Stress and physical relaxation do not co-exist.
Physical relaxation techniques can be highly effective in reducing stress. The highest form of relaxation is achieved with both physical and mental techniques used together.
Physical relaxation techniques are useful to reduce muscle tension and manage the effects of the fight-or-flight response. This is particularly important when you are under pressure.
Deep Breathing Techniques
Deep breathing is a very simple and effective way to relax. It is a core part of a well-known relaxation technique, everything from the "taking ten deep breaths" approach to Yoga relaxation and Zen meditation.
It works well along with complimentary techniques such as progressive relaxation, relaxation imagery and meditation in order to effectively deal with stress.
To use the technique, take a number of very deep and purposeful breaths and then relax your body further with every breath out. There is no magic in doing this. It is that simple!
Progressive Relaxation will relax your body, especially when your muscles are at their most tense.
The idea behind PR is that you purposely tense a group of muscles so that they are as tightly contracted as possible. You then hold them in this state of extreme tension for a few seconds. Next, relax those muscles as you normally would. Then, consciously relax your muscles yet further so that you are as relaxed as can be.
By first tensing your muscles on purpose, you will then be better able to relax your muscles than if you tried to relax your muscles directly.
Experiment with PR by forming a tight fist, then clench your hand as tight as you can for just a few seconds. Relax your hand and then go back to the same tension.
Finally, relax your hand again so that it is as loose as possible. You should feel very deep relaxation in your hand muscles. You can exact the same result by doing this exercise throughout your entire body.
The Relaxation Response
‘The Relaxation Response’ is a term penned by Dr Herbert Benson of Harvard University in 1968. He had good success in reducing stress and controlling the fight-or-flight response.
Direct effects of Dr. Benson’s relaxation technique includes deep relaxation, slowed heartbeat and breathing, reduced oxygen consumption and increased skin resistance.
The Relaxation Response Technique goes as follows:
1. Sit comfortably and quietly somewhere
2. Close your eyes
3. Start by relaxing the muscles of your feet and then work up your body relaxing each of your body muscles
4. Focus/Breathe purposefully/Deeply/Calmly
5. Breathe in deeply and then let your breath out. Count your breaths, and say the number of the breaths as you let each one out
Do this for ten to twenty minutes.
Alternatively, follow the above steps, using relaxation imagery instead of counting breaths in step 5.
Take me to the next step of my guide on how to relieve stress: Stress Management and Thought Awareness