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  • Francine Habib

5 Techniques for Relaxation

Relaxation can be critical to getting through stressful moments. These tips and ideas show how #relaxation can be incorporated into your daily life. #relaxationtechniques

For many people, relaxing equals lounging in front of the TV at the end of the day. However, TV does little to counter the negative effects of stress. Instead, you must mobilize your body’s own relaxation response. You can do this by using relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga/stretching and many other simple activities. These can reduce everyday stress, bolster your energy and mood, and improve your overall well-being.

Select your technique based on the stress response you are experiencing.'Fight-or-flight' were the primary options our ancestors had when faced with danger. Both responses prepare the body to react physiologically and psychologically, causing dramatic alteration to body chemistry and our emotional state. This automatic reaction occurs even when there is no real threat. Phobias are good examples of this though any perceived crisis will trigger it.

  1. Fight response: If you feel angry or upset, seek out activities that cool and soothe, such as retreat from the stimulus, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, box breathing, or guided imagery.

  2. Flight response: If you become despondent, depressed, or detached, look for techniques that activate and animate you physically such as exercise, massage or yoga.

  3. Freeze response: Some people get stuck in a non-response state under stress. In this case, you must first stimulate yourself into either fight or flight and then apply a suitable technique as above. To this end, select physical techniques that are 'whole body' such as running or dancing to snap out of your state of suspension, mindful of the feeling in your body as you do so.

Step back

Relaxation can be quick. Moving away from something stressful for a few minutes and breaking that state can give you enough distance to reduce anxiety and worry while opening a space for calm to develop.

  • Leave the room your're in, even if you only head to the bathroom for two minutes.

  • Read a book or a magazine, even just one article.

  • If you have the time, have a warm shower or bath.

  • Move into your imagination - remember a time you were enjoying yourself and try to recall all the details that made that experience enjoyable.

Box breathing

Box breathing is a simple, easy, and effective way to calm yourself and enjoy a few minutes of peace. It's also effective for lowering your heart rate and curbing a budding panic attack. You can practice this mindfulness breathing exercise anywhere. I recommend sitting tall in your chair, both feet on the floor or if you can, lie flat on your back with palms up, arms by slightly wide. Then, it’s just four simple breath segments done to a count of four. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.

Box breathing #relaxation
Box breathing can be done anywhere

  1. Inhale 2 3 4

  2. Hold 2 3 4

  3. Exhale 2 3 4

  4. Hold 2 3 4

Focusing on the breath and the count of four, repeat the same process until you feel calmer. For a deeper process, you can increase the count from 4 all the way to 7, as you like.

Active relaxation

Relaxation doesn’t have to mean sitting still, gentle exercise can help too. Go for a walk at your own pace. Even a few minutes of walking can help you feel relaxed. Also stretching eases tension. Take your time and focus on the sensations in your stretching limbs, and the release of tension.

Progressive muscle relaxation

This is a two-step procedure in which you methodically tense and relax different muscles groups, familiarizing yourself to what tension and relaxation feel like in different regions of the body. This heightens awareness of muscular tension triggered by stress and (with practice) your body and mind learn to relax in response. People with anxiety are often so tense during the day, they don’t even recognize what being relaxed feels like. Combined with deep breathing this technique can have a powerful effect.

Initially, practice this exercise twice daily until you get the hang of it and verify if feels effective for you. The more you practice, the quicker the relaxation response will kick in. It is best to first practice it when you are calm. It will then be easier to do when feeling anxious. It may take some practice at first, but try not to tense muscles other than those intended.

Be careful. Don't hurt yourself while tensing your muscles. You should never feel pain while completing this exercise. Make the muscle tension deliberate, yet gentle. If you have problems with pulled muscles, broken bones, or any medical issues that would hinder physical activity, consult your doctor first.

Suggested procedure:

  • Set aside about 15 minutes to complete this exercise.

  • Find a place where you can complete it without being disturbed.

  • Loosen clothing, take off your shoes, and get comfortable.

  • Take a few minutes to breathe in and out in slow, deep breaths.

  • When you’re ready, shift your attention to your right foot.

  • Take a moment to focus on the way it feels.

  • Slowly tense the muscles in your right foot, squeezing as tightly as you can.

  • Hold for a count of 10.

  • Relax your foot.

  • Focus on the tension flowing away and how your foot feels as it becomes limp and loose.

  • Stay in this relaxed state for a moment, breathing deeply and slowly.

  • Shift your attention to your left foot.

  • Follow the same sequence of muscle tension and release.

  • Move slowly up through your body, contracting and relaxing the different muscle groups.

Guided imagery

Guided imagery, sometimes called visualisation, is the skill of imagining yourself in a peaceful and safe environment that makes you relaxed and happy. The deeper you can sink into the imagery, the calmer your mind and body will become. This is not easily achieved and requires dedication which many people don't often give it. It's not as simple as imagining yourself somewhere else and instantly feeling better.


Nevertheless, if you'd like to try it, there are three crucial points to note:

Practice: Initially, you might feel silly, focusing on the method you're trying to implement and whether it is working usually prevents it from working. What's required is daily practice till it becomes second nature. Only if you give it that level of dedication will it be successful.

It's not just an image: You need to incorporate all your other senses into building the place you're visualizing. What does it smell and sound like? Is there sun on your skin or a cool breeze? The more you can amalgamate all of your senses, the more effective your session will be.

Transformation: When creating your image you will experience stressful thoughts on occasion. In guided imagery, you develop a way to transform those stressful thoughts into something physical in your peaceful place that you can get rid of, and then imagine it being taken away.

There are several components towards making it work successfully, and it's extremely important to commit to it every day for a significant amount of time before you'll start to notice results. Here is a walk-through guide.

There is no single relaxation technique that is best for everyone and these few are the tip of the iceberg. You might discover that alternating/combining different techniques provides the best outcome.

For more information about managing #stress and #anxiety, please contact me at or visit

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