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Relaxation Techniques

Techniques to Calm Down
Whether you are feeling anxious, angry or stressed, these techniques will help you let go of the tension and relax.  A lot of these will also help you get to sleep if you’re having trouble with insomnia.  You can use any of these in combination too.  The first three are quick and easy and can be done anywhere.  The others require a little more time but can help you reach a deeper state of relaxation and calm.

  1. 10 Second Relaxation Technique – good for when you are angry or anxious
  2. 5 Deep Breaths – good for anxiety and tension
  3. 5 Minute Mindfulness – simple meditation technique for calming the mind and body
  4. Container Visualization – especially good for when you have racing thoughts
  5. Progressive Muscle Relaxation – good for insomnia as well as tension or anxiety
  6. Classic Yoga Visualization – Connecting with the Universe and with the Earth
  7. Sun Visualization with Breathing – good for deep relaxation, especially with insomnia
  8. Warm & Calm Your Body – good for relaxation and insomnia
1. 10 Second Relaxation Technique

This technique is quick and easy and is especially good when you are angry and trying to calm down.  But it also works well if you are feeling anxious, stressed or nervous.

10 Second Relaxation Technique
  1. Take in a very deep breath and hold it.
  2. Tense every muscle in your body from head to toe and hold them tight for 5 – 10 seconds.   
  3. Release your muscles as you slowly exhale. 
  4. You should feel a big whoosh of relief coursing through your body as you finish this technique.  Often once is enough, but if not, you can repeat it as many times as you’d like.

  5. Add in —if you would like, it can help to add this idea – imagine as you tense your muscles you are building up in your body a certain color that represents the tension or stress you feel (maybe red).  Then as you let your breath out and release your muscles, visualize the color streaming out of your body through your breath. 
2. 5 Deep Breaths – Diaphragmatic Breathing

This technique is great any time you are feeling tense or anxious.  When we are anxious we naturally breathe shallowly and quickly.  With this technique, we are trying to get the body to reverse that by forcing the breath to be deep and slow. The key is to breathe deeply and to count as you do.  If you are anxious and just try to breathe deeply without counting, you will probably be breathing more shallowly and quickly than you think.  This technique will help you slow it down and breathe more deeply. 

  1. Lie down or stand in a relaxed manner.
  2. Rest your hand on your abdomen.
  3. Deep Breaths
  4. Breathe in through your nose in an even, measured pace, no gulps.  As you breathe in, visualize filling your lungs as if they were a balloon that goes all the way down to your belly button. Count the 5 seconds as you breathe, e.g. “1-1000, 2-1000, 3-1000, 4-1000, 5-1000.”
  5. Then hold your breath for two counts, e.g. “1-1000, 2-1000.”
  6. Then release your breath slowly through your mouth for 7 seconds.  Do not release faster or hold your breath before the next inhalation.  
  7. Repeat 5 times.

As you do this breathing, you should feel your abdomen rising and falling under your hand. 

3. 5 Minute Mindfulness 

This exercise calms the mind through awareness of the moment, the “now.” It is a good meditation exercise for beginners.

  1. Sit or lie down comfortably.  Close your eyes.
  2. Breathe in and out for several breaths (approximately 1 minute).  As you do, follow the breath into and out of your body.  Notice the coolness of the air, the pressure of the airflow and how it feels in the front of your nose, in the back of your nose, in your throat, in your trachea and into your lungs.
  3. Mindfulness
  4. Then, for several breaths (approximately 1 minute), shift your awareness to the sensation of your heart beating and the blood flowing through the arteries and veins.
  5. Then, for several breaths (approximately 1 minute), shift your awareness into the room around you.  Notice every sound in the environment, paying special attention to the location, intensity and movement you can detect. 
  6. Then, for several breaths, (approximately 1 minute), shift your awareness to notice the sensation of air on your skin, the sensation of the clothes on your body, and anything else you can feel through your sense of touch.
  7. Then, for several breaths, (approximately 1 minute), shift your awareness back to your breath going into your body and how the air feels flowing in and out.
  8. You may end here or continue through this exercise several times, consciously shifting your awareness every 1-2 minutes. 
4. Container Visualization

This technique is good for clearing the mind so you can relax and rest.  It helps when you are ruminating or have racing thoughts that you want to stop.

