Introduction to relaxation
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.
- 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.