Tips to Relax

Exploring relaxation can help you look after yourself when you’re feeling stressed or worried. Have a look at these tips and ideas to see how relaxation can fit into your daily life. Don’t worry if some ideas don’t work for you – just enjoy the ones that do.

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PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation)

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For a quick taste of how PMR works, squeeze one of your fists as hard as you can. Notice how tight your fingers and forearm feel. Count to ten and then release the clinch. Allow your hand to relax completely and let go of any tension. Let your hand go limp and notice how relaxed it feels now compared to before your clinched your fist.

This methodical approach to increasing and releasing tension throughout your body is the linchpin of PMR: By systematically constricting and releasing various muscle groups it is possible to relieve physical stress and quiet and calm the mind.

Here are the steps for one version of PMR that anyone can do. Try it next time you’re feeling nervous, anxious, or find yourself tossing, turning, and unable to sleep.

Step 1

Get comfortable. You don’t have to lie down to do PMR; it will work if you’re sitting up in a chair. Do make sure you’re in a place that’s free of distraction. Close your eyes if that feels best for you.

Step 2

Breathe. Inhale deeply through your nose, feeling your abdomen rise as you fill your body with air. Then slowly exhale from your mouth, drawing your navel toward your spine. Repeat three to five times.

Step 3

Starting with your feet, tighten and release your muscles. Clench your toes and pressing your heels toward the ground. Squeeze tightly for a few breaths and then release. Now flex your feet in, pointing your toes up towards your head. Hold for a few seconds and then release.

Step 4

Continue to work your way up your body, tightening and releasing each muscle group. Work your way up in this order: legs, glutes, abdomen, back, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, and face. Try to tighten each muscle group for a few breaths and then slowly release. Repeat any areas that feel especially stiff.

Step 5

End the practice by taking a few more deep breaths, noting how much more calm and relaxed you feel.

PMR is a skill, one that takes practice to master. In order to be able to draw on PMR when you need it—in other words, when you’re truly in a stressful or anxiety-provoking situation—you’ll want to learn how to do it while you aren’t under pressure. Practice PMR several times a week to become aware of what it’s like to feel relaxed. Understanding this feeling can help you to more readily let go of tension when anxiety rises.

Breathing Exercise

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Deep breathing only requires a quiet environment and a few minutes of your time. The following are steps to a simple deep breathing exercise:

Begin in a comfortable position with a straight spine, such sitting upright in a chair or lying down on your back.

Close your eyes or look down to assist in reflecting inward and focusing.

Start to simply notice your breath. Are you breathing in and out from the chest? Are you breathing rapidly or slowly?

Keeping your shoulders relaxed and still, begin to breathe with intention. Inhaling deeply and slowly through your nose, feeling your center expand as you fill your body with breath. Gradually exhale out through your mouth, letting all of the stale air out.

Continue to focus on your breath, noticing how your center rises and falls with each breath you take. Repeat for five to 10 more cycles of breath.

As you breathe deeply, notice how you feel throughout your body. Are there areas that feel tenser than others? With each exhalation imagine that your body releases stress and tension.

Before ending your exercise, take a few moments to notice how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Practicing Guided Imagery

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Now that you understand the basics of this stress management tool, let’s get into how you can practice it. The following are general guidelines to help you understand the process of guided imagery, and be able to practice it on your own. Here’s how to make guided imagery practice work for you.

Get Comfortable

Get into a relaxed position, like the one you would use for meditation or self-hypnosis. If a lying-down position would likely put you to sleep, opt for a cross-legged position or recline in a comfortable chair. Try to position yourself in a way where your physical comfort won’t be a distraction.

Breathe From Your Belly

Use diaphragmic deep breathing and close your eyes, focusing on “breathing in peace and breathing out stress.” This means letting your belly expand and contract with your breath–if you find your shoulders rising and falling, you are likely carrying tension in your body and not breathing in the most relaxed way.

Choose a Scene, and Vividly Imagine It

Once you get to a relaxed state, begin to envision yourself in the midst of the most relaxing environment you can imagine. For some, this would be floating in the cool, clear waters off of a remote tropical island, where attractive people bring drinks and smooth music plays in the background. For others, this might be sitting by a fire in a secluded snow cabin, deep in the woods, sipping hot cocoa and reading the latest bestseller while wrapped in a plush blanket and fuzzy slippers.

You may want to remember a time and place when you felt wonderful and relaxed (a “happy place” in your memory), a vividly-described scene from a book you love, or the way you imagine a place you’ve always wanted to visit.

Immerse Yourself In Sensory Details

As you imagine your scene, try to involve all of your senses. What does it look like? How does it feel? What special scents are involved? Do you hear the roar of a fire, the splash of a waterfall, or the sounds of chipper birds? Make your vision so real you can even taste it! (Noticing these details in your daily life is a way to increase your mindfulness, which brings lasting stress management benefits as well.)

Relax

Stay here for as long as you like. Enjoy your ‘surroundings’, and let yourself be far from what stresses you. When you’re ready to come back to reality, count back from ten or twenty, and tell yourself that when you get to ‘one’, you’ll feel serene and alert, and enjoy the rest of your day. When you return, you’ll feel calmer and refreshed, like returning from a mini-vacation, but you won’t have left the room!

Tips:

  • You may want to use ambient sounds that compliment your imagery. This way, you feel more immersed in your ‘environment’, plus the sounds of real life will be obscured.
  • You may also want to set an alarm, just in case you lose track of time or fall asleep. This way, you’ll be more able to relax and let go, knowing that your schedule won’t be in jeopardy.
  • As you get more practiced, you’ll be able to go more deeply and quickly. You may also want to communicate with your subconscious mind, with the help of a tape you record for yourself or purchase, or a therapist.

Get Creative

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Getting in touch with your artistic side can help you feel more calm and relaxed.

Try painting, drawing, making crafts, playing a musical instrument, dancing, baking or sewing.

Try not to worry too much about the finished product – just focus on enjoying yourself.

Listen to Music

Music can relax you, connect you to your emotions and distract you from worrying thoughts.

Listen to your favourite songs. Turn up the volume and dance or sing along, or put your headphones on and close your eyes.Really listen to the music. Can you pick out different instruments? Can you hear a drum beat or a certain rhythm?

Focus on the music, and let other thoughts fade away.

Anti-Anxiety Cleanse

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According to Dr. Leonard Horowitz, 528 Hertz is a frequency that is central to the “musical mathematical matrix of creation.” More than any sound previously discovered, the “LOVE frequency” resonates at the heart of everything. It connects your heart, your spiritual essence, to the spiraling reality of heaven and earth.

Sit back and relax

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