De-stress and Relax – Relaxation exercise

The following is a simple relaxation exercise.

You may like to read the instructions first before you try it out yourself, or perhaps someone you know well could read the insructions aloud to you, leaving you free to concentrate on relaxing.

The relaxation exercise spends some time focussing on each of the major muscle groups in your body – helping you to learn how to tense and relax every part of your body.

Ideally, you will breathe in while you are tensing your muscles and breathe out when you are relaxing them.

  • Start by tensing your hands, clenching one fist tightly. Think about the tension this produces in the muscles of your hand and forearm. Think about the tension for a few seconds and then relax your hand. Notice the difference between the tension and the relaxation.  You might feel a slight tingling  – this is a normal sign of relaxing.
  • Do the same with the other hand.
  • Each time you relax a group of muscles, think how they feel when they are relaxed.
  • Don’t try too hard to relax, just let go of the tension.
  • Allow your muscles to relax as much as you can.
  • Think about the difference in the way they feel when they’re relaxed and when they are tense.
  • Now do the same for the other muscles of your body.
  • Each time tense them for a few seconds and then relax.
  • Think about the way they feel and then let go of the tension in them.

It is useful to stick to the same order as you work through the muscle groups:

  • Hands – clencg first, then relax
  • Arms – bend your elbows and tense your arms. Feel the tension especially in your upper arms. Remember, do this for a few seconds, then relax.
  • Neck – press your head back and roll it from side to side slowly. Feel how the tension moves. Then bring your head forward to a comfortable postion.
  • Face -there are several muscles here, but it is enough to think about your forehead and jaw. First lower your eyebrows in a frown. Relax your forehead. You can also raise your eyebrows and then relax. Now, clench your jaw, notice the difference when you relax.
  • Chest – take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, notice the tension then relax. Let your breathing return to normal.
  • Stomach – tense your stomach muscles as tight as you can, hold for a few seconds and then relax.
  • Buttocks – squeeze your buttocks together as tight as you can, hold for a few seconds and then relax.
  • Legs – straighten your legs and bend your feet towards your face. Hold for a few seconds. Finish by wriggling your toes.

It may seem strange at first but don’t feel you have to try too hard – just let it happen as naturally as possible.

Relaxation is a skill, so it takes practice for it to feel effortless. Here are some tips for getting the most out of relaxation:

  • Practice daily
  • Start to use it in everyday situations e.g. when feeling pressurised at work
  • Learn to relax without having to tense your muscles first.
  • Use parts of the relaxation to help in really difficult situations e.g. slow, deep and controlled breathing.
  • Develop a more relaxed lifestyle (e.g. a good balance of activity and rest, regular exercise)

This is a process and will take time. No doubt you have been dealing with your stress in a particular way for a long time and it would be naive to think that you could transform overnight. You will have good days and not so good days, however, you can put these simple steps into action today and feel empowered that you are taking definite action towards a future that is healthier, and more positive.