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Developing the capacity to relax can help to combat:

and may keep you healthy, both physically and mentally.

Quickie Relaxation

This can be done anywhere, anytime and need only take a couple of minutes:

  • Take a long, deep breath (in through the nose) to the count of 4, hold it for a moment (to another count of 4), then exhale slowly (out through the mouth) (to the count of 5)
  • Take another deep breath, exhale slowly while relaxing physically - drop shoulders, relax jaw, unclench fists and toes, loosen scalp and release frown, untighten tummy, etc).
  • Continue as necessary, relaxing a little more with each breath out..

Repeat this mini-relaxation exercise as often as required until your body feels relaxed so your mind can be calm.

Longer Relaxation Techniques

Regular, scheduled and dedicated relaxation exercises are useful to maintain our physical and mental well-being. It can feel difficult to commit to undertaking relaxation regularly, but scheduling it into your day or week and prioritising a specific time is useful, as you would an important appointment. You may like to try different techniques, or find a combination that works for you.

Muscular Relaxation

Allow 20-30 minutes to complete a muscular relaxation. You may want to plan only gentle activity (or sleep) after your sessions as it is hoped you will feel fully relaxed.

Steps for Muscular Relaxation

1 Sit or lie down in a comfortable position in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Close your eyes and breathe calmly

2 Tightly clench your right fist (whilst keeping the rest of your body relaxed), hold it tight and count to 7, then relax completely

3 repeat

4 Tense your right elbow by pushing agains the floor/chair, tense your biceps, press hard, hold for 7, then completely relax

5 Repeat

6 Think about the whole of your right arm and become aware how floppy and relaxed those muscles feel

7 Repeat sequence with your left fist then arm

8 Focus on your forehead, wrinkle it up for the count of 7, then relax and repeat

9 Squint your eyes and wrinkle your nose tightly, hold for 7, relax then repeat

10 Think about your jaw and chin and bite together, clenching the muscles tightly, press your tongue against the roof of your mouth, feel your lips stretch out, hold for 7, relax and repeat. Feel the tension fall away from your facial muscles

11 Concentrate on your neck muscles. Press your head firmly against the back of the chair/pillow and tense, hold for 7, relax then repeat. Feel the neck muscles releasing tension as they relax

12 Focus on your torso. Breathe in slowly and, while holding your breath, sit forward slightly, throwing your chest out and bringing your shoulder blades together. Hold for 7 then drop back and relax completely and breathe normally. Repeat

13 Concentrate on your stomach muscles, pull them in tightly, hold for 7, relax, repeat.

14 Tighten the muscles of the lower back and bottom, hold for 7, relax then repeat

15 Tense your right leg - thigh, calf, feet and toes, hold for 7, relax and repeat

16 Repeat with your left leg, etc

17 Now, think about your whole body. Become aware of any tension areas, tighten those muscles then release and relax. Allow your whole body to sink into a state of relaxation, breathing out any tension with each exhale. Sense your body feeling heavy and deeply relaxed. Allow yourself to acknowledge and appreciate how relaxed your body feels and enjoy the calmness and tranquility that muscular relation affords.

Tips on muscular relaxation

  • The above is a guide - do what works for you
  • playing music you find soothing can help during relaxation
  • recorded relaxations sessions can be downloaded from the internet or purchased from most health shops
  • relaxing in this way may take practice - one sessions may not be wholly effective
  • ensure you take any muscular (or other) conditions into account and look after yourself
  • Visualisation: You may like to extend your relaxation to incorporate a visualisation. This uses the powers of imagination to create visual images which can aid deep relaxation. A visualisation can take you to as many and varied places as your imagination can reach which can be restorative or stimulating, as required. For example, you may imagine yourself floating up in a hot air balloon, or sitting on a beach, or resting in a forest glade....whatever works for you to help you feel relaxed. Focus on all the sensations of what you can hear, smell, feel touch, see, taste, sense in your unique imaged place. Try to clearly imagine details and qualities, (for example, it may aid your relaxation to imagine the feel of sunshine on your body).


