Updated: Dec 15, 2022
Relaxation is the opposite of anxiety and stress. Instinctively and intellectually, we are aware that we need to relax but when it comes down to actually relaxing, we tend to feel lost and not know what to do.
There are a few techniques that we can learn and practice every day to relax our body and mind. These are discussed below.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Theory Behind the Technique- The theory is straight forward; the muscular tension is a response to anxiety provoking thoughts and a reduction in muscle tension or relaxed muscles lead to reduced anxiety.
How to use the Technique-
Sit or lie down in a quiet and comfortable place, close your eyes, and leave your body loose. It helps if the clothing worn is also loose and comfortable.
We go through muscle groups one-by-one. Progressively creating tension (5 seconds) and then relaxing (10 seconds) these muscles intentionally. The muscles included are, Hand, biceps and triceps, facial muscles, neck and shoulders, chest, stomach, back, thighs and buttocks, lower legs, and toes.
After going through the exercise, the focus is brought to the relaxed muscles of the body.
It is important that this technique is first done with guided instructions from a trained mental health professional to learn the correct technique. This is to ensure that we do not harm or injure ourselves while using this technique.
When to use the Technique- It is good to use this every day preferably at the start of your day to put yourself in a relaxed state of mind.
Please do not use if you have any injury or any persistent pain.
Theory Behind the Technique- When we are anxious or stressed our breathing becomes shallow and heart beats faster our focus shifts towards being vigilant against threats. This is a fight or flight response of our sympathetic nervous system. Taking deep slow breaths signals our sympathetic nervous system that there is no threat and we are safe and the normal bodily functions ( like digestion ) can resume.
How to use the Technique-
There are many techniques for deep breathing. The only important thing to remember is to engage your diaphragm while deep breathing. Remember that our objective is to inform our sympathetic nervous system that there is no threat and it can calm down.
Basics- inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth through puckered lips (like when whistling)
Method- inhale count till 4, hold this breath for another 4 counts and then exhale while counting till 6. It is very simple. Repeat this for 2 minutes minimum but ideally repeating for 5-10 minutes is recommended.
When to use the Technique- Deep breathing can be used anywhere and anytime. It is recommended that it is practiced regularly for long term benefits however, this technique can be used for immediate relaxation as well.
Theory Behind the Technique- This technique rests on the mind and body connect. Mental imagery is invoked to create a relaxed state. This is achieved by mentally recreating sensory perceptual experiences of sight, touch, smells, sounds, textures, and emotions. Invoking images of places or things that we associate with relaxation can create similar relaxed state in present moment.
How to use the Technique- There is a large resource of guided imagery scripts available on the internet which can be used for practicing this technique.
Method- Find a quiet and calm place bring to your mind a place you like or find comforting, start recreating the place to the smallest detail make sure that you include the sights, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes associated with this place. Imagine what your experience is in this relaxing place.
A trained mental health professional can help you get started with this technique after that it can be practiced by oneself and used whenever required.
When to use the Technique-
It is recommended to use and practice this technique regularly. The script for this technique can be adjusted to help in several situations like pain management, public speaking anxiety, shyness, anger etc.
It is recommended to learn these techniques from a trained mental health professional for proper administration and effective benefits.
If you wish to learn more or have any questions, please contact me.