  1. Sit or lie down comfortably and breathe naturally and evenly.
  2. Notice any part of you that is tense or painful or stiff.
  3. Breath into whatever part feels most uncomfortable to you and command it to relax and let go. 
  4. Imagine there is a container in front of you.  Any type of container you want, but one that can be closed tightly.  Right now it is open and waiting for all the things that are pressing on you at this time.
  5. Now ask yourself, “What is bothering me?”  Notice each thing that comes up, one at a time, whether it is a physical sensation, a thought, a situation, a worry, a problem or whatever.  Imagine seeing it, then name it, and set it inside the container.  Some people like to imagine writing it down on a piece of paper and putting the slip of paper into the container but you can do this process however feels right to you.
  6. Keep going until nothing else comes up.  Then ask yourself “is there anything else?” and wait a few beats to see if there is.
  7. Once no more things come to mind, imagine putting the lid on the container and shutting it tightly.  Imagine placing it somewhere away and secure, where you don’t have to see it, but where you can have access to it later, if you so desire. 

Some people prefer to actually do this on paper with a real container.  That is fine too. 

5. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This technique is especially good if you have insomnia but works anytime you feel tense or anxious.

  1. Sit or lie down in a relaxed position and close your eyes.
  2. Take two deep breaths, letting tension flow out of you as you exhale.
  3. As you go through the following instructions, picture in your head each of the muscle groups as you work with them. You are going to tense, hold, and then relax each muscle group, one at a time as you work your way slowly though the body, as follows:
  4. Tense your toes, curl them tight and hold them for 5 counts.  Then release and feel the warmth and energy flood into them.  Repeat this two more times.
  5. Tense your calves and hold them tight for 5 counts.  Then release and feel the warmth and energy flood into them.  Repeat this two more times.
  6. Tense your thighs tightly and hold for 5 counts.  Then release and feel the warmth and energy flood into them.  Repeat this two more times.
  7. Tense your buttocks tightly and hold for 5 counts.  Then release and feel the warmth and energy flood into them.  Repeat this two more times.
  8. Tense your abdomen muscles tightly and hold for 5 counts.  Then release and feel the warmth and energy flood into them.  Repeat this two more times.
  9. Tense your chest muscles tightly and hold for 5 counts.  Then release and feel the warmth and energy flood into them.  Repeat this two more times.
  10. Tense your lower back tightly and hold for 5 counts.  Then release and feel the warmth and energy flood into them.  Repeat this two more times.
  11. Yoga
  12. Tense your upper back tightly and hold for 5 counts.  Then release and feel the warmth and energy flood into them.  Repeat this two more times.
  13. Tense your shoulders tightly and hold for 5 counts.  Then release and feel the warmth and energy flood into them.  Repeat this two more times.
  14. Tense your upper arms tightly and hold for 5 counts.  Then release and feel the warmth and energy flood into them.  Repeat this two more times.
  15. Tense your lower arms tightly and hold for 5 counts.  Then release and feel the warmth and energy flood into them.  Repeat this two more times.
  16. Tense your hands tightly, curl them into fists, and hold for 5 counts.  Then release and feel the warmth and energy flood into them.  Repeat this two more times.
  17. Tense your neck tightly and hold for 5 counts.  Then release and feel the warmth and energy flood into them.  Repeat this two more times.
  18. Tense your face tightly and hold for 5 counts.  Then release and feel the warmth and energy flood into them.  Repeat this two more times
  19. Breath in deeply and notice the energy flowing through down though your whole body with each breath.  As you exhale, notice the energy flowing up and out of your body. 
6. Classic Yoga Visualization – Connecting with the Universe and with the Earth

This technique is good for helping you feel grounded and centered when you feel scattered and stressed.

