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
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
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.
- Comfortable position
- Quiet environment
- Object of concentration
- Passive attitude.
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
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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
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.