Relaxation exercises

Relaxation refocuses your attention to help clear your mind, feel calm, slow down your body and importantly, it can help you to put things in perspective.

Relax, it's important!

The first step to learning to relax is to understand what happens to you when you are stressed.

  • Do your muscles get tense? 
  • Do you feel cranky? 
  • Do you experience headaches?
  • Do you have trouble sleeping?

Then you need to work out what type of relaxation works for you. Some people need lots of exercise to help reduce stress but others prefer something quiet, like yoga or meditation. Practising relaxation regularly can really help you to cope with whatever stress comes your way.

Some relaxation techniques are also ‘portable’ (eg. deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation) because you can do them wherever you are. This can come in handy at work, school or when you are out with your mates. You can also download some relaxation apps (like Smiling Mind) to your phone or tablet so you can use them anytime.

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Tips for learning to relax

  • Learning to relax can take a bit of practise but the more you practise the more helpful the relaxation technique will be.
  • Be careful not to stress about practising relaxation – there is no point get stressed about managing your stress!

Need some help?

If you are finding it difficult to cope with anxiety and stress there are people who can help. Talk to your GP, a counsellor or another trusted adult. There are also lots of online and phone supports available 24 hours a day.

Deep breathing

Sit with your legs uncrossed, good posture, and place your hands on your thighs. Close your eyes. Inhale deeply through your nose into your abdomen for a long count of five seconds (your chest should move only a little). Hold for a long count of two seconds, and then breathe out slowly through your mouth for a long count of five. Repeat for 10 to 15 cycles. Stop briefly if you feel light-headed.
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Meditation 

Sit comfortably in a quiet spot. Close your eyes if you like. Breathe in through your nose. As you exhale, say the word ‘One’ silently to yourself. You might like to focus on the sound you make exhaling (like the Sanskrit word ‘Om’). Or, if your eyes are open, focus on an object, exploring its colours and textures. Spend at least 10 minutes meditating, but stay focused.

Progressive muscle relaxation

Loosen any tight clothing, sit or lie comfortably, and close your eyes. Tense different muscles of your body as much as you can for at least a count of 10 (never so tight or long that it hurts!). Then, slowly release the tension and allow the muscle to relax. Let that feeling of relaxation flow through your body. Start at your feet and move up.

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Mandala circles

Bring a pencil/s and paper to a quiet place. Draw a large circle. Now, be prepared to keep drawing for at least 10 minutes. Start filling the circle with whatever you like – spirals, patterns, running-writing – but don’t let the pencil leave the paper unless you’re changing colours.

Creative visualisation

Sit comfortably in a quiet place. Breathe gently through your nose, eyes closed. Picture in your mind the place you like a forest, the beach, a field. Try and smell the aromas, taste the air, hear the sounds. Feel your body relax. Continue for at least 10 minutes.

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Yoga

Yoga comes from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘to unite’; it is. While yoga has strong connections with religions like Buddhism and Sufism, its exercises are a great way to improve health, and can be done by anyone of any age and fitness.  It is often best to join a yoga class to ensure you learn the right techniques.