How to Relax
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Sally Klinkenborg, (MNCS (Acc.), Ad Prof Dip PC, MBACP
25th September, 2010
Relaxation is a feeling of being calm. In some situations, you may feel quite drowsy when you are relaxed, especially if you are feeling tired. At these times, relaxation can help you go off to sleep. On the other hand, there are times when you can be wide awake and alert yet relaxed as for example, when you are concentrating calmly on a scenic view. At these times, relaxation can help you concentrate better without getting too tense and distracted. The ability to relax can be very helpful in dealing with both physical and emotional pain, and with anxiety. Relaxation will help you to calm yourself to cope better with the stresses in your life.
You may have your own way of relaxation, such as having a long enjoyable bath or sitting on a park bench and people watching. If you do, this shows that even if you feel you cannot relax now, there are times when you have been relaxed. You may have been absorbed in an activity and unable to think about your problems or about feeling anxious. Perhaps you can build on these experiences and get into the same frame of mind at other times.
It is important that you practice relaxation regularly. Try to find a quiet and peaceful place where you can have half an hour or so to yourself. Pick a time of day that is best for you. The best time is before you go to bed, as this will help you to sleep well. If you relax by reading. watching tv or going for a walk, that is also fine and you should keep doing this. However, you cannot always do these things when you need to relax, so it will also be important for you to learn a relaxation exercise.
There are three important points to keep in mind:
Make time to practice, but do not force yourself to relax. Let your muscles go loose each time you breathe out. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back.
Be realistic in your expectations. It will take time to become good at relaxing. You may never become as relaxed as you would like, but if you can just take the edge off your tension, it will help you to calm your mind and view your problem more clearly and rationally.
Practice the following exercise on a daily basis:
Lie down somewhere comfortable, your bed for example. Ensure that you will not be disturbed for the next half an hour or so. You could try having some peaceful instrumental music playing softly in the background. Start with your feet by tensing the muscles there as hard as you can. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Hold this for a few seconds, then relax, breathing out deeply through your mouth at the same time. Repeat this for each part of your body: calves, knees and thighs; buttocks; pelvic floor muscles; abdominal muscles, hands; arms, shoulders (tense these up under your ears); press your head back against the pillow; screw up your eyes, clench your teeth and frown. Then tense the whole of your body, take a deep breath in through your nose, hold this for a few seconds and then relax as completely as you can as you breathe out (sigh the breath out) through your mouth. Repeat this. Continue lying down and keep this feeling of relaxation throughout your body for the next few minutes. Focus on your breathing. Visualise something pleasant and calm in your mind. Stretch your whole body and slowly get up and resume your activities.
TRY TO REALLY NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FEELING TENSION AND FEELING RELAXATION IN YOUR BODY.
KNOW THAT YOU CAN RETURN TO THIS FEELING WHENEVER YOU WANT OR NEED TO.
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