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For many people in today's world, stress is a fact of life. Although it is impossible to eliminate all stress from daily life, it is possible to control the effect that stress has on the body and the mind. The first step in managing stress is to become aware of events in your life that cause you stress. The causes of stress vary from person to person, so that what causes you stress may not cause stress for another person.

Once you are aware of what causes you stress, the goal is to find ways to avoid or control these things.


Relaxation techniques, when used consistently, can prove effective in controlling stress by helping you reach a state of mental calm, even when in the middle of a stressful situation.

There are several relaxation techniques which can be done almost anywhere at any time to help control stress. These techniques include:

 breathing,   active relaxation,   stretching exercises,   visualization,   passive relaxation,   yoga,   biofeedback,  meditation,  listening to relaxation CD’s.

Some of these techniques are outlined below:

Breathing Techniques

Among the many physiological functions adversely affected by stress is our breathing. Even when stress is minimal few people retain a habit of natural, full breathing which is required for maintaining a good mental and physical state. Proper breathing is essential for sustaining life and cleansing inner body systems. By learning proper breathing techniques stressful situations may be handled better and overall mental and physical health will be improved.

 The Importance of Oxygen

Oxygen plays a vital role in the circulatory and respiratory systems. As we breathe, oxygen that is inhaled purifies our blood by removing poisonous waste products circulating throughout our blood systems. Irregular breathing will hamper this purification process and cause waste products to remain in circulation. Digestion will then become irregular, leaving tissues and organs undernourished. Improper oxygen consumption will thus ultimately lead to fatigue and heightened anxiety states. The irregular breathing elicited during stressful situations not only make them hard to cope with but also contribute to a general deterioration of health. By the careful control of our breathing pattern, we may not only rejuvenate our systems but counter the unhealthy effects of stress.

Breathing Methods

Breathing methods are useful to settle the body and mind and induce a heightened sense of awareness. Breathing exercises have been practiced for thousands of years in the East. The West began studying the effectiveness and importance of them several years ago. By this time, sufficient research has taken place in the West to verify the usefulness of these techniques.

The following breathing methods can be helpful for reducing anger, anxiety, depression, fatigue, irritability, muscular tension and stress.

Proper breathing: While breathing is a function most people take for granted, rarely is it practiced in a proper fashion. Before beginning any technique it is essential that you learn how to breath properly and fully:

Lie down on a rug or blanket on the floor with your legs straight and slightly apart, your toes pointed comfortably outwards, arms at your sides not touching your body, your palms up, and your eyes closed. This is called a "relaxed body" position. Take time to relax your body and breathe freely.

It is best to breathe through your nose, as the tiny hairs and mucous membranes filter out dust and toxins from the inhaled air. Keep your mouth closed as you breathe.

As you breathe, your chest and abdomen should move together. If only the chest seems to rise and fall, your breathing is shallow and you are not making good use of the lower part of your lungs. As you inhale you should feel your abdomen rising; it is as if your stomach is filling with air. As you exhale, the abdomen comes back in, like a balloon releasing all of its air. This inhale and exhale process should continue comfortably and smoothly. The chest and abdomen should rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. The chest should move only slightly..

How To Relax - Relaxation Techniques

The Relaxation Page

Deep relaxed breathing: Although this exercise can be practiced in a variety of poses, the following is recommended for beginners:

Lie down on a blanket or rug on the floor. Bend your knees and move your feet about eight inches apart, with your toes turned outward slightly. Make sure your spine is straight.

Place one hand on your abdomen and one hand on your chest.

Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose into your abdomen to push up your hand as much as feels comfortable. Your chest should move only a little and only with your abdomen.

Continue step three until it becomes rhythmic and comfortable. Now smile slightly, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, making a quiet, breezy sound as you gently blow out. Your mouth, tongue and jaw will be relaxed. Take long, slow, deep breaths raising and lowering your abdomen. Hear the sound and feel the texture of breathing as you become more and more relaxed.

When you first begin this technique, do it for five minutes. When you become more comfortable with it, you may extend it up to 20 minutes.

Upon ending a session, stay still for a few minutes and try to keep the entire body relaxed.

The purpose of this technique is to develop a good, relaxing breathing method. It may be practiced anytime, especially during stressful situations.

The relaxing sigh: Sighing and yawning during the day are signs that you are not getting enough oxygen. A sigh releases a bit of tension and can be practiced at will as a means of relaxing.

Imaginative breathing: This exercise combines the relaxing benefits of deep, relaxed breathing with the curative value of positive auto-suggestions.


The rolling breath: The following exercise requires a partner and is effective in relaxing and energizing you.

Any of the above techniques can and should be practiced everyday. Being a natural preventive measure for stress, there are very few side effects. It will take some time before you observe any profound changes within your body and mind taking place, but practice diligently and patiently. You will eventually realize that you have more energy and are much more relaxed

Active Relaxation and Stretching Exercises

Please lean back in your chair. Make yourself comfortable. Place both feet flat on the floor. Rest your hands comfortably in your lap. Follow the instructions on your screen.

Begin by stretching your legs as far as they can go...Relax. Stretch your legs, again. Move your feet up, towards you, hold...turn your feet down, away from you...Hold...Relax.

Now, tighten the muscles in your calves and those in your thighs. Tight. Hold it, hold it...and relax.


