Imperial College Health Centre

Central London Clinical Commissioning Group

Relaxation Strategies

Meditation

There are various kinds of meditation techniques around. Generally, they induce an altered state which is normally relaxing and beneficial. However, anyone with a mental illness, prone to confusion, depersonalisation (feeling disconnected or detached from one’s body and thoughts), etc. should seek medical advice before trying out such techniques.

  • Transcendental Meditation
    TM is a subtle, effortless technique that requires no involvement with an organization or changes to lifestyle or beliefs.
  • Benson’s “Relaxation Response” A more mechanical technique to induce relaxation.
    • 1 or 2 times a day, sit comfortably with eyes closed for 15-20 minutes
    • become aware of your breathing and breathe easily and naturally
    • on every out breath mentally repeat your mantra
      – a sound or a word like “relax”, “one” or “om”
    • maintain a passive, accepting attitude
      – have no goals for this time other than to comfortably follow the procedure
    • don’t try to resist other thoughts or strain to think of your mantra clearly
    • when aware of having been distracted by other thoughts, simply return your attention back to the mantra

 

Imagery

Practice the following:

  • Sit comfortably with eyes closed
  • Notice bodily sensations and as you breathe out let go of any tension by imaging tension flowing out through your hands and feet.
  • Enjoy a sensation of warmth and heaviness or lightness going through the body in waves of relaxation
  • Imagine the body filling up with healing white or blue light
  • Let the light radiate around you and transport you to a real or imaginary place – your ideal relaxation sanctuary. Vividly imagine being there, absorbing it with all your senses
    Feel the sense of absolute peacefulness and calm, for some minutes. Gradually bring yourself back to your present situation, with a lingering sense of calmness and inner radiance
  • Do this once a day in a leisurely way – and, for a boost, touch base with your sanctuary at odd moments

 

Muscular Relaxation To help distinguish between tension and relaxation, exaggerate and feel the tension (e.g. clenching fists; tightly closing eyes; shrugging shoulders) for a slow count of five and then let go and enjoy the sense of release.

You can work systematically through the different muscle groups to achieve full body relaxation. Use the phrase “All New Exercises Must Take Longer” to help remember each of the body parts you need to work:
All – arms & hands
New – neck & shoulders
Exercises – eye-brows, eye-lids & forehead
Must – mouth, lips, tongue & throat
Take – trunk-chest, abdomen & hips
Longer – legs
Remember to spend more time on the release and relaxation than on the tensing!

 

During an exam

  • Pull in stomach muscles tightly, hold for a count of 5 and then release and relax
  • Clench fist tightly; hold; relax
  • Extend fingers; hold; relax
  • Grasp below seat of chair, pull up; hold; relax
  • Press elbows tightly into side of body; hold; relax
  • Push foot hard into floor; hold; relax
  • Relax briefly with dangling arms, or resting head in arms, on desk

 

Exercise & Mental Rehearsal

Exercise

Vigorous exercise can burn off tension and counterbalance the passivity of studying and relaxation. Taking a brisk walk or doing some simple yoga postures can also be effective at reducing stress.

Mental Rehearsal

Imagine yourself “doing” the dreaded thing – for example, taking an exam – and visualize yourself emotionally coping.

Mental rehearsal can help clarify the task in terms of steps and can help desensitize you to the fear through imaginary exposure.