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Relaxation

What is Relaxation?
Benefits of Relaxation
Breathing
Methods of Relaxation
Relaxation Exercises
Simple Breathing Exercise
Quickie Relaxation
Making a Relaxtion Tape Exercise 1 script
Exercise 2 script
Visualisation
Meditation
CDs, Tapes, Videos, Books & other links
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What is Relaxation?

Relaxation is allowing physical and/or mental tension to be released. 

Healthy living is a matter of balance.  Relaxation is part of the balancing process alongside other aspects of your lifestyle such as what you eat, your physical activity and how you handle stress.    Learning to relax involves a little time and concentration but these are the only costs involved.

 

Why Relax?

It’s a great help to learn a relaxation technique, to help us unwind and bring our tensions and anxiety under control.  There are several books, leaflets or audio tapes which we can use ourselves.   It’s a good idea to practise regularly so we can be more prepared for the more stressful times.

 

How Relaxation helps us

Reduces tiredness – if you can manage everyday life without excessive tension

Improves performance – your performance in work, sport or music can be raised through self awareness and control of tension

Reduces pain – pain occurs as a result of tension e.g. headaches and backache.  Relaxation can help you to cope by raising your pain threshold and reducing the amount of pain

Coping with stress – relaxation helps you to reduce the effects of stress and to breathe effectively

Improves sleep – by allowing you to be calm and peaceful

Improves self-confidence – by increasing your self-awareness and ability to cope with daily life

Improves personal relationships – it is easier to relate well to other people wen you are relaxed and self-confident

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Relaxation and stress

When we feel anxious or stressed, our breathing rate increases,  as does our blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, sweating, state of mental arousal and adrenaline flow.  Relaxation helps to decrease all those things.

 

Breathing and Relaxation

Our out-breath releases tension in the chest muscles and allows all muscles to release their tension more easily.    Breathing is far more effective when we use our diaphragms, rather than with the chest muscles.  Sit comfortably in a chair and place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen (hand on navel).  Take two or three fairly large breaths – which hand moves first and which moves most?  Practise so that it is the lower hand on your abdomen that moves rather than the one on your chest.  People often think that their tummy goes in when they breathe in - but the reverse should be the case.

When you’re feeling tense or hoping to relax, try breathing out a little bit more slowly and more deeply, noticing a short pause before the in-breath takes over (don’t exaggerate the in-breath, just let it happen).  You might find it useful to count slowly or prolong a word such as “one” or “peace” to help elongate the out-breath a little (to yourself or out loud).

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Different Methods

There are various ways in which to achieve relaxation, most use breath control in some way.   Whichever method you choose, regular practice will help.  Some examples are:

 Progressive Muscle Relaxation – tense/relax muscular relaxation

 Meditation

 Guided Imagery or Visualisation

 Alexander Technique – teaches the importance of posture, which improves mental and physical wellbeing.

 Autogenic Training – mental exercises to link body and mind to bring about relaxation

 Bio Feedback – self-regulation of bodily functions, e.g. Slowing heart rate

 Massage

 Aromatherapy

 Physical Activity

 Tai Chi

  Yoga

 Music (New Age Music may incorporate natural sounds for relaxation such as whalesong, rain, waves etc) either used alone, or with any of the above methods

 

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RELAXATION EXERCISES

 

SIMPLE BREATHING EXERCISE

We’ll start with a simple breathing exercise which can be done in a few seconds, no matter where you are.  It is particularly helpful at stressful times, but it’s also useful to do it at regular intervals throughout the day.

 

Take a deep, slow breath in and hold it for 5 seconds.  Feel your abdomen expand as you do this.

 

Breathe out slowly, to a count of 5.  Breathe in again, make every breath slow and steady and exactly the same as the one before it and the one after it.  As you breathe out, concentrate on expelling ALL the air in your lungs.  If you’re alone, you could make a noise like “whoo” as you do this to help you feel the air being let out.  Keep the outbreath going for as long as you can.  Keep it relaxed for a few seconds before you inhale again.

