Relaxation, in a general sense, means letting go of stress, mental fatigue, worry and pressure. It occurs naturally when we do something familiar, comforting, or self-satisfying. Total relaxation of the mind and body takes practice. You might practice relaxation by meditating, conditioned muscle relaxation, T’ai Chi, massage, warm baths, deep breathing, guided imagery, watching movies or television, listening to music, exercising or playing sports, dancing, doing aerobics, knitting, solving puzzles, socializing, or sleeping.
Relaxation is an extremely valuable tool for stress management. Techniques like meditation, self-hypnosis, and deep breathing make it possible for you to relax both the body and the mind profoundly for a short period of time. The regular practice of one or more relaxation techniques can provide a wonderfully calming feeling that lasts. Your energy level and ability to cope with the external world are replenished. Practitioners and researchers have reported many positive life effects from the regular practice of one of these techniques.
You may want to take a course or read about one of these techniques. They can be easy to learn, but they can be difficult to fit into your schedule. Practice sitting quiet and uninterrupted for fifteen minutes. Let yourself relax by focusing on something peaceful like a beautiful beach or mountain scene. Sometimes negative thoughts or worries create tension. You can practice thought stopping techniques and learn to use positive self-talk to cope with stress. Take a purposeful 10-minute break. Go for a walk, breathe deeply, call a friend, or listen to your favorite music. Remember, you can talk with a counselor to learn more about how to develop relaxation skills.
Relaxation techniques reduce stress. There are a variety of relaxation techniques to choose from. However, it is important to recognize that not all techniques work equally well for everyone, and that one technique may not work in every situation. Try to determine a variety of techniques that you can apply in your life to combat the negative effects of stress.
Online Resources to Help You Relax
Audio Relaxation Exercises
Carlos P. Zalaquett, Ph.D., of the University of South Florida, has compiled a series of breathing techniques that can help relieve stress and help you relax completely.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ Counseling Center provides both progressive and combination relaxation exercises in downloadable MP3 format. You can listen to them on your computer or transfer them to another MP3 device.
Counseling and Psychological Service of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers Relax Audio (UNC) a series of online audio relaxation exercises that will relieve stress as a soothing voice leads you through your choice of several deep breathing exercises.
The Patsy Grey Enterprises Learning Meditation Room provides three to ten minute virtual relaxation experiences that help enhance serenity and calm. These meditations include soothing sounds, imagery, and deep-breathing techniques.