Relaxation Techniques

PLEASE NOTE: If you have any health problems or concerns seek advice from your doctor BEFORE attempting any of the following exercises.

Some of these exercises may not be useful or suitable for people with severe and enduring mental health problems.

 

These exercises will help you learn relaxation skills and to calm your mind and body.

Deep breathing exercise

Find a quiet place to sit.  Try to make your surroundings as comfortable as possible – consider dimming the lights or closing the blinds or curtains.  Make sure you are warm.

Check that you are breathing correctly by placing one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your chest.

As you breathe in, your hand on your stomach should rise.  As you breathe out your stomach should fall.  The hand on your chest should not move.

Then:

  1. Sit quietly with your eyes closed
  2. Breathe in to a count of four
  3. Hold your breath for a count of four.  If you find it uncomfortable holding your breath for that long, start with what’s comfortable for you
  4. Breathe out slowly for a count of four, sighing as you do so
  5. Sit for a few minutes concentrating on your pattern of breathing

Repeat as required

Five minutes relaxation in a chair exercise

You can use this technique anywhere you feel comfortable and won’t be interrupted.  It will help you learn to recognise tension throughout your body and how to release it by tensing and relaxing each of the major muscle groups.  With practice they will come to know the difference in how your muscles feel when they are tense or relaxed.

Ideally, you should be able to relax anywhere.  To help you learn this technique you could ask someone to read the instructions out slowly and calmly for you to follow; or you could make your own recording by reading the instructions out loud.

1. Preparation – make the room comfortable for yourself and if possible use a chair with arms

2. Seating – sit upright in the chair with the small of your back supported by the back of the chair (use a cushion for support if it helps).  Make sure your feet are flat on the floor with your hands resting in your lap.

3. Technique

  • Close your eyes
  • Listen to the sounds around you – you may hear the voices of people talking nearby, doors banging or traffic.  Notice what sounds you may be drawn to – such as the ticking of a clock.  You may even be drawn to the sound of your own breath
  • Focus on your breathing.  Do not alter your breathing pattern; just breathe normally for a few minutes
  • Now take a deep breath in and hold for a few seconds, breathing out with a sigh, letting go and releasing any tense feelings from your body
  • Using the instructions below, go through each of the muscle groups, tensing and relaxing them and noticing how your muscles feel when they are tense and when they are relaxed.  As you go through the programme repeat each exercise once, making sure your teeth are not clenched and your tongue lies loosely and is not pushed up against the roof of your mouth.
  • When you have completed this take a deep breath in and hold for a few seconds breathing out with a sigh.  Do this twice more ‘with a sigh’ letting out any remaining tension.
  • Enjoy this time of rest and relaxation.  Sit for a few minutes concentrating on the sound of your breathing.   You may find thoughts coming back into your mind. You may even find that you have released some of the thoughts that worried you.
Area of bodyTensing procedure
Feet and legsPush both your feet down into the floorHold it for a few secondsRelax
StomachPull your stomach muscles inHold it for a few secondsRelax
ArmsPlace your hands flat on your thighs and push downHold it for a few secondsRelax
ShouldersHunch your shoulders up to your earsHold it for a few secondsRelax
ForeheadFrownHold it for a few secondsRelax
EyesScrew your eyes upHold it for a few secondsRelax

When doing these exercises make sure your teeth are not clenched and your tongue is lying loosely and not pushed up against the roof of your mouth.

Focusing the mind exercise

Once your body is relaxed it is useful to focus your mind.  This can help you to feel more relaxed and distract you from the things which may be worrying you.

To begin with concentrate on the natural rhythm of your breathing. Try not to engage with worrying thoughts or internal chatter.  Notice the rise and fall of your breath – slowly breathing in and out.  After a few minutes try to think of an image that makes you feel good.

Such as:

  • Lying on a beach
  • Being in a favourite place
  • The swaying of a tree in the wind
  • Sitting in your garden

Imagine every little detail, the sights, sounds, scents and colours of your image.

If thoughts or worries come into your mind, return your focus to your image time and time again.  Take time to enjoy exploring the image in your mind and the feeling of relaxation.

When you are ready, prepare yourself to open your eyes – listen to the sounds you can hear around you, imagine the room you are in and where you are sitting.  Then start moving your hands and feet followed by your arms and legs.  Now, slowly open your eyes and have a stretch or a yawn, if you want to.

It will be helpful to practice this procedure once a day while you are learning the skill of relaxation.  Once you are familiar with this process you will not need to go through all the exercises listed in the table above, but can select the exercise(s) which correspond to your particular area(s) of tension.

Reminder:  Please note:  If you have any health problems or concerns seek advice from your doctor BEFORE attempting any of the exercises. 

Some of the exercises may not be useful of suitable for people with severe and enduring mental health problems.