 

QUICKIE RELAXATION

Wherever you are ( eg in the car, supermarket, awaiting appointment etc)

STOP

SHOULDERS DOWN

TAKE 2 OR 3 SLIGHTLY SLOWER, SLIGHTLY DEEPER OUT-BREATHS (just let the in-breath happen)

CARRY ON WITH WHATEVER YOU WERE DOING, BUT JUST A LITTLE SLOWER

 

Before any other relaxation exercise

Before any relaxation exercise, go to the toilet if you need to, and wear loose comfortable clothing.   Lie or sit somewhere with the whole of your body supported.

Make yourself totally comfortable.  Close your eyes.

 

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Making a Relaxation Tape

 

Some people find a tape very helpful.  You may wish to make your own relaxation tape using  a similar script to what follows - you can adapt the scripts to your situation and what works for you.  I have used the word "chair", but you can easily substitute that for floor or bed.     You could add relaxing background music or sounds of the sea etc - music & sounds are very personal and can be tailor made for the person.  It is said that the music should not be rhythmic, but again, others may prefer a slow and steady rhythm.   It may be better to record just your voice - you can always play music with it when you relax.   Music for Health

You may wish to simplify it further for children, although I have tried to keep the script as simple as I can to suit all ages.  Young children may respond better to visualisation - where they can be guided to imagine their own picture story.

When recording, speak slowly into the tape, leaving long pauses between sentences.  You may need 2 or 3 attempts to perfect the timing.  It may help to imagine yourself doing the exercise as you record.

 

 

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EXERCISE 1

Sit in a comfortable chair ( or lie on the floor, or on a bed).  Ensure you will not be disturbed by other noises.  If you become aware of sounds - just try to ignore them and let them leave your mind just as soon as they enter.  Make sure the whole of your body is comfortably supported - including your arms, head and feet.  (Rest your arms on the arms of the chair, with your feet flat on the floor - if sitting!)

 

Close your eyes.  Feel the chair supporting your whole body - your legs, your arms, your head.  If you can feel any tension, begin to let it go.  Take 2 slow and deep breaths, and let the tension begin to flow out.

 

Become aware of your head - notice how your forehead feels.  Let any tension go and feel your forehead become smooth and wide.  Let any tension go from around your eyes, your mouth, your cheeks and your jaw.  Let your teeth part slightly and feel the tension go.

 

Now focus on your neck - let the chair take the weight of your head and feel your neck relax.   Now your head is feeling heavy and floppy.  Let your shoulders lower gently down.  Your shoulders are wider, your neck is longer. 

 

Notice how your body feels as you begin to relax.

 

Be aware of your arms and your hands.  Let them sink down into the chair.  Now they are feeling heavy and limp.

 

Think about your back - from your neck to your hips.  Let the tension go and feel yourself sinking down into the chair.  Let your hips, your legs and your feet relax and roll outwards.  Notice the feeling of relaxation taking over.

 

Think about your breathing - your abdomen gently rising and falling as you breathe.  Let your next breath be a little deeper, a little slower...

 

Now, you are feeling completely relaxed and heavy. …. Lie still and concentrate on slow, rhythmic breathing…. 

 

When you want to count back from 5 to 1 and open your eyes.  Wiggle your fingers and toes, breathe deeply and stretch.  Pause before gently rising. 

 

 

EXERCISE 2

Make yourself totally comfortable, and close your eyes.

 

You feel yourself beginning to feel relaxed.  You are beginning to feel heavier and heavier.  Your breathing is slow and deep.

 

Your head is becoming heavy.  Your head is floppy and relaxed.  The  heaviness is creeping into your muscles around your face and jaw.  Your neck too, is floppy and relaxed.

 

Your shoulders and arms are becoming heavy.  Your shoulders are floppy and relaxed.  The heaviness is creeping into your arms, making them loose and limp.  Your hands are so heavy and floppy.  Your arms and shoulders are relaxed.

 

Your chest and abdomen are becoming heavy.  Your stomach muscles are floppy and relaxed.

 

Your legs and feet are becoming heavy.  The heaviness is creeping into them.  Your legs are floppy and relaxed, your feet are heavy and limp.

 

Your are now feeling really heavy and relaxed.  Now just concentrate on slow, rhythmic breathing.  Slow and deep, deep and slow.

 

OK.  On the count of 5 you can open your eyes, and you’ll feel alert but calm and relaxed.

