Take a look at a dog when it’s resting. Its body is free of tension, its brain has switched off and has gone into peaceful mode. Because of our stressful lives, many human beings have lost the ability to do this, so we have to relearn how.
Learning how to relax
Planned relaxation calms anxiety and helps your body and mind recover from everyday rush and stress. Music, a long soak in the bath, or a walk in the park do the trick for some people, but for others it’s not so easy. If you feel you need help with learning to relax, try a relaxation or meditation class. Your GP and local library will have information about these.
1. Choose a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.
2. Before you start, do a few gentle stretching exercises to relieve muscular tension.
3. Make yourself comfortable, either sitting or lying down.
4. Start to breathe slowly and deeply, in a calm and effortless way.
5. Gently tense, then relax, each part of your body, starting with your feet and working your way up to your face and head.
6. As you focus on each area, think of warmth, heaviness and relaxation.
7. Push any distracting thoughts to the back of your mind; imagine them floating away.
8. Don’t try to relax; simply let go of the tension in your muscles and allow them to become relaxed.
9. Let your mind go empty. Some people find it helpful to visualise a calm, beautiful place such as a garden or meadow.
10. Stay like this for about 20 minutes, then take some deep breaths and open your eyes, but stay sitting or lying for a few moments before you get up.
It’s important that you make time to practise a horough routine on a regular basis. There are plenty of resources out there to help you do this – the anxiety section lists just a few.
Relaxation is one of the most effective self-help activities for mental health. It can be a useful addition to any other form of treatment as well as being an effective measure to prevent the development of stress and anxiety.
Relaxation exercises can be divided into two broad categories: those for the body and those for the mind. Body-centred exercises also have an effect on the mind. Having a relaxed body may not prevent a constant flow of anxiety-inducing thoughts but it’s a good basis for getting some control of them. So for best results try to combine the two techniques.
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