“Just relax”. How many times have you been told to do just that? Easier said than done? For many of us with a busy lifestyle, relaxation is a skill like any other; it needs to be learned, and practised regularly.
The key to relaxation lies in managing the survival mechanism that activates when we are under threat to help us fight the threat or run away. It’s ‘fight or flight’ that causes our heart to beat faster, our breathing to speed up, muscles to contract and all of the other symptoms we associate with stress and anxiety. Of course, we need to be able to react quickly in an emergency, but fight or flight is often activated when we don’t need it. Furthermore, it can be switched on simply by thinking about something we find stressful.
Relaxation techniques work by releasing physical tension or by harnessing the mind and imagination to work for us, not against us. Oasis-Talk runs regular workshops in relaxation (see our workshops). In the meantime, here are a few suggestions to get you started…
Make a space for relaxation
Schedule a relaxation break every day; it will help you to recharge your batteries, improve your effectiveness and approach life’s challenges in a calmer frame of mind. Even five or ten minutes is a good start. But if you find it hard to set the time aside…
What gets in the way?
Take a piece of paper and write down all the things that stop you from relaxingthen see if you can come up with some solutions. For example, if you’re too busy, could you delegate some of your tasks to someone else? Do you need to reorganise your time a little, turn off the TV, switch off your phone?
Check in with yourself
The sooner you become aware of tension building, the easier it will be to do something about it. There’s advice on this in our self-help information on mindfulness.
Take a breath… and then another
Rest your hands on your tummy. Can you feel the rising and falling motion as you breathe? Focus your attention here, and simply follow each in-breath and out-breath for a few minutes
Encourage your body and mind to go into relax mode by imagining you are passing through a door into a calm, peaceful and relaxing place. What can you see? What can you hear, smell? Imagine how the sun or breeze feels on your skin. Stay here as long as you like, then step back through the door and allow the image to fade from your mind.