Relaxation made easy? Does that work? Mindfulness, meditation, yoga etc can feel like a daunting task, another time consuming chore, which we often feel just too restless to go anywhere near it.
Relaxation requires an attitude, a way of paying attention to yourself and finding a way of regulating your thoughts and emotions. Ultimately, it makes you feel better.
What helped me, is to keep it simple and in a way, do it my way. Courses and books on various relaxation techniques alone did not do it for me.
Firstly: You need to understand what is happening, then you can start doing something about it.
Four simple steps to help you understand and make sense of what is happening: notice, observe, name, accept.
- Notice: I am not feeling well.
- Observe: I feel breathless and restless and irritable.
- Name: I feel upset because (xyz) has happened. I am angry, I am frightened.
- Accept: Because xyz has happened I feel frightened and breathless. Don’t judge, don’t blame. It is about the facts, not about right or wrong.
Now I know why I feel the way I do. There is a reason, there is nothing wrong with me. I understand it on a rational level.
Secondly: Two exercises to help you regulate and tone down the emotions and their physical symptoms (ie anxiety and breathlessness). You can do one or the other or both, whatever feels best at the time.
Body scan exercise.
This can be done lying down on your back or sitting.
- Focus on one thing, eg your breath.
- Pay attention to how it travels in and out of your body.
- Feel the sensation in your nose, your chest and tummy. What about the rest of your body, your toes up the crown of your head? Any tension? What about your mind? Any thoughts? Do they re-occur, are they joyful or worrying you?
- As you notice your concentration grows and takes in what is happening around you – any noises or smells? Just notice and observe.
Take your time to connect with what is happening inside and outside of yourself in that moment.
You in the world.
Go for a walk, pay attention to what is going on inside and outside of you.
- What noises do you hear?
- What colours and objects can you see?
- What can you smell? What are you thinking about?
- How are you feeling?
No doubt, you will find that a lot is going on. Your senses are busy and it may be difficult to focus on one thing, even if you tried.
Now you are in a good place to start regulating your thoughts and emotions.
With the concentration you have achieved you will feel calm and energised.
Your anxiety and stress levels will drop and you can focus better.
You can review what has made you feel that way, and how you are going to deal with the situation.
I suggest you do the two exercises with some regularity, irrespective of whether you are stressed or in a crisis.
- Get used to relaxation.
- Make relaxation fun, not a chore.
- Relaxation it is like exercising and strengthening a muscle, so you are ready for it to carry weight and support you when the need arises.
Here is another example, of how relaxation might work for you. Tailor it to a situation, which fits in best with your own circumstances (eg the end of cancer treatment).
Your treatment has ended. You carry a lot of emotions about what has happened and what may lie ahead: fear, anger, sorrow, depression, exhaustion, loss of trust, relational difficulties are not uncommon. You may have aches and pains. Is the cancer still there? Will it come back? Will I have to go through all of this again? Will I cope? When will I die?
What you can do:
Create regular relaxation moments in your day for the body scan exercise.
- Notice what is happening in your body, mind and heart.
- Observe it, there is no rush.
- Give it a name (eg I feel tense in my shoulders, the area where I had the tumour hurts, I am frightened and do not know what to do, this is not fair, I feel alone and exhausted).
- Now, try and accept what you have found. This does not mean you need to like it and put up with it. No!
- You are connecting with yourself; to be frightened is normal, you do not need to fear it; you are learning to understand yourself.
- You will start to feel less anxious and more focused.
- You will be in a better position to decide what to do next.
If you feel comfortable with this, then why not develop your own relaxation techniques? Follow your intuition.
You might also be interested in other Self Help posts.
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Need some advice? Submit your question to my #DearKarin advice column here. Karin Sieger BA (Hons), MA (PsychCouns), Reg. MBACP (Accred) is a therapist and writer. All rights reserved © Karin Sieger. Neither articles nor videos substitute medical advice or therapy.