Stress and Pain Management Educatio
 

Relaxation Techniques
(also known as Mind/Body Self-Regulatory Skills)

People tell others to relax, but not effectively how to do it. Unfortunately the word "relax" has been abused. Shouted as an order, guilt fully implored or pleadingly requested, "RELAX!" can increase tension.

Learning to relax is an art. Regular practice can yield many benefits. Be gentle and keep pointed to your goal. Begin with 10-20 minutes. Practice any of the techniques below once or twice a day. If one doesn't work try another and another. One can work for you!

Relaxation techniques are exercises done that reverse the physical stress response. The belly softens, the breathing deepens, muscles ease, digestion improves, the heart slows and blood pressure lowers. Pain can be decreased or the duration of a severe pain flare-up can be lessened. It is important to note that tranquilizing medications and sleeping pills should only be used temporarily, under medical supervision. Relaxation techniques involve concentration or mindfulness and differ from day dreaming and watching TV. There have been 2,500 research studies suggesting the effectiveness of mind/body self-regulatory skills.

The four key common elements to learning most of the relaxation techniques

  • Comfortable position
  • Quiet environment
  • Object of concentration
  • Passive attitude.
Work with what you are presented with in life. Relaxation can even be learned in the hospital! It is a great place to practice it.

Effective simple relaxation practice examples:

The Relaxation Response: Focus on a word or phrase that has meaning to you. As the mind wanders notice "thinking," and kindly and gently return to the phrase or word. I encourage people to combine this with soft abdominal breathing, or an awareness of the breath at the tip of the nose. See exercise below.
Biofeedback: (BFB) Uses machine feedback that helps a person learn that he or she is relaxing. BFB is available for in and outpatients at Duke. It trains you to systematically relax your muscles.
Prayer: Most religions teach this practice. It can bring physical and mental benefits as well as the spiritual ones.
Meditation: A practice that emphasizes soul awareness while sitting, standing, moving about or lying down. Concentration points like the breath, repetitive thought or prayer, physical sensation, sound or God or Higher Power are utilized to quiet the mind and open the heart.
Visualization or imagery: Uses your imagination to bring on a calm peaceful feeling.
Positive thinking or affirmations: Use calming thoughts to reverse the body's stress response.
Guided relaxation, nature and music tapes or CD's are available.
Lamaze and Bradley breathing and point concentration: Help to release the body's natural pain medicine and promote muscle relaxation.
Progressive muscle relaxation: Slowly go through the body -head to feet or feet to head- relaxing muscle groups. With illness or chronic pain, unless supervised by a skillful teacher do not tense then relax muscles. Simply soften and relax them. Let them be warm and heavy.
 

Let's try a relaxation technique...
A simple exercise begins with abdominal breathing. Sit or lie comfortably and let your abdomen gently rise with the inhale and fall with the exhale. With sitting it is easier to stay awake! Repeat "Easy" with the inhale and "does it" with the exhale, silently to yourself. Each time the mind wanders, make a mental note "thinking, thinking" and gently return. Even if the mind is very restless and must wander, be patient, returning again and again. This quiets the mind and brings on the positive physical effects.


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Copyright 2008 Manage Stress Now Updated: 09/20/10