Stress: Combat It With Relaxation

One of the best strategies for dealing with stress is learning how to relax. This exercise is one of many techniques used by health professionals to help people relax:

  1. Select a comfortable place to lie down. Remove your shoes, loosen your belt or any tight clothing. Stretch out on your back, arms resting by your sides, feet slightly apart, eyes gently closed.

  2. Think to yourself, "I am now going to relax completely. When I awaken, I will feel fully refreshed."

  3. Sink back. Allow yourself to become calm and quiet. Close your eyes. Be aware of your body's weight. It feels so heavy.

  4. Inhale slowly and naturally. Let your mind go blank. As you exhale, sink deeper into your support.

  5. Inhale again through your nose. Hold. Exhale as if you were blowing the air out through a straw. Blow out some more. Empty your lungs.

  6. Inhale deeply. Hold. Again, exhale as if you were blowing the air out through a straw. Relax.

  7. Now breathe comfortably and gently. Notice how your body feels so heavy.

  8. You are now going to gradually go through your body, from head to toe, and let go of tension.

  9. So begin by thinking about your scalp. Think about releasing tension. Feel your scalp relax.

  10. Then think of your forehead. Feel the muscles in your forehead. Feel these muscles relaxed and comfortable. Sometimes when these particular muscles are tense, you may experience a headache, so these are muscles you need to teach to relax.

  11. Now think of your eyes, your eyelids and the little muscles around your eyes. Think of them all relaxed. As you proceed, you will go deeper into a relaxed state.

  12. Think of your mouth. Let your lips relax. Relax your tongue. Relax your jaw. Let it hang loose so that your teeth don't touch. Relax your cheeks, your chin, your ears.

  13. Feel your whole face relaxed. Feel your whole head relaxed.

  14. Think of your throat, your neck -- the muscles along the sides, in the front, around the back, all totally relaxed and heavy.

  15. Take a deep breath through your nose. As you exhale through your mouth, feel your shoulders relaxed and comfortable.

  16. Feel that relaxation flow into your upper arms, then into your lower arms, down into your hands. Feel the tension draining away, flowing away, like water dropping from your fingertips. Feel your arms heavy and warm, all the way into your bones. You go deeper and deeper into a relaxed state.

  17. Take another deep breath through your nose. Exhale through your mouth and feel your lungs relaxed and empty. Feel your chest relax.

  18. Now consider your back. Starting from the base of your neck, imagine relaxing all the muscles along the backbone down to the tip of your spine. Then feel all the big muscles in your back and shoulders relaxed. Feel them warm and heavy and fluid, as you go deeper and deeper. 

  19. Now think about your stomach and your whole abdominal area. Feel it warm and relaxed.

  20. Now relax your buttocks. Let them sink into your support. Really notice that support. Allow yourself to sink deeper.

  21. Now relax your thighs, your knees, your lower legs. They feel so heavy. If there is any tension, let it drain away into your feet. Then consider your feet: imagine them relaxed and warm. Let the tension drain out -- out through your toes, out through your soles, out through your heels -- until your body feels drained of tension . . . until your body feels limp, loose, very heavy and warm. Relaxed.

  22. Breathe in deeply. You are breathing in relaxation. Breathe out and send away any little tension that is left, until you are completely relaxed from the top of your head to the tips of your fingers, to the tips of your toes.

  23. Let the energies flow through your body, revitalizing you, healing you, rebalancing you. Feel the peacefulness and the heaviness of complete relaxation.

  24. Remain in this completely relaxed state for 5-10 minutes. Picture pleasant thoughts, or simply blank your mind and enter a state of light sleep.

  25. When you are ready to awaken, say to yourself, "I have been deeply relaxed. I am now ready to wake up feeling completely relaxed and refreshed."

  26. Open your eyes, stretch your arms. Slowly sit up, stand up and stretch again. You are now ready to continue with your activities.

Tips

  • To maximize your results, practice this technique at least once daily for two weeks; thereafter, regular use (four times a week) is enough to maintain the relaxation response

  • Sometimes, finding the time for this relaxation technique is the biggest priority

  • Much of the effectiveness of this exercise is determined by your attitude and belief system; it is not enough to want to feel better

  • You must believe that you can get better, and you must make the commitment to do so

If stress or anxiety remain a problem, you may need to consult with a mental health professional.