp.
Think about your back - from your
neck to your hips. Let the tension go and feel yourself sinking down into the
chair. Let your hips, your legs and your feet relax and roll outwards. Notice
the feeling of relaxation taking over.
Think about your breathing - your
abdomen gently rising and falling as you breathe. Let your next breath be a
little deeper, a little slower...
Now, you are feeling completely
relaxed and heavy. …. Lie still and concentrate on slow, rhythmic breathing….
When you want to count back from
5 to 1 and open your eyes. Wiggle your fingers and toes, breathe deeply and
stretch. Pause before gently rising.