  1. Lie down or sit comfortably.
  2. Imagine that above your head is a sphere of light and energy.  This light is the color you most associate with peace, calm, and healing. (Suggestion: blue or white, but it can be anything that feels right to you).
  3. For several breaths, as you inhale, you draw this colored light energy into your body.  Imagine it starting at the top of your head and flooding every part of your body down to your toes.  As you exhale, feel the energy moving up and out of your body back to the sphere.
  4. Now as you draw in your breath, imagine this magical light energy filling your head with energy and calm, and as you exhale, any tension flows out.
  5. Now as you draw in your breath, imagine this magical light energy filling your neck and shoulders with energy and calm, and as you exhale, any tension flows out.
  6. Now as you draw in your breath, imagine this magical light energy filling your arms from shoulder to fingertip with energy and calm, and as you exhale, any tension flows out
  7. Now as you draw in your breath, imagine this magical light energy filling your chest and abdomen with energy and calm, and as you exhale, any tension flows out.
  8. Now as you draw in your breath, imagine this magical light energy filling your hips and pelvis with energy and calm, and as you exhale, any tension flows out.
  9. Now as you draw in your breath, imagine this magical light energy filling your thighs with energy and calm, and as you exhale, any tension flows out.
  10. Now as you draw in your breath, imagine this magical light energy filling your calves with energy and calm, and as you exhale, any tension flows out.
  11. Now as you draw in your breath, imagine this magical light energy filling your feet with energy and calm, and as you exhale, any tension flows out.
  12. Now imagine that the energy is flowing through your whole body, a glowing brilliant light, energizing and calming you.  Find a word that you associate with total relaxation, such as “calm,” or “relax” “let go” or “release” and repeat it to yourself as you feel the energy soothing your body. 
  13. Now imagine the energy flowing out of your feet and going down into the earth, deep into the soil, all the way to the center of the earth, connecting you and drawing away any tension that might be left.   
  14. Now imagine the earth sending its nurturing energy back up to you, through your feet and filling your whole body from the bottom up. 
  15. As your body fills, the light energy starts to exude through your skin, creating an envelope of energy surrounding your body.  This energy is from the Universe, calming you and from the Earth, nurturing you.  Sit with this image as long as you like.
7. Sun Visualization with Breathing

This technique is good for deep relaxation. It starts more generally and slowly each piece gets more specific and more deep as you go.

  1. Sit or lie down comfortably and close your eyes.
  2. Breath in deeply and slowly, filling your lungs.  Breathe out slowly and evenly.  As you release your breath, mentally command your body to let go of any tension in your body.  Repeat for 4-5 breaths.
  3. Now for 4-5 more breaths, switch your attention so that with each inhalation, you are imagining a beautiful, peaceful blue light flowing in with the breath, filling you with peace and calm.  As you exhale and the tension flows out, imagine a color representing the tension you feel, perhaps brown, swirling out of your body as you release your breath. 
  4. Then switch your attention to your body.  As you breathe in deeply, and as you exhale, release any tension remaining in your lower legs and feet.
  5. With your next breath in and out, release any tension remaining in your upper legs and hips.
  6. Warming and Calming Your Body
  7. Then breathe in deeply, and as you exhale, release any tension remaining in your abdomen and lower back.
  8. Then breathe in deeply, and as you exhale, release any tension remaining in your upper back and chest.
  9. Then breathe in deeply, and as you exhale, release any tension remaining in your arms and hands.
  10. Then breathe in deeply, and as you exhale, release any tension remaining in your neck and shoulders.
  11. Then breathe in deeply, and as you exhale, release any tension remaining in your face and head.
  12. Now imagine there is a tiny sun hovering over you that shines warm and relaxing energy down on you.  This warm sun can be moved slowly over any part of your body and can go back and forth as many times as you’d like.  As the sun’s light hits your body imagine it melting away all the hidden tension still remaining in your body – the tension you didn’t even realize was there.  Go slowly and thoroughly through your body, starting at the bottom, and working your way up with the sun including your:
    1. feet
    2. ankles
    3. calves
    4. knees
    5. thighs
    6. hips
    7. pelvis
    8. buttocks
    9. abdomen and inside organs
    10. chest over your ribs
    11. lower back,
    12. middle back,
    13. upper back
    14. shoulders
    15. upper arms
    16. elbows
    17. lower arms
    18. hands
    19. neck, all around it
    20. face, jaw and forehead especially
    21. top and back of head.

Stay in this relaxed state as long as you would like. 

8. Warming and Calming Your Body

When you give yourself these verbal commands, focus on sensing what you are telling your body to feel.

  1. Sit or lie down comfortably.  Close your eyes and breathe deeply and slowly.
  2. Say the following statements to yourself slowly and feel the sensations you are describing as you go:
    1. My right arm is heavy.
    2. My left arm is heavy.
    3. My right leg is heavy.
    4. My left leg is heavy.
    5. My neck and shoulders are heavy.
    6. I feel calm and peaceful.
    7. My right arm is warm.
    8. My left arms is warm.
    9. My right leg is warm.
    10. My left leg is warm.
    11. My neck and shoulders are warm.
    12. I feel calm and peaceful.
    13. My forehead is warm.
    14. My stomach is warm and full.
    15. My stomach feels warm and satisfied.
    16. My heartbeat is clam and regular.
    17. I feel calm and peaceful.
Repeat this sequence as many times as you’d like.


 

     

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Susannah Muller, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #49050
San Diego Counseling & Therapy
5665 Oberlin Dr., Suite 201, San Diego, CA 92121
(619) 787-2743

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