Let your legs go back, slowly, down to their original position and relax all the muscles in your feet, all the muscles in your calves, all the muscles in your thighs. Let your leg be completely relaxed. And now, feel that wonderful relaxation coming up from your toes, up your calves and your thighs. Feeling nicely relaxed, very calm...and...very relaxed. Calm and relaxed. Take some time to take your attention away from the screen. Focus on your legs and feel your relaxation.

Now, stretch out your arms. Make two fists, tighten the muscles in your fingers. Feel the tightness...Hold it, hold it...and relax. Let your arms go down to their resting position. Feel that relaxation. Now stretch your arms again. Tighten the muscles in your wrists, in your lower arms, in your upper arms...Hold it, hold it...And, let go, just let go, let your arms go down to their original position. Stop for a second, and take your time to notice that quieting feeling of relaxation through your fingers, your hands; through your lower arms, and upper arms. Let your arms go completely limp. Take your time to increase that feeling of relaxation. Very relaxed, very calm, very relaxed and calm.

Now, arch your back backwards, raise your chest. Tighten the muscles in your chest, your abdomen, your back, and your neck. Hold it...hold it...Let go of the tension. Just let go of the tension. Notice your muscle relaxation. Take time to feel the muscles relax in your chest, in your abdomen, in your neck, all over your back. All your muscles feel nicely relaxed.

Now, tighten the muscles in your face, first the muscles around your forehead, then the muscles around your eyes. Make them tighter. Hold it...hold it...and relax. Now, tighten the muscles of your cheeks, the muscles around your mouth, the muscles of your chin. Make them tighter...Hold it, hold it...and relax. Let all the muscles in your face relax, first the muscles of your chin, then the muscles around your mouth, the muscles of your cheeks, the muscles around your eyes, the muscles of your forehead. Let all the tension drain from your face. Let your chin sag if that feels good. Take your time to enjoy the feeling of relaxation. Very relaxed and very calm. Relaxed and calm.

Now, breathe in through your nose, slowly, and deeply. Breathe the air down into your abdomen first, then your chest, and your throat. Hold it, hold it...and slowly breathe it out through your nose. Feel the relaxation. Breathe in, tense up...Breathe out, relax.

Once again, take a very deep breath, hold it...hold it and slowly let it out. Let go of all your tension, your frustrations, your anxieties, feeling more and more relaxed. Relaxed and calm.

Now, take some time to scan your body. If you notice any tensional spot, take your time to release that tension. Very good, very relaxed.

Now, take time to breathe in and out; stretch your body; focus on your surroundings. Be ready to continue your day. Relaxed and calm. Focused and attentive


Another relaxation technique that can help to reduce stress is clearing the mind or visualization. Visualization is a type of directed meditation which involves using the mind's eye to clear away mental clutter or to actually visualize how a stressful situation can be handled successfully. This is done by picturing the stressful situation in your mind such as a business presentation or an athletic performance and then visually rehearsing the outcome. Visualization techniques also may be used to imagine a peaceful scene such as ocean waves lapping on the beach to create relaxation. For a short example:

Make sure your bladder is empty.

Sit in a quiet place in a relaxed position with both feet on the floor.

Close your eyes. Relax your arms and hands in your lap.

Start to slow down your breathing, being aware of each breath and the air as it comes in and goes out of your lungs.


Starting with the muscles of your feet, take time to relax each muscle group of your body. Working upward, relax the muscles of your legs, bottom, stomach, lower back, arms and shoulders, neck, head, and face. Do this slowly, while breathing more and more slowly.

If any area of your body (such as your shoulders or your stomach or forehead) is apt to be tight and tense, pay special attention to relaxing it.


Say a single, relaxing word to yourself over and over again, like "relax" or "quiet."

When all the muscles of your body are relaxed, survey your body for any tension and imagine yourself breathing the tension out.

Imagine yourself floating down an escalator, or walking down steps and reaching deeper and deeper levels of relaxation as you go down.

At the bottom, imagine yourself in any safe place you choose, perhaps a beach with palm trees, or a mountain meadow, or your own bedroom. The important thing is that it is a comfortable place for you. You may want to choose a safe place from your childhood.

Imagine all the details of your comfortable  space while you are breathing slowly and with your muscles fully relaxed. You may change any aspect of the safe place - make it just how you want it to be.

Stay there as long as you want and when you are ready, come back slowly, gradually opening your eyes, stretching, and starting to move.


Meditation and self-hypnosis are passive relaxation techniques that can be used to create relaxation. Four elements are used in meditation: a quiet environment, a point of focus like a neutral word that can help with concentration, a passive, accepting attitude, and a comfortable position. Meditation once or twice a day for ten to twenty minutes each time can bring rapid relief from chronic stress and also increase a person's ability to tolerate stress.

In Conclusion

 It is not important which relaxation techniques are used. What is important is the attitude with which relaxation is pursued and what is comfortable for the person. True relaxation requires that one is willing to recognize and meet the basic needs of peace, self-awareness and thoughtful reflection.

Everyone has their own ways of relaxing. Try a number of different techniques to find out what works best for you, and then incorporate these activities into your daily life. Other activities you can try to relax include:

Seeing the results of relaxation may take several weeks, but people who learn to relax can better handle difficult and stressful situations that come up in their life.

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Designed By David Lloyd-Hoare Bsc(Hons) MBACP(Accred) INLPTA

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