There are several main types of relaxation techniques, including:
You repeat words or suggestions in your mind to relax and reduce muscle tension. For example, you may imagine a peaceful setting and then focus on controlled, relaxing breathing, slowing your heart rate, or feeling different physical sensations, such as relaxing each arm or leg one by one.
This helps you focus on the difference between muscle tension and relaxation. You become more aware of physical sensations.
For example: listen to a progressive muscle relaxation script that guides you to tense and release each muscle group. Follow a passive progressive muscle relaxation script that leads you to focus on releasing the muscle tension in each area of your body. Engage in a physical activity to release stress and promote relaxation, such as, running, walking, swimming, stretching or any physical activity.
One method of progressive muscle relaxation is to start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively working your way up to your neck and head. You can also start with your head and neck and work down to your toes. Tense your muscles for at least five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat.
Learn to Relax
This powerful relaxation technique requires that you lay down somewhere comfortable and firm, like a rug or mat on the floor or a firm bed. Choose a warm – but not hot – dark room if possible. This technique involves progressively contracting and relaxing the main muscle groups around the body that store tension. If at any point during this technique you feel pain or cramp then stop.
This technique is widely practiced but may take some time to master.
Make yourself comfortable, wear loose clothes and ensure that you will be warm enough. Lie down on a firm surface and relax your muscles. Check that you are really comfortable before moving on, if not use some pillows or cushions and adjust your position.
Relax and try to let your mind go blank, breathe slowly, deeply and comfortably. Let your arms rest by your side, relax your knees and legs, and allow your feet to fall outwards. Let your shoulders sink into the ground and feel the weight of your body. Unclench your teeth, close your eyes and relax your face and neck.
Start the exercise. Do not rush, take your time and concentrate on relaxing. Work around the body one main muscle area at a time, whilst doing this breathe deeply, calmly and evenly:
Clench the muscles tightly and hold for a few seconds
Relax the muscles completely
Repeat steps 1 and 2
Feel a warming and numbing of the area worked
Follow the steps above for:
Stay lying down and rest and relax for 10 or 15 minutes after you have finished this exercise – when you do get up, do so slowly gently shaking your legs and arms.
You can try the above technique in various other positions if necessary. For example you can relax back into a chair and follow the same processes as above. The success of this technique is based on quiet time, comfort and the ability to be able to freely clench and relax your muscles.
For a quicker alternative you can also try clenching your whole body whilst standing. This may be more convenient at work or in other, more public, places. Although the results are not quite as satisfying as the main method it can help relieve tension. To do this:
Stand up straight and tall and let your arms hang naturally
Breathe in slowly through your nose whilst tensing all your bodies’ muscles
Hunch your shoulders, make tight fists with your hands, tense your stomach and clench your buttocks, push yourself up onto tiptoe
Hold and count slowly to five
Slowly breathe out through your nose while relaxing and return to your original standing position
Repeat the above 3 to 5 times or as time and circumstances allow.
Creative Expression Relaxation
It is possible to use creative activity to relax, even if such activities are unfamiliar or you do not see yourself as a creative person. It is important to focus on the process rather than the end product. Enjoying the process of being creative can be highly therapeutic and very relaxing.
– Do an activity that allows you to make something. Set aside enough time so you can do the task slowly and enjoy the process.
– Listen to a creative expression relaxation script that guides you to express yourself through a creative task and relax.
– Watch an instructional video and follow along with the demonstrated task.
The senses (vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell) can be powerful methods of relaxation. For those with sensory sensitivity, it can be necessary to control the levels of exposure to particular sensations. For people who enjoy sensations and find them relaxing, it is important to find ways to experience a variety of calming sensations.
Some relaxation examples of how to use sensory techniques include:
– Determine which senses are the most calming for you, and which kind of sensations may provoke stress. For example, do you enjoy having music in the background while you work, or do you need a quiet environment to perform best? Do you prefer the lighting to be bright or dim? Experiment with different environments and adjust yours accordingly.
– To use senses to relax without necessarily exposing yourself to sensations directly, use a sensory relaxation script. Such a script can describe various sensations that are usually relaxing. By visualizing each sensation, relaxation is induced.
– Use your senses to promote relaxation in daily life. Enjoy participating in activities that use your vision, hearing, sense of touch, smell, or taste.
– Deep pressure touch can be particularly relaxing. This can be achieved by covering up with heavy blankets, wrapping yourself tightly in a blanket, or wearing special weighted clothing.
During visualization, try to use as many senses as you can, including smell, sight, sound and touch. If you imagine relaxing at the ocean, for instance, think about the smell of salt water, the sound of crashing waves and the warmth of the sun on your body. You may want to close your eyes, sit in a quiet spot and loosen any tight clothing.
Some examples are: Watch a video of a place you would like to be (on a beach, flying through the clouds, traveling, sitting by a relaxing campfire, watching fish in a tank, etc.) and imagine spending time there. Listen to a relaxation script that includes guided visualization. Use your imagination to picture the scenes described. Read a book, and use your imagination to visualize the characters, places, and events. Imagine a safe place, a calming environment, or a relaxing scene. Create all the details in your mind. Picture all the sights, sounds, and smells. You may want to write your own visualization relaxation script. Describe, in writing, a relaxing place. Read and record the script, and then play it back with your eyes closed. Become relaxed as you picture being in the relaxing scene.
Source: Adapted from the Mayo Clinic
Other relaxation techniques include: