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Proven Relaxation Techniques

Updated on March 22, 2010

How can you help yourself relax?

Relaxation techniques

Stuck in traffic, on the train, or under pressure at work? What can you do to relax and unwind?

Top tips

  • Take some deep breaths whenever you need to calm down
  • Take a few minutes to picture your perfect relaxation scene
  • Go for a walk - get some oxygen into your lungs and clear your head
  • Aromatherapy - some smells can help you relax or concentrate
  • Massage - it can improve your blood flow and circulation
  • Have a beauty treatment, such as manicure, pedicure, haircut or styling
  • Acupuncture - can be used to treat all kinds of ailments
  • Catch up with friends - talking can often help diffuse stress

Breathing techniques

Deep breathing is one of the simplest techniques you can use to relax. It can help slow down your heart rate and decrease your blood pressure.

In a stressful situation, slowing your breathing can help return your body to a less stressed condition.

Spend time thinking about your breathing. Think about which parts of your body you are using to breathe. Is it your chest or your stomach? If you are deep breathing you should be using your stomach as well as your chest.

Consider following this train of thought: "I breathe in by inflating first the stomach, then the chest, then the shoulders; slowly I breathe out lowering my shoulders, emptying my chest, and pulling in my stomach." Repeat several times, slowly1.

Meditation, mantras and prayers

Meditation is a way of focusing on deeper thoughts and feelings. The goal is to empty your mind, free yourself from distractions, and let the concerns from your life drop away.

All you need is a quiet place where you won't be disturbed. Sit in a position you can hold for at least 15 minutes, such as cross legged, the lotus position, or kneeling. Many people begin by concentrating their attention on a word or sound - a mantra. A sound, such as "Om," is used to focus the concentration.

Different forms of meditation concentrate on different things - where you are, what you are experiencing this moment, a single word or image. Meditation introduces you to your internal feelings so you know yourself better.

Research has found that yoga mantras and saying rosary prayers have beneficial effects on cardiovascular rhythms. They slow the rate of breathing, which improves cardiovascular and respiratory function, oxygenation of the blood, and exercise tolerance. It also improves calmness and well-being2.


Many people find yoga a great way of relaxing. It focuses on suppleness, strength, stamina, and concentration. You can practice by yourself, but it is recommended that you learn poses and techniques with a registered yoga practitioner first.


Visualization or positive mental imagery can be used to prepare for competitive events or to help you relax. Take five minutes, ideally somewhere you won't be disturbed, and close your eyes. Think of a place or an event you find relaxing and imagine what it looks like. Think about the sounds, colors, smells, tastes and textures. Transport yourself to another place and forget about your worries.

Deep breathing can also help you prepare for stressful events. Rehearse the kind of performance required - physically, mentally and emotionally. Think about what you have to do and use all your senses to imagine what it will be like. Picture yourself overcoming any obstacles or problems, and finding solutions. This will help you prepare for the event and be more relaxed when it occurs.


  1. Perreaut-Pierre E. "La gestion mentale du stress pout la performance sportive" (Managing stress management for sports performance) Ed. Amphora. 2000
  2. Bernardi L, Sleight P, Bandinelli G, Cencetti S, Fattorini L, Wdowczyc-Szulc J et. al. Effect of rosary prayer and yoga mantras on autonomic cardiovascular rhythms: comparative study. British Medical Journal. 2001; 323: 1446-9


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