This quick and easy relaxation is a method that you can use every day, at any time, to decrease the tension in your body and counteract the effects of stress.
Rather than the conventional relaxation scripts I usually do in this podcast, this quick and easy relaxation reviews some basic relaxation principles. By learning these basics, you can teach yourself to relax quickly whenever you need to. For quick relief from tension, use these principles any time.
Here are some quick ways to begin the relaxation response.
First, notice your breathing. Deep breathing is a quick and easy relaxation technique. When you breathe in, your entire chest and abdomen will expand outward. As you exhale, your sides, chest, and stomach move inward. Focus on breathing slowly and on completely emptying the lungs with each breath. If you breathe slowly like this for a minute or two, your heart rate will begin to slow down, your mind will clear, and you will begin to relax.
Let’s practice. Breathe in, deeply…. pause for a moment… and now exhale fully. Breathe in…. and out. In… out. Keep breathing slowly and calmly.
Now, relax the areas in your body where tension tends to build.
The neck and shoulders are a common area where tension builds up. You can relax your shoulders by lowering them slightly. If you are not sure if your shoulders are more relaxed, raise them up toward your ears, and hold this position. Hold the tension… and then relax, lowering your shoulders. You can repeat this a few times until you find that your shoulders are more relaxed and the muscles there are not holding onto tension.
To relax your neck, tip your head forward, bringing your chin toward your chest. Let your head hang loosely, without any pressure or effort at all. Just allow your head to hang forward, and feel the muscles on the back of your neck lengthening. Muscles in a shortened position are tense, while muscles in a lengthened position are relaxed. Let the muscles of your neck lengthen, and then gently raise your head back to a neutral position. Lower your shoulders again, and feel how the neck and shoulder area is more relaxed.
Another area where tension can build is in the jaw. This can lead to headaches and jaw pain. To relax your jaw, allow your lower jaw to drop so your lower teeth and upper teeth are not touching. Your lips should be slightly apart or gently touching.
Tension may also build in the hands and arms because of clenched fists. To relax your hands and arms, open your hands wide, stretching the muscles. Straighten your arms as you do this, lengthening the muscles from your hands all the way to your elbows and shoulders. Then let your hands relax into a neutral position, allowing your hands and arms to relax completely. You can even tighten your hands into fists, and hold the tension…. and then release, feeling the muscles give up their hold.
Another way to relax your hands and arms is to shake your hands, as if you are shaking water off them. Shake your hands for several seconds. Now stop, and let your hands relax. Notice that they feel slightly tingly, and more relaxed. This shaking not only releases tension from the muscles, it increases blood flow to the hands. When the body is tense, blood flow is directed to the large muscles and organs, and blood flow in the hands and feet is decreased. Hands and feet may feel cold when the body is stressed or tense. Relaxation causes hands and feet to warm up as circulation returns to normal. Shaking your hands can promote this type of blood flow and help to trigger the relaxation response.
You may have other areas where tension builds up. A feeling of pain or tightness will signal where the tension is stored in your body. Find any tense areas, and consciously relax the muscles, returning your posture to a neutral, relaxed position. You can imagine that as you breathe in, you are directing your breath to this area, and as you breathe out, you are releasing tension from this area through your breath.
Continue this process of quick and easy relaxation until you are feeling less tense, more relaxed, and calm. For deep relaxation, you can continue the relaxation process by using progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery meditation, or other techniques. For everyday tension relief, this quick and easy relaxation will be effective in starting the relaxation response.
When you are feeling tense, remember to:
Breathe deeply and slowly.
Lower your shoulders.
Lengthen the muscles in your neck.
Relax your jaw.
Release tension from your hands and arms.
Focus on relaxing any other tense areas in your body.
You can do these steps in a matter of seconds, and use this quick and easy relaxation method whenever you are feeling stressed or tense.