Relaxation – a self help guide
Relaxation – A self Help Guide
Sometimes we can find it difficult to switch off and relax. Here’s our self-help tips to help you calm your mind, unwind and rest.
Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a two-step process in which you systematically tense and relax different muscle groups in the body.
Please consult with your doctor first if you have a history of muscle spasms, back problems, or other serious injuries that may be aggravated by tensing muscles.
Progressive muscle relaxation can be combined with the breathing techniques in our Breathing Exercises Self Help guide.
Find a quiet place and get comfortable; this exercise can be done either sitting in a chair that supports your back or lying down on your bed or on the floor on a yoga mat
Loosen clothing if you can and take off your shoes. It can help to close your eyes so that you are not distracted by things around you.
Start at your feet and work your way up to your face, try to tense one group of muscles at a time.
Take a few minutes to breathe in and out in slow, deep breaths.
When you’re ready, focus your attention to your right foot. Take a moment to focus on the way it feels. Notice the sensation of your foot resting on the ground or your heel resting on the bed or mat. Slowly tense the muscles in your right foot, squeezing as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10.
Relax your foot. Focus on the tension flowing away and how your foot feels as it becomes limp and loose.
Stay in this relaxed state for a moment, breathing deeply and slowly.
Shift your attention to your left foot. Follow the same sequence of muscle tension and release.
Move slowly up through your body, focussing on your calves, left then right.
Focus on your knees, one at a time, then your thighs.
Keep working up your body to your abdomen and the muscle group there, then your lower back, up to your shoulders.
Focus on your neck and then your facial muscles, making funny faces if you want to.
Pay attention to trying to contract and relaxing the different muscle groups.
It may take some practice at first but try not to tense muscles other than those intended.
Body scan technique
In this exercise, your attention is focused on various parts of your body. Similar to the progressive muscle relaxation, you start with your feet and work your way up. But instead of tensing and relaxing muscles, you simply focus on the way each part of your body feels, without labelling the sensations as either “good” or “bad”.
It is useful to lie down for this exercise if you can.
Lie on your back, legs uncrossed, arms relaxed at your sides, eyes open or closed.
Focus on your breathing for a few minutes until you start to feel relaxed.
Turn your focus to the toes of your right foot. Notice any sensations you feel while continuing to also focus on your breathing. Imagine each deep breath flowing to your toes. Remain focused on this area for a minute or two.
Move your focus to the sole of your right foot. Tune in to any sensations you feel in that part of your body and imagine each breath flowing from the sole of your foot.
After one or two minutes, move your focus to your right ankle and repeat.
Move to your calf, knee, thigh, hip, and then repeat the sequence for your left leg.
Then focus your attention on your torso, through the lower back and abdomen, the upper back and chest, and the shoulders. Pay close attention to any area of the body that causes you pain or discomfort.
After completing the body scan, relax for a while in silence and stillness, noting how your body feels. Then slowly open your eyes and stretch, if necessary.