 

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VISUALISATION

Visualisation as a relaxation exercise is simply imaging a relaxing scene, and feeling the resulting relaxation.   In the following example, I have used a beach, but you may adapt the script to be anything that works for you or your child.  You may prefer the story to be a walk in the woods, culminating in laying in a meadow for instance.

 

Close your eyes and try to imagine yourself at the seaside.  You are walking down the beach to the seashore.  The sun is shining, it's warm, with a gentle breeze.  You walk slowly along the water's edge, looking around you.  You see the seagulls soaring above, in the clear blue sky.  In the distance, you see the sails of a yacht, sailing gently along.

 

You are beginning to feel tired, so you walk up a beach a little way, and lie down in the soft sand.  You are looking up at the sky, with the occasional wispy white cloud float calmly by.  You feel the sand beneath you - how soft and warm it is.  You can hear the sounds around you - the seagulls calling and waves breaking gently onto the sand.   The sound of the sand and pebbles as the waves go back out again.  You can feel the gentle warm breeze on your face and in your hair.

 

You feel yourself sinking down into the sand a little as it support your whole body.   Your body is feeling heavy and floppy. 

 

Feel yourself breathing and let your breaths slow down, you are breathing slowly and deeply, letting your tummy rise up and you breathe in.  You lay there for a while, hearing the waves, feeling the soft warm sand beneath you.

 

When you want to, count back from 5 to 1, then open your eyes, wiggle your toes and fingers, stretch, then gently sit up.

 

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MEDITATION

 

Meditation is the collective term for a number of techniques used to still the mind, relax the body and produce a state of inner harmony.  It differs from sleep, hypnosis or other types of relaxation simply because your mind remains alert.

 

There are many ways to meditate.  You can meditate while sitting, walking, or practising yoga, but it is easiest to learn by sitting comfortably in a quiet room for several minutes twice a day, every day.  There are 2 basic steps:  to focus on a single word or phrase (of your choice - perhaps "peace" or "one", or a religious word) or simply to focus on your breath; and to ignore or disregard all other thoughts.

 

When we focus on a single word, thought or image, we produce a state of calm that increases mental alertness, while relaxing other body systems. 

  

Meditating twice a day for 15-20 minutes has been shown to be the most effective.  Make an effor to practice every day, even if it’s initially only for 5 minutes.  You may find it’s easiest to meditate first thing in the morning and last thing at night. 

 

Find a quiet place.   Make yourself comfortable by either sitting cross-legged on a large cushion on the floor, or upright on a straight back chair, with feet flat on the floor and hands resting lightly in your lap.  For meditation, don't feel tempted to lie down as this might make you fall asleep.

It is important to clear your mind of anxiety and your body of physical tension.  Just close your eyes and let your breathing become slow and gentle.  As you breathe out, sigh to release the tension in your body.  Bring your attention to each part of your body that feels tense, and as you breathe out, feel the area soften and relax.    By focusing on your chosen word or your breath; let it have your whole attention.  Continue to breathe slowly and naturally.  Just let your breaths come and go.  If you are using your breath as a focus, count each breath as you exhale repeating the word “one”, 1 and 2, or count to four and repeat.

 

Do not force your mind to concentrate, just let it rest without effort on your chosen focus.  Just ignore any other thoughts and let them flow out again.

 

Gradually let your mind return to everyday thoughts.  Open your eyes but stay sitting for a minute or two.  Stretch gently before you get up.

 

Meditation takes practise so persevere!   Practise at least once a day for 5 minutes, gradually lengthening the time.

 

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Anxiety Self-Help                     Music for Health

Tapes & Videos and other links

New World Music has tapes, compact discs and videos to enhance relaxation.  You can listen to samples of the music before you buy online. 

First Steps to Freedom sell relaxation exercises on tape and video (with and without music) 

Relaxx.co.uk   Spoken relaxation exercises on tape/CD (with music)

Image4.gif (1728 bytes)   Spaced Out - The Ultimate Relaxation Tape!  (video)

Image4.gif (1728 bytes)  Relaxation Music at Amazon

 

Relaxation techniques

Breathing techniques

Other links

Anxiety Self-Help                  Music for Health

A-Z Mental Health Links

 

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17 March 2002

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