If you ever start to feel tense or stressed, it is good practise to notice how you are breathing.
By breathing more slowly and deeply, you activate the relaxation response in your body. Both your body and mind will then become calmer. You simply cannot be relaxed and stressed at the same time, one counterbalances the other. Slow and deep breathing is the most effective way to induce relaxation.
Breathing Method 1:
- Sit comfortably in a chair where your back is supported, or lay down in a comfortable position on your back.
- Bring your awareness to your breathing, monitor your in-breath and your out-breath for a minute or so.
- Then gently begin to slow your breathing rhythm, inhaling for slightly longer and more deeply — and also exhaling for slightly longer. At a pace that is comfortable for you, continue to further slow your breathing so that you are taking long deep breaths in and out. Your abdomen will rise up as you breathe in deeply to use the full extent of your lung capacity.
- As you breathe slowly and deeply, you will naturally become more deeply relaxed. Notice any tension loosening and being released from your body as you continue to further relax.
- If any thoughts or emotions arise, agree to think about them later, and say to yourself, “Now is not the time to worry, this is the time for me to relax.” Then return your focus to the rhythm of your breathing.
- You can enhance this exercise by saying in your mind the word “Calm” each time you exhale.
- Practise this simple breathing exercise for between five and twenty minutes.
Breathing Method 2:
- This method can be done anywhere at any time, and you simply focus on breathing out for longer than breathing in.
- Some people like to count in their mind. 3 seconds breathing in, then 5 seconds breathing out. And in your own time, gradually increase to 7 seconds breathing in and 11 seconds breathing out.
- Practise this exercise for five to ten minutes if you feel stressed. This is the most effective method for overcoming anxiety or panic, as you will offset hyperventilation.
I recommend practising the following technique laying down on your back, whilst resting your arms at your sides and not crossing your legs. Find a comfortable position and, for example, you may want to support your head, place a pillow under your knees, remove your shoes, wear loose fitting clothes and ensure you are warm enough.
Body Scan Relaxation — Method:
- Lay down on your back in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes and gradually slow and deepen your breathing rhythm.
- Bring your awareness to your body and in your mind’s eye, scan your body slowly from your toes to your head, consciously sensing each part of your body as you slowly scan up your body. Then scan your awareness back down your body and become aware of your feet.
- Make a conscious effort to relax your feet so that you sense and feel your feet relax. You may find you wiggle your toes or stretch out your feet in the process. And when you feel they have relaxed, you are ready to move your awareness up to the next area of your body.
- Go through this process with every major part of your body moving upwards from your feet. I usually bring awareness and relaxation in this order:
– Feet, ankles, calves, thighs, buttocks
– Lower back, stomach, chest
– Hands, forearms, biceps
– Shoulders, neck, forehead, face, jaw, eyes
- As you bring your awareness to each part of your body, sense it for a few moments and then consciously relax it. So, you sense and feel the area of your body relaxing.
- You will likely find yourself moving a little at times to get more comfortable as you further relax. It is a good thing to follow any feelings you have, for example, to shrug your shoulders, to stretch an arm out for a moment or to open wide your jaw for a moment. Just go with what your body wants to do in order to relieve tension and get more comfortable.
- After you have completed scanning and relaxing each part of your body, you can either choose to repeat the process, going back to your feet and coming up your body again whilst consciously relaxing each part of your body. Or you can simply rest in the relaxation for as long as you want.