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Stressed? Learn to Relax

By Richard Snowdon MA (Merit) Psychoanalysis
 
Here are two relaxation techniques. With practice, and used overtime, they can help you become aware of tension, and help you relax. Before you start: if you have a mental illness, sometimes get confused, or have periods of depersonalisation, you should consult your GP or a mental health professional before trying these relaxation techniques.
 

Benson's Relaxation Response

  • One or two times a day, sit comfortably and quietly, with your eyes closed, for fifteen to twenty minutes.
  • Become aware of your breathing.
  • Breathe easily and naturally.
  • On every out breath, mentally say a word like "relax" or "one" .
  • Maintain a passive, accepting attitude.
  • Have no goals during your relaxation time, other than to comfortably follow this technique.
  • Don't try to resist other thoughts, or try too hard to think of your word.
  • If you are distracted by other thoughts, simply return your attention back to your word.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

 
To help you distinguish between tension and feeling relaxed, exaggerate and feel the tension. You can do this with different muscle groups: clench your fists, tightly close your eyes, and shrug your shoulders. Tense each muscle group in this way for a slow count of three, then let go and release the tension, breathing out as you do. Feel the sense of release. Spend more time on the release than on the tensing.

You can work systematically through your different muscle groups to achieve more relaxation in your muscles.
 
Here is a version you can do in a chair, at home, or at work.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles, hold for a count of three, and then release and relax.
  • Clench your fists tightly, hold, then relax.
  • Extend your fingers, hold, and relax.
  • Grasp below the seat of your chair, pull up, hold, and relax.
  • Press your elbows tightly into the sides of your body, hold, then relax.
  • Push your feet down onto the floor, hold, and relax.
  • Relax yourself briefly, give your arms a shake, then let them dangle.

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