Welcome to my community education page where you’ll find resources on Stress Reduction Techniques. This material is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the assessment and treatment of an appropriately licensed mental health professional.
Progressive Relaxation Exercise MP3 File
This 20 minute guided progressive relaxation exercise is the standard relaxation exercise that I often recommend when my clients want to take a break from their usual daily stressors and relax. You’ll find that this exercise helps you to get into a deep state of relaxation in a fairly short period of time. Getting deeply relaxed, at-will, is a valuable skill. Like any skill, it takes consistent practice to get proficient at this. With consistent practice, once a day for 20 minutes, over a period of a couple of weeks, you’ll find that you’re ability to relax becomes increasingly easy.
Please Read Carefully:
This exercise promotes a deep sense of relaxation, much like the deep state of relaxation you feel prior to going to sleep. So don’t try doing this exercise while you are driving, operating machinery or doing anything that requires an alert response. Be sure to schedule 5 to 10 minutes after doing this progressive relaxation exercise to lightly stretch and have a glass of water to feel fully awake and alert before starting your next activity.
If your body is particularly tired, you might find yourself falling asleep during the course of this exercise. That’s fine. That simply means that your body probably needs the rest. Allow yourself to get the rest you need and then continue from the beginning the next time you use this audio file.
You can do this exercise by sitting upright in a chair with your feet flat on the ground and your hands on your lap. Or, you can lay down on a bed or sofa, with your feet uncrossed and your hands at your side
Abdominal breathing is often referred to as diaphragmatic breathing, belly breathing or bottle breathing. The technique has been around for a couple thousand years. However, only recently have researchers discovered the reason why this technique reduces stress. There are a number of bundles of nerve cells in the area of the abdomen and gut that link up with centers in the brain that govern the relaxation response. When these nerve centers are stimulated by the slow expansion and contraction of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles, the body’s relaxation response gets triggered. https://qz.com/947197/how-deep-breathing-reduces-stress/ see also: http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response
There are quite a number of variations to the technique. This form of abdominal breathing is the one I generally find easiest to learn and teach. Most people who are stressed find that their breathing tends to be relatively shallow, rapid and originates from the expansion and contraction of their chest. This often leads to a state of mild hyperventilation. Practicing abdominal breathing will help break up this stressful breathing pattern and will allow for more comfortable and relaxed breathing.
Don’t try using this technique while you are driving, operating machinery or any other activity where your full attention is required.
You can practice this technique with your eyes open or shut, sitting up or laying down. For the best results use this technique for 3-4 minutes 3-5 times per day. After a couple of weeks, you will find that you will be able to use this technique to bring your overall level of stress down.
Abdominal Breathing Technique
Focus your attention to a spot about three fingerbreadths below your navel. Lightly place your dominant hand there. Take your other hand and lightly place it in the middle of your chest around the same level where your heart is located.
Silently breathe through your nose and take a long deep inhalation. Pause, and hold your breath as long as you comfortably can. Then, silently, let your breath out, pause a couple of seconds and repeat the process. Do this two or three more times. As you are taking these long inhalations, notice what’s happening to your hands. If you are doing to abdominal breathing correctly, your dominant hand should be moving, expanding and contracting quite a bit with your belly while your non-dominant hand should be moving very little. For the rest of the exercise, keep your hands in place so that you can be aware of which parts of your body expands and contracts while you breathe.
Next, allow your breath to be more natural, don’t hold your breath, just keep your breathing long and slow, allowing the area around the abdomen and diaphragm to expand and contract in all six directions as freely and comfortably as you can while you keep the motion of your chest minimal.
If you are having difficulty doing this exercise, take it slow, pretend the air is entering your nostrils and filling your abdomen from the bottom up — just like what happens when you slowly pour water into a bottle. The bottle fills up from the bottom up. That’s why this technique is sometimes called bottle breathing.
Practice this exercise for at least 5 minutes each day consistently for a couple of weeks. If you like, you can practice this exercise 2, 3 or even more times a day to maintain the feeling of relaxation and calm throughout the day.