GP Bridges Therapy and Continuing Education

"Building Bridges Across Relationship Barriers"

Mastering Relaxation

Stress and anxiety can kill.  Literally.  If not addressed, they can lead to elevated blood pressure, heart disease and  decreased immune system effectiveness.  In addition, beyond the physical impact, if stress and anxiety become a daily part of life, they will impact relationships both at work and at home.  This web page will be revised and expanded on a regular basis in order to provide you with new information and relaxation techniques.  At this point, we have selected two simple exercises that require no special preparation or equipment.  Whether you have five minutes or an hour, both exercises are designed to relax your body and mind.

Progressive Relaxation

This exercise can be completed at any time and is helpful when trying to fall asleep at night.  It is important to wear loose, comfortable clothing, have no auditory distractions (radio, etc.) and, if possible, to make sure that the light is subtle.  I use progressive relaxation when I feel particularly stressed.  This relaxation technique can take place on the floor, a mat, or your bed.  However, make sure that you are not using a pillow.  If you like, you may set a soft alarm for 15 minutes.

  • Lie on your back, hands at your side, feet slightly apart, and close your eyes.  Feel the weight of your body pressing into the floor, mat, or mattress.  Breathe slowly, deeply, and evenly.
  • Beginning with your feet, consciously relax the muscles, beginning with the toes.  Sometimes it helps to imagine that an invisible bar is passing over your body, forcing it to relax. 
  • Move your relaxation focus from your feet up the length of your body. 
  • Once you reach your pelvic bone, pause briefly and then focus on relaxing not only the stomache muscles, but your intestines, lungs, and heart also.
  • Spend time on causing your shoulders to relax then move slowly up your neck to the back of your head, over the top of your head and down over your face, ending with your jawbones.
  • At this point, your entire body should be in a state of relaxation.  Imagine every negative emotion sinking into the floor, mat, or mattress.  Continue to breathe slowly, deeply, and evenly.

This next part will be the most difficult of all because you are going to relax your mind.  We are conditioned to be "in charge" of our thoughts and to let our thoughts come naturally will seem foreign at first. 

  • Let every thought sink into the floor, mat, or mattress.  Do not try to force any thoughts, just focus on letting them go.
  • Let your mind "flow".  You might see colors, or objects.  Don't focus or form thoughts on what you are seeing, just let your mind do what it wants to do.  Do not be surprised if you fall asleep during this exercise.


Guided Imagery

This relaxation technique is particularly effective during the workday.  Even five minutes will make a difference in reducing your stress.  If you can, find a quiet place and sit in a chair with both feet on the ground, hands resting on your knees.  Sit straight but do not be stiff.  If you prefer, this may also be done while laying on the floor, a mat, or your bed.  Close your eyes and breathe slowly, deeply, and evenly.

Think about your favorite relaxing place to be.  It might be the beach, the mountains, a park, or a room.  The important thing is to let yourself "be" in a setting where you are relaxed and peaceful.

If your setting is outside, imagine the sun on your face, the smells, and the sounds of nature.  If the setting you have chosen is in a room, imagine the sounds and smells of this room.

Continue to breathe slowly, deeply, and evenly.

Quick Relaxation Breathing

Whether you're in the waiting room waiting for your job interview, or about to experience something new, it's inevitable that you will having some level of anxiety.   In these cases, gaining some level of relaxation is simple, quick, and refreshing. 

1.  Put both feet on the floor, about an inch apart.  Rest your hands in your lap.

2.  Breath in slowly and fill up your diaphram.  This should take about five seconds.

3.  Hold this breath for about three seconds.

4. Let your breath out slowly.

Tell yourself "I can do this" when you breathe in and again when you breathe out.  If you can, do this exercise, complete with self-talk four or five times.