Relaxation Training - A Healthier Mind and Body
Relaxation is thought to benefit conditions such as anxiety, panic, hyperventilation, insomnia, depression, and stress-related physical problems such as tense sore muscles and migraines.
Relaxation techniques tend to fall into two main categories: physical and psychological.
Physical relaxation techniques include developing body awareness of tension in your muscles, body awareness of looseness in your joints, focusing the mind on allowing muscles to relax and biofeedback.
There are several approaches within these and include Tense and Release, The Mitchell Method, Differential Relaxation, Passive Relaxation and Progressive Muscular Relaxation.
Psychological approaches to relaxation include self-awareness, imagery and directed visualisation, self-hypnosis and autogenic techniques.
Relaxed breathing is a crucial part of all relaxation training and is usually used in conjunction with physical and psychological relaxation methods.
Breathing enables oxygen to be carried around the body and also removes toxins from the body when we exhale.
Most people know this, yet we give little time to consider how well we are breathing.
The chronic effects of not breathing effectively include poor concentration, fatigue, irritability, and physical problems that may affect the skin, hair and bones.
Tension and stress often leads to disturbances in the way that we breathe.
In a person who is stressed or tense, breathing disturbances may include shallow breathing, panting, raising the shoulders and uneven breathing, forgetting to breathe and hyperventilation.
These types of breathing styles are often present during the experience of a panic attack.
The switching on of the "flight or fight" stress response disturbs the respiratory system causing breathing to become rapid and shallow.
This is because the body is trying to take in more oxygen conversely, the opposite happens and less oxygen is absorbed.
However, it is possible to turn off the stress response by using relaxed breathing.
Relaxed breathing is slow and even and deep.
It is done through the nose.
Relaxed breathing promotes effective circulation of air around your body.
During relaxation the nervous system slows down and there can be a reduction in excitatory hormones, breathing rate, blood pressure, muscle action and heart rate.
If you have a stressful and hectic lifestyle your nervous system (sympathetic nervous system) may be in a constant state arousal, putting you in a chronic state of tension.
In this state, your body is likely to react to small stresses and strains in the same way as it is programmed to react to real crises.
Repeated episodes of flight or fight responses use up your energy stores.
Learning relaxation skills is a way to break the depletion of your energy.
Relaxation is a skills and it doesn't always come easily.
It is worth learning to relieve stress, combat strain and tiredness and to promote your well-being.
It can also lead to you feeling much more in control of your body and the peacefulness of your mind.