There can be a religious or spiritual element to meditating but not necessarily. Common to all forms of meditation is the aim of feeling calm, clear and accepting of self and others by stilling the mind and body. It can be particularly useful to reduce 'over-thinking', to improve levels of concentration, to develop self-awareness and to experience a sense of self-control. (You may also wish to find out about mindfulness)

A way to meditate

1 Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and set a time limit (5 or 10 minutes)

2 Sit comfortably (not necessarily cross-legged) with a straight back and your hands resting naturally

3 Lightly focus your gaze on a point 3-4 feet in front of you (not a window) keeping your head up straight and breathe through your nose

4 Begin to count with your breath, (eg breathe in oneeeeeee, breathe out twoooooo etc up to 10) slowly and try to imagine graphic representations of numbers 1 to 10 as you breathe your count to help you focus. After reaching 10, return to 1 and repeat. (Concentrating on counting is seen as a neutral activity, not daydreaming nor in conversation, not solving nor understanding anything, not impressing anyone nor defending yourself from anything - just counting)

5 Thoughts will arise: simply acknowledge them and let them go and return to counting and breathing

6 If you feel pain, discomfort or irritation (eg an itch in your body), choose to either readjust your body or treat it as you would a thought and re-focus on your counting and breathing.

7 When your allotted time is up, slowly look around you and move gently. Stand up and stretch when you feel ready.

Tips for meditating

  • Try to meditate once or twice a day at the same time
  • Abstain from eating or drinking alcohol immediately before or after meditation
  • If you feel sleepy, perhaps let your self sleep - you may need it
  • keep to your schedule for meditating even if some sessions don't seem as calming or enlightening as others - commit to keep it up for at least a week
  • If you feel dizzy or ungrounded, try to focus your mind just below (2") your belly button and 'breathe' from there
  • Do not mediate if you are suffering from a severe psychological disorder
  • Enjoy the time you make for yourself and don't try too hard!

see also:

and listen to a range of podcasts about relaxation:

Self-help references

The following references are available from the University Library either in hard copy, CD or ebooks. Most are readily available to buy either in bookshops or over the internet. There are also a limited number of books in the Learning Grid and the Bio-med Grid.

Stress-Free: Peaceful Affirmations to Relieve Anxiety and Help You Relax

Louise L. Hay


The 10-Minute Stress Manager

Emmett E. Miller


Relaxation: exercises and inspirations of well-being

Sarah Brewer


Stress, Anxiety, Depression : A Practical Workbook,]

Martin Simmons, Peter Daw,.


Mind guide to managing stress



Mind guide to relaxation



Overcoming Traumatic Stress: A Self-help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques

Herbert, C. & Wetmore, A.

Robinson Publishing

Healing Without Freud or Prozac.

Servan-Schreiber, D.

Rodale International Ltd.

How to stop worrying

Frank Tallis


Managing Stress (Teach yourself)

Looker and Gregson

Hodder Education

The Good Stress Guide

Mary Hartley


The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook

Davis Robbins Eshelman and McKay

New Harbinger

Increase Vitality

Describes simple acupressure and yoga exercises that can
increase energy levels and general wellbeing

Michael Reed Gach

New Optimum Nutrition for the Mind How to use nutrition to boost your mood, mind, memory, and
develop your own personal nutrition plan
P Holford
Hurry Up and Meditate : Your Starter Kit for Inner Peace and
Better Health
Covers basics and benefits of meditation, and how to
incorporate it into a busy lifestyle
David Michie
Meditation for Busy People : 60 Seconds to Serenity Introduces a straightforward method of meditation that can
be used even in brief sittings
Dawn Groves
Meditations and Music for Sound Healing Includes guided meditations for fear, inner peace and healing Mitchell
L Gaynor
Meditations for Difficult Times Meditations to encourage positivity when times are difficult Bernie S. Siegel
Meditations for Morning and Evening Bernie S. Siegel Uses guided imagery for meditations to start and end the day
Meditations for Personal Healing Several meditations to encourage healing Louise Hay
Meditations for Self-Healing and Inner Power Mediations focussing on physical healing, concentration and
Joan Z.
Your Present: A Guided Imagery Meditation for Physical and
Spiritual Wellness: A Half-Hour of Peace
Guided meditation to aid relaxation and help reduce stress Susie Mantell

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