April is ‘Stress Awareness Month’ and people really need relaxation and ways to relieve tension at the moment.
There are lots of techniques, and clients will all react differently to them. The aim is to slow breathing and heart rate, lower blood pressure and bring the mind and body into balance.
Below are basic outlines of some techniques but there is lots of information on the internet to research them and listen to examples.
Deep breathing, diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing.
This stimulates the vagus nerve which runs from the brain to the thorax and abdomen and activates your relaxation response.
- Sit or lie in a comfortable position with one hand on your rib cage and the other on your abdominals
- Breathe in through the nose and out through your mouth
- The hand on your abdominals should rise and the hand on the rib cage should only rise a small amount
- As you breath out, feel like you are dropping the belly button down to the spine
- Try and breathe slowly and deeply and practice without the hands
Tense release technique
Work on tensing different muscle groups and then releasing so you can focus on the relaxation in different areas. Avoid any areas that are painful, injured or likely to cramp up.
- Lie or sit with the shoes off
- Start with one foot and focus on how it feels, tense the muscles in the foot and hold for 10 seconds and then release. Stay relaxed for a few deep breathes.
- Notice how the muscle feels when it is tensed and when it is relaxed
- Move through the body contracting and relaxing each muscle group
This sometimes links into mindfulness as you focus on different areas of the body and bring your thoughts back to your body if they start to wander.
- Lie on your back with the knees propped up or the legs long and close your eyes
- Start at the feet and note how your foot feels, focus on the sole of the foot and the top of the foot
- Imagine your breath flowing to that area of your body, if your thoughts wander bring them back to that area and to your breathing
- After one or two minutes move your thoughts to the other foot, calves, thighs, hips, back and chest, shoulders, neck and face.
- After the scan, relax and focus on how your body feels
Visualisation or guided imagery
This method can be challenging to teach and do, and may need practice. Use sounds that match your ‘relaxation place’ if you can. Clients may zone out or fall asleep if they become good at this method.
- Lie or sit comfortably
- Close your eyes and imagine a place where you feel calm and restful, such as on a quiet beach or in a meadow
- Picture the sky or trees and try to immerse yourself in your restful place
- Feel your worries drifting away as you think about the sun setting or waves lapping
This practice encourages people to focus on the here and now, and pay attention to the present without judgement. There are lots of different ways to practice mindfulness including walking, listening, body scanning and breathing.
- Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted
- Close your eyes and focus on your breathing
- Feel the sensation of the breath and the air flowing in through your nose down into the body and out though the mouth
- Note the point at which you are neither breathing in or out
- Don’t worry if thoughts distract you, acknowledge them and bring yourself gently back to your breathing without judgement
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