Relaxation has long been used as an effective method to reduce stress and anxiety. While health professionals often prescribe drugs for the condition, these can have negative side-effects in the long run. Hence, a more natural way to induce relaxation is preferred.
Relaxation methods come in various flavours. Generally speaking, they all work at reducing tension of the mind, body, or both. Here are 6 methods to achieve relaxation.
Method 1: Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This popular technique is based on the theory that anxiety and muscle tension are always in each other’s company. As muscle tension is reduced, so is anxiety. In other words, as the body relaxes it encourages the mind to clear.
Progressive muscle relaxation begins with mentally focusing on the different muscle groups in your body, a process often called body scanning. Each muscle is first tensed then relaxed one after the other. With practice, it becomes easier to recognise when your body parts feel tensed, as it does when you become anxious. Muscle tension is one of the first physical signs of anxiety.
This type of relaxation therapy takes 5 to 10 minutes, beginning with once a day, then as required. An audio instructional guide may be useful.
Method 2: Applied Relaxation
Once you’ve mastered progressive muscle relaxation, it’s easier to practice applied relaxation. This method leaves out the muscle tensing part and cuts direct to the relaxing state of each muscle. Then you advance to associating certain triggers with a relaxed state, such as counting “3…2…1”. This is a similar method to hypnotherapy where you learn to relax as soon as you place the trigger into your thoughts. When you’ve mastered the cue-controlled relaxation, you can easily and quickly apply this type of relaxation in real-world situations.
Applied relaxation requires the help from a registered therapist and takes over 12 sessions spread over several months to master. Progressive muscle relaxation needs to be practiced along with it on a daily basis and the technique itself needs to be continually practiced on a regular basis.
Method 3: Autogenic Training
Another method of progressively relaxing your muscles is autogenic training. In addition to relaxing each muscle one by one, you induce the feeling of warmth into each muscle. Ultimately, this type of relaxation makes the body feel relaxed, heavy and warm. A more advanced technique involves calming the heart and midsection, and relaxing the brow.
Autogenic training takes 5 to 10 minutes of several practices a day and takes up to 6 months to master. The help of a therapist is useful but and an audio instructional guide is often effective enough.
Method 4: Meditation
While the above methods focus on relaxing the body, meditation works at calming the mind. It involves self-visualisation and exploration, deep breathing exercises and some chanting. The benefits of meditation are many, but the technique is difficult to follow and it’s not unusual for people to quit practicing this method. Those who successfully master mental discipline will find that this method is the most effective compared to others.
This type of relaxation takes 5 minutes to an hour to practice, depending on your mental goals and level of learning. It takes months to master and though it can be done at home, therapists, group sessions and community classes are also effective.
Method 5: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy focuses on adjusting the pattern of thoughts and beliefs that trigger your anxiety. After, restructuring your thoughts, you are confronted with your fears to allow you to redefine the trigger, hence your anxiety. Although not exactly a clear-cut relaxation technique, it changes the way you think, and in effect, controls your anxiety by keeping you calm and sensible.
The therapy normally involves a psychologist and the time it takes to reverse your thinking depends on the severity of your condition.
Method 6: Deep Breathing
Learning correct breathing techniques will release muscle tension and are important to help you cope with anxiety. A physical sign of anxiety includes hyperventilation, which causes oxygen levels in the blood to skyrocket and deprives it from carbon dioxide. The body needs carbon dioxide to regulate the flight and fight response to anxiety.
The technique teaches you to breathe from your diaphragm, allowing your stomach to rise and expand as you inhale. Placing one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach ensures that deep breathing is done correctly. Feeling your hand rise on your stomach instead of your chest indicates correct technique.
Deep breathing takes little effort to master and can be easily practiced as required. In event of hyperventilation, this technique helps slow your breathing and boost your carbon dioxide levels, hence help you fight anxiety effectively.
Regular practice is important for these relaxation techniques to be effective. If you train your body and mind to relax often enough, it will respond easily and quickly as required. As with any training, commitment is the key. Give one or more of these relaxation techniques a go and you will soon find that anxiety can indeed be overcome.