Experience Relaxation Therapy for Your Body and Mind

Relaxation therapy, which is the act of using relaxation therapeutically, will help you to relieve stress, control anxiety symptoms, improve sleep, and have a better quality of life in general.

What is Relaxation Therapy?

When the average person is awake, many thoughts are going through his or her mind. The waking mind is very active.

During sleep, the mind can remain active, though the rhythm is slower than that of the mind when awake. Have you ever slept for a full night, but awoke still feeling tired? When the mind is active, sleep is not always restful.

The aim of relaxation therapy is to quiet the mind; to allow thoughts to flow in a smooth, level rhythm, and induce the relaxation response. This mental quiet allows for rest and rejuvenation that does not always occur, even during sleep.

Relaxation therapy does not attempt to empty the mind, since it is not possible to think of nothing. In relaxation, we focus the mind, and relax both mind and body.

Over time, the symptoms of stress and anxiety become problematic.

By using relaxation techniques, it is possible to improve health, strengthen the immune system, build up resistance to stress, cope with change, and improve quality of life overall.

Relaxation therapy techniques calm the body and provide a natural cure for anxiety by inducing the relaxation response – the opposite of the body’s stress response.

If you’re ready to practice some relaxation strategies right now, see the relaxation downloads page, or try the following quick relaxation therapy techniques.

Deep Breathing

When we are stressed or anxious, our breathing becomes more rapid. Often breathing also gets shallow, which causes a feeling of being unable to catch your breath. Other times, breathing is too fast and deep, which causes a lightheaded feeling and numbness or tingling of the extremities.

Deep breathing not only helps to cure anxiety and stress, it also triggers relaxation. Here is a way to slow down your breathing while keeping it deep and exhaling fully.

Inhale slowly to the count of four (count slowly; to the pace of one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand….).

Pause to the count of three.

Exhale slowly to the count of five.

The breathing process goes like this:

Inhale… two, three, four…pause…two, three….exhale…two, three, four five….

Inhale… two, three, four…pause…two, three….exhale…two, three, four five….

Repeat for a minute or two.

If you would like to be guided in trying this breathing, listen to the quick breathing relaxation audio clip on the quick relaxation downloads page.

Consciously Relax Key Muscles

When experiencing the physical symptoms of stress or anxiety, the body tenses up in anticipation of the physical need to fight or flee. By relaxing certain key muscles, you can reverse this physical tensing process.

Relieving muscle tension can decrease headaches, muscle aches, and other stress and anxiety symptoms, and can also initiate the relaxation response for all the benefits listed in the relaxation response description.

First, lower your shoulders. When tense, the shoulders are often raised up toward the ears – so do the opposite and lower them. Ease them back slightly.

Next, relax your jaw by dropping the lower jaw slightly. Make sure your teeth aren’t touching.

Finally, release any fists from clenching. Deliberately open your hands.

If you want to try this exercise by following along with audio instructions, listen to the physical relaxation downloads. The audio  will guide you through the process of relaxing your muscles.

Shake it Out

During the stress response, blood flows to the major muscles to allow them to act – but blood flow to the hands and feet can be decreased (the cause of cold hands and feet when stressed).

The act of shaking a body part increases circulation (improves blood flow), and encourages tense muscles to release their hold.

Hold your arm away from your body, make your hand and wrist limp, and shake your hand back and forth and all around. Do this for a few seconds. Now stop.

See how much more relaxed that hand feels?

To induce the relaxation response, shake your hands. You can even shake your whole arms, and shake your feet and legs if you want.

Yawn and Stretch

Have you ever noticed that dogs yawn when they’re nervous? There is a good reason – yawning triggers relaxation. Dogs yawn to help calm themselves down in stressful situations.

A yawn forces you to take a deep breath, slow down the breathing, and to exhale fully. This counteracts the fast shallow breathing experienced as a symptom of stress and anxiety.

Stretching is effective in lengthening the muscles – the opposite of short, tensed muscles.

Do you know how to yawn? Sure you do! For a guided yawn, try the yawn audio clip on the quick relaxation downloads page.

Try it! Open your mouth wide, yawn loudly with a big sigh, and stretch your arms above your head and out to the sides. Make sure to stretch out the back and shoulder muscles – key places where tension can build up.

Block Out Stimulation

The stress response is induced by stressful stimuli around you. Sometimes there is so much going on in the environment that it becomes over-stimulating. Or when a person is feeling stressed, just the added stress of things going on around them feels overwhelming.

Blocking out some of the outside stimulation can decrease the stress triggers and induce relaxation.

Rub your hands together to make them warm. When your palms are warm, close your eyes and place your hands over your eyes with your fingers on your forehead and palms resting on your face. Sit quietly for a moment and enjoy the touch of your hands on your face, and the peaceful darkness.

More Information and Next Steps

For more details about how relaxation works physiologically, and how to do relaxation exercises, you may be interested in:

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