The relaxation response is the body’s own way of preventing over-stress and stress-related problems. It could be said that we have lost this natural response due to the demands we make on ourselves and others, demands that have become part of modern life. The good news is that the relaxation for stress relief can be rediscovered or relearned with a little effort. Relaxation for stress relief is a way of producing a calm body and a quiet mind.

In this article you'll learn the visualisation technique to relax and free yourself from stress and anxiety. You can do this relaxation technique wherever you feel comfortable, and it only takes a few moments.

You can lower the level of stress in their bucket by regular relaxation practice, so that when drops of stress are falling into your bucket (which they will, because life is stressful) you don’t have to worry so much about ‘spilling over’. In this way, relaxation is a good preventative strategy.

We often look at relaxation training as a preventative measure rather than a cure. What we mean by this is that relaxation practice will work when you are stressed out (that is, when your stress bucket is about to overflow), but it is better to practise relaxation on a more regular basis so you are getting your stress levels to be much lower in your bucket.

It is important to prepare yourself for relaxation as you want to maximise your chances of being able to successfully relax. When we teach relaxation to someone for the first time we usually do it with them sitting in a chair because this position is easy to adapt to everyday life. For example, you can relax this way while sitting on a bus, while sitting at your desk at work or while sitting in a shopping centre. You might get a few inquiring glances if you started lying in the aisle in the bus! It is also less likely that you will fall asleep during relaxation training if sitting.

Here are some tips to follow when preparing for relaxation:

  • Choose a special room in your house that you associate with good feelings to practise your relaxation.
  • Do not eat a big meal before relaxation practice.
  • Do not do relaxation directly after strenuous exercise.
  • Go to the toilet before starting your relaxation.
  • Try to ensure you will not be interrupted by taking the phone off the hook, informing others that you won’t be available for a while, or putting a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door.
  • Make sure the room is not too hot or too cold.
  • Turn down the lights, or turn them off.
  • Remove contact lenses or glasses.
  • Wear comfortable, loose clothing.

The relaxation position in a chair requires you to have your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting palms down on your thighs. We don’t cross ankles or legs or clasp hands together because these small actions require some muscle tension and these positions might disturb the blood supply. You might end up with hands or feet that feel numb or asleep! If for some reason you cannot sit, it is okay to lie comfortably on the floor, bed or couch on your back with arms by your side, legs flat, and your neck supported.

Relax With The Visualisation Exercise 

Now that you're sitting or lying comfortable, it's time to let your mind relax.

Close your eyes, and imagine doing what you enjoy the most. Connect with that experience with all your senses. For example, in the bath you can see the flicker of the candle flames, you may smell the scent of the bubble bath, perhaps you can hear some soft, relaxing music in the background, you can feel the warmth of the water covering your whole body and finally you may have a sip of the refreshing drink that you have put by the side of the bath.

If visualising the beach, notice the blue sky, the fluffy clouds, a gentle breeze, the warmth of the sun and sand, and the smell of the ocean. Are there others at the beach or are you alone? Are there sailing boats? Do you want to sit and enjoy what you can see, or do you want to walk or gather up shells? Don’t be concerned if you can’t visualise very well.

You may like to focus on one of your other senses that you relate to better. For example, you may like to listen to some music that you associate with relaxation, or you may simply want to focus on feeling a deepening sense of relaxation and comfort in your body. When you are ready to finish the form of relaxation you have chosen, gradually re-orient yourself to the present moment by being aware of the sounds around you, gently opening your eyes and looking around, and moving your body (for example, having a stretch).

More Relaxation Exercises

The visualisation exercise above is an easy and effective way to feel relaxed and de-stress. With practice this will get easier and easier. For several more relaxation exercises such as the Progressive Muscle Relaxation techniques and the Mindfulness relaxation technique, grab your copy of Release Your Worries. You'll also get more tips on how to prepare yourself physically and mentally to relax, and how to feel relaxed even when the stresses of life seem like they're overwhelming. You can grab your copy here: Release Your Worries - A Guide to Letting Go of Stress and Anxiety


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Article based Dr Cate Howell and Dr Michele Murphy's
"Release Your Worries" available from Exisle Empowerment.