Friday, January 29, 2010

Relaxation

Libby's Guide to Total Relaxation
Image by HewGriff via Flickr
One of the most beneficial gifts that you can give yourself in a stress filled world is the ability to relax.  You might be saying to yourself, but I do relax.  Let me say that relaxation is not an event it is a skill.  Anyone can relax under the right circumstances, but to relax when the pressure is on well that is something else.  There are many ways to learn relaxation. The key to relaxation is regular and consistent practice

Progressive Muscle relaxation

This technique involves the systematic tensing and relax of all the muscle groups of your body.  By using this exercise you learn the difference between tension and relaxation and achieve a state of relaxation in the process.  Here are some links to help you out:
Written Instructions
Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia 

Written Instruction For Kids
Koeppen, A.S. (1974). Relaxation training for children. Elementary School Guidance and Counseling, 9, 14-21.
Male Voice
Georgia Southern University
Female Voice MP3
Carleton College
My Voice Recording MP3

Breathing Exercises

We do not often pay attention to our breathing until there is something that is restricting it.  Then we become immediately aware of how important breathing is.  One thing that happens with this lack of awareness of our breathing is that we can develop bad breathing habits.  For example fast and shallow breathing tends to increase feelings of anxiety.  While slow deep breathing increases feelings of calm.  The relaxation through breathing's goal is to make you more aware of this and relax through slow rhythmic breathing.  Here are some links to help you out:
Written Instructions 
Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia
Female Voice MP3
Male Voice MP3
UC Santa Cruz

Counting Exercises

Counting can be a great way to get your mind off of a stressful situations and occupy it with something that helps you to relax.  There are many counting methods.  My preferred method is to count up to 20 slowly 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20.  And then count backwards to 1 slowly 20,19,18,17,16,15,14,13,12,11,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1.  Repeat this pattern for 3-5 minutes.  If you notice that your mind wanders that is OK.  Every person that I have tried this with reports mind wander.  When you become aware that your mind is wandering gently bring it back to the counting exercise.  Other counting Ideas are counting your breaths, counting your steps, count the clock ticking, counting backwards from 100, counting down for relaxation starting with 10 waiting until you feel a deeper relaxation before going to the next number. 

Imagery

Sunset at Lahaina, Maui
Image by Mastery of Maps via Flickr
The use of imagery is an effective way to relax.  It is like a mental vacation where you travel to a very relaxing place using your mind.  When I use this technique I like to go two West Maui at sunset.  Here are some links to help you with this exercise:
Beach

River
University of Illinois
Forest Stream
Kansas State University
Beach
Forest
Georgia Southern University

Meditation

Mindfulness
I have written a number of posts on Christian Mindfulness which I encourage you to read.  Mindfulness is slowing down to become aware of the world around you.  The phrase "Take time to stop and smell the roses" is an example of mindfulness meditation.  Here are some links:
Christian Mindfulness
Awareness of Surroundings
Mindful Looking
Mindful Listening

Scripture Meditation
I believe that the Bible has words of life.  That is to say that the Bible is life giving and life sustaining.  Developing a habit of regular meditation on the Bible is good for Spiritual Health as well as for Physical health.  Focused meditation on the Bible's instruction for your need will develop a state of peace and relaxation.  Links:
How to meditate on the Bible
Online Bible Topic Index

Relaxation is a skill that will take much practice to become good at it!  I would recommend that you spend 1-2 times a day practicing one or more of these methods for about three weeks.  After that you can practice 3-5 times a week or when you are feeling particularly stressed, anxious, upset, angry, or irritable. 
If you have any questions about this please feel free to write them in the comment section below. 


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