Relaxation Techniques

Relaxed man in reclined position.Relaxation is a state of consciousness characterised by feelings of peace and release from tension, anxiety and fear – of being calm and tranquil. Relaxation is usually taken to mean either lack of muscle tension or lack of inner mental tension. There are many techniques to achieve relaxation and each person needs to find the methods that suit them.

Benefits of Relaxation

The most important benefit of being able to relax properly is better health. Stress can cause so many health related problems.

Relationships with family, friends and work colleagues will be improved. Being able to take everything in your stride and no longer getting upset or angry when small problems or disagreements occur.

Feeling calm and being able to cope will mean you will become a happier and more outgoing person and people will treat you better. Knock on effects could lead to promotion at work or less arguments at home with your partner or children.

Relaxation Tips

  1. Listen to relaxing music. Listening to classical or nature music has been shown to lower heart rate and slow breathing leaving you feeling calm and at ease.
  2. Take regular breaks during the day. Spend 10 to 15 minutes reading something humorous or uplifting. Small breaks help to prevent your mind and body from becoming fatigued, a major source of stress.
  3. A hot bath or shower will help to get rid of the tension in your muscles. The warm water relaxes you physically, loosening tight, stiff muscles. And as a result you relax mentally as well.
  4. Keep things in perspective. Ask yourself “how important is it?”. Many of the things that cause tension are not really important when we look at the big picture.
  5. Slow your breathing and purposefully relax your body. Simply taking a couple of deep breaths can work wonders.
  6. Physical exercise is a great way of removing pent up emotion and stress.
  7. Deal with one thing at a time. Select the most urgent task first and get on with it. Forget the rest for the time being.
  8. Get a hobby or read a good book. Getting engrossed in a hobby or a book will take your mind off things that are worrying you.
  9. Aromatherapy. Certain scents have been found to have a calming, relaxing effect on the human body. One of those scents is lavender.
  10. Sunlight and fresh air have remarkable abilities make us feel better. Gardening can be wonderfully relaxing. If you have no garden then something as simple as taking a short walk in the park or even around the block can help.
  11. Learn meditation or yoga.

Relaxation Techniques

There are many relaxation techniques available and you need to choose which works best for you. Some we will detail here and others are covered on the stress relief, meditation and yoga pages.

Some people encounter problems with ‘letting go’ and can become panicky when they try and relax, making it more difficult to find the best personal solution. Try them all and find which is easiest and most beneficial to you. Whichever you choose you should stick at it and devote 10 to 30 minutes once or twice per day.

Relaxation Breathing Techniques

Breathing properly is a major part of all relaxation techniques. Slow, deep breathing calms you down.

When you are tense you tend to breathe in a shallow and rapid way. This usually involves just the upper part of your lungs. To consciously feel more relaxed, you will need to reverse this way of breathing by taking slower, deeper breathes. This slower, deeper breathing uses the diaphragm to inhale air all the way to the lower parts of the lungs. Slowing your breathing down, therefore, by switching from chest breathing to diaphragmatic breathing is one way to go from feeling tense to feeling relaxed.

Music and Sounds

Listening to music is a wonderful way to relax. You should listen to the type of music that makes you feel at ease.

A study into relaxation and music found that the single most important factor in promoting relaxation was the degree of liking the music. So do not force yourself to listen to music that you do not like even if it is supposed to be so called ‘relaxation music’, you will just end up getting more tense.

There are two basic ways you can get rid of stress with music. One is sitting or lying down, getting comfortable and let the music wash over you. The second is to dance to the music. If you find you are too tense for the first then try dancing for a while to release the tension, you can then sit or lie down and complete the relaxation session.

General guidelines to follow when using music to de-stress.

  1. To wash away stress, try taking a 20-minute “sound bath.” Put some relaxing music on your stereo, and then lie in a comfortable position on a couch or on the floor near the speakers. For a deeper experience, you can wear headphones to focus your attention and to avoid distraction.
  2. Choose music with a slow rhythm – slower than the natural heart beat which is about 72 beats per minute. Music that has repeating or cyclical pattern is found to be effective in most people.
  3. As the music plays, allow it to wash over you, rinsing off the stress from the day. Focus on your breathing, letting it deepen, slow and become regular. Concentrate on the silence between the notes in the music; this keeps you from analysing the music and makes relaxation more complete.
  4. If you need stimulation after a day of work, go for a faster music rather than slow calming music. Turn up the volume and DANCE! It doesn’t matter if you can actually dance or not. Just move along with the music and do what feels good.
  5. When going gets tough, go for a music you are familiar with – such as a childhood favourite or favourite oldies. Familiarity often breeds calmness.
  6. Take walks with your favourite music playing on the mp3 player. Inhale and exhale in tune with the music. Let the music takes you. This is a great stress reliever by combining exercise (brisk walk), imagery and music.
  7. Listening to the sounds of nature, such as ocean waves or the calm of a deep forest, can reduce stress. Try taking a 15- to 20-minute walk if you’re near the seashore or a quiet patch of woods. If not, you can buy tapes of these sounds in many music stores.

Best Types of Music for Relaxation

As mentioned earlier it must be music you like. It should not be songs that remind you of sad times in your life such as the break up of a relationship. It should not be hard rock or quick paced dance music. Listed below are a few suitable types of music.

  • Slow classical music
  • Soft or light jazz
  • New Age music
  • Celtic music
  • Flute music
  • Baroque music
  • Christian music
  • Eastern music that uses the Indian sitar
  • Generic easy listening music with sounds of nature mixed in

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) was developed by American physician Edmund Jacobson in the early 1920s and is a technique for reducing stress and anxiety by alternately tensing and relaxing the muscles in a given order to ultimately achieve relaxation of the whole body.

Progressive muscle relaxation teaches you to relax your muscles through a two-step process. First the deliberate application of tension to certain muscle groups and then to stop the tension and turn your attention to noticing how the muscles relax as the tension flows away

Through repeated practice you learn to recognise the associated feelings of a tensed muscle and a completely relaxed one. Knowing this you can then induce physical muscular relaxation at the first signs of the tension that accompanies stress.

Progressive muscle relaxation reduces physiological tension and psychological stress. Progressive muscle relaxation reduces pulse rate and blood pressure and can be used as an anti-anxiety technique. Take ten minutes out of your day, close your eyes, and relax your body from your head down to your toes.

Visualisation

In this relaxation technique you imagine yourself relaxing in a beautiful, restful place such as in a meadow by a babbling brook, on a peaceful beach or a mountain top where the air is fresh and clean. Use all your senses during this exercise, imagining not just the sights but the feel, sounds and smells of a place. You can get nature sounds CDs and mp3s to help you with this.

Relaxation and Guided Imagery

Imagery is the most basic language we have. The mind processes everything through images. When we recall events from our past, we think in pictures and images. Imagery is the language that the mind uses to communicate with the body. Guided imagery is a technique that focuses and directs the imagination to a relaxed state where you can then visualise a goal you want to achieve and imagine yourself going through the process of achieving it.

Peaceful Waves Relaxation is a guided imagery script that describes relaxing by the ocean at dawn while you watch the small, calm waves move rhythmically.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is an ancient “soft” Chinese martial art form. It is a system of of slow meditative physical exercises designed for relaxation and balance that is believed to facilitate the flow of Qi (life force) in the body, promoting good health and vitality. Tai Chi utilizes movements that are Yin Yang opposites: softness and strength, forward and backwards, action and calm.

Tai Chi, as it is practised in the west today, can best be thought of as a moving form of yoga and meditation combined, a set of smooth, flowing exercises used to improve or maintain health, create a sense of relaxation and well-being.