Relaxation 04 September 2017

Learn how to relax using a number of different techniques.

This guide will enable you to tell the difference between relaxation and tension, and offers some techniques to help you avoid a build-up of tension throughout the day.

Tension without relaxation

Figure 1: There can be a gradual increase in tension as we are all surrounded by daily hassles.

Tension and relaxation

Figure 2: Chart showing how regular relaxation throughout the day can reduce a gradual build up of tension.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

The first simple relaxation technique we teach people focuses on a form of deep breathing that is very useful for preventing the tension from building up.

One of the effects of the stress response is to speed up your breathing. When it is stressed your body is working harder and it needs more oxygen. This makes your breathing become fast and shallow. This fast, shallow breathing is something that happens very often when people are tense or stressed and needs to be controlled.

What to do - diaphragmatic, or deep breathing

This deep breathing is called "diaphragmatic breathing" because it uses the diaphragm which is a dome of muscle between your lungs and your stomach.

To take a deep, diaphragmatic breath.

Breathe in gently through your nose.

Imagine the lowest part of your lungs filling with air.

When you use your diaphragm, your stomach will come out a bit, as your lungs fill with air.

Imagine the middle part of your lungs filling. As you picture them filling up, allow your rib-cage to come a little forward.

Imagine the upper part filling with air and your lungs becoming completely full. Your shoulders will rise slightly and move backwards.


Breathing in this way prevents the build up of tension (see Figure 2).

The whole of the top part of your body should feel tense. Hold the breath for a second or two. Gently breathe out fully and completely and relax.

One or two breaths every hour, every day, is ideal. That is, about 20 breaths scattered throughout the day

Think of a reminder to take a deep breath. For example, you could put a piece of tape on your watch face or put up a note where you will keep seeing it. Listen to this audio file which will guide you through an exercise.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Things to remember

  1. Organise a reminder to practice the habit of taking deep breaths at all times during the day. Match up the breathing with normal routines so that it becomes easy to remember to do it. For instance, every time you make a drink or go to the bathroom, stop and take a breath.

  2. Use deep breathing regularly, to prevent the build up of the stress response. Do it even if you feel quite relaxed.

  3. If you feel stressed, a few deep breaths can help you to calm down.

Don’t do more than two or three at a time... but have a go at diaphragmatic breathing as it’s a skill which takes practice.

Regular relaxation sessions will teach your body how to relax properly. Just listening to music or relaxing sounds will not achieve the same thing.

A few basic guidelines...

  1. Relaxation is most useful in preventing the stress response from building up. Use the deep breathing to do this.

  2. In addition to establishing the breathing; practice at least once every day with each of the recorded relaxation exercises, for about 4-6 weeks before moving onto the next one.

  3. Set times that are yours for relaxation. Defend them!! Find a place that is warm, quiet and comfortable. Take the phone off the hook, loosen any tight clothing and settle down. Listening through headphones is a good way to concentrate.

  4. Try to do the exercises on a fairly empty stomach — before breakfast or your evening meals are good times.

  5. Don’t expect immediate results. Relaxation is a skill that can’t be learnt overnight.

  6. Don’t use the relaxation recordings last thing at night, they will make you fall asleep and you will lose all the learning.

Below are some more relaxation exercises you can use.

Be creative using art, drawing, crafts, etc,

Immerse yourself in nature regularly.

Listen to music.

Take a break

Regular exercise will increase our bodies natural endorphins and feel good chemicals!

Get off the Internet! Excessive social media and web browsing can lead to increase stress and tension.