Relaxation can help to relieve the symptoms of stress. It can help you calm down and take a step back from a stressful situation although the cause of the anxiety will not disappear, you will probably feel more able to deal with it once you have released the tension in your body and cleared your thoughts.
Relaxation techniques may combine breathing more deeply with relaxing the muscles. Skills can be learned to use relaxation over time. Yoga and tai chi are both good forms of relaxation that may help to improve your wellbeing.
Practise deep breathing at a regular time and in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Loosen or remove any tight clothes such as shoes or jackets make yourself feel completely comfortable.
Good relaxation always starts with focusing on your breathing. The way to do it is to breathe in and out slowly and in a regular rhythm as this will help you to calm down.
- fill up the whole of your lungs with air, imagine you are filling up a bottle, so that your lungs fill from the bottom
- breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth
- breathe in slowly and regularly counting from one to five (do not worry if you can’t reach five at first)
- then let the breath escape slowly, counting from one to six
- keep doing this until you feel calm. Breathe without pausing or holding your breath
Practice this relaxed breathing for three to five minutes, two to three times a day (the more you practice the easier it will become)
Deep muscle relaxation
This technique takes around 20 minutes. It stretches different muscles in turn and then relaxes them, to release tension from the body and relax your mind.
Find a warm quiet place with no distractions, get completely comfortable either sitting or lying down. Close your eyes and begin by focusing on your breathing, breathing slowly and deeply, as described above.
If you have pain in certain muscles or if there are muscles that you find it difficult to focus on, spend more time on relaxing other parts.
You may want to play some soothing music to help relaxation. As with all relaxation techniques, deep muscle relaxation will require a bit of practice before you start feeling its benefits.
For each exercise, hold the stretch for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat it a couple of times. It is useful to keep to the same order as you work through the muscle groups:
- face: push the eyebrows together, as though frowning, then release
- neck: gently tilt the head forwards, pushing chin down towards chest, then slowly lift again
- shoulders: pull them up towards the ears (shrug), then relax them down towards the feet
- chest: breathe slowly and deeply into the diaphragm (below your bottom rib) so that you’re using the whole of the lungs. Then breathe slowly out, allowing the belly to deflate as all the air is exhaled
- arms: stretch the arms away from the body, reach, then relax.
- legs: push the toes away from the body, then pull them towards body, then relax
- wrists and hands: stretch the wrist by pulling the hand up towards you, and stretch out the fingers and thumbs, then relax