Relaxation Exercises

Relaxation

This is my personal series of relaxation exercises that I perform shortly before bed in order to help me sleep, or when I feel like I'm spinning out of control. These relaxation exercises help me to feel centered and strong.

Before You Begin ...

20 Minutes per Day

I know that you're busy and are usually only able to find 5 minutes to yourself if you lock yourself in the bathroom. Please remember that the more you take care of yourself, the better equipped you are to take care of others. Taking the time to devote to relaxation exercises may make you more centered, productive, and enable you get a better night's sleep.

Quiet Place with No Distractions

If you've got kids, let them know that Mommy or Daddy is in time out or wait until you put them to bed. You need your own space with no demands for 20 minutes each day. Even the most demanding partner will admit that this isn't a lot to ask.

Practice at Regular Times Each Day

Timeless Clock

Whether you choose morning, afternoon or evening, be consistent. You deserve this time to yourself each and every day.

I choose to perform these relaxation exercises just before bed and find that I fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep more soundly throughout the night.

Make the Decision

Choose not to worry about what you should be doing, what your partner is doing or what the kids are doing. Choose not to feel guilty for taking this time for yourself. Choose not to worry about what tomorrow brings. This is your time to be focused on and in the now.

Relaxation Exercises

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Muscles

Before performing progressive muscle relaxation, get comfortable. Remove your shoes, loosen or remove any tight clothing. Turn off the TV and tune out any distractions. Focus completely on your body and how it feels. I like to begin with my forehead and visualize the tension leaving through my toes.

Don't forget these muscle groups:

  • Forehead - wrinkle your forehead for 5 seconds then release
  • Eyes - close your eyes as tightly as you can for 5 seconds then release
  • Lips - purse your lips for 5 seconds then release
  • Jaw - clench your jaw for 5 seconds then release
  • Shoulders - hold your shoulders in an exaggerated shrug for 5 seconds then release
  • Biceps - show off your guns for 5 seconds then relax
  • Forearms - tense up your forearm muscles for 5 seconds then relax
  • Hands - spread your hands for 5 seconds then relax
  • Fingers - flex your fingers for 5 seconds then relax
  • Back - arch your back for 5 seconds then release
  • Hips - spread your hips for 5 seconds then release
  • Buttocks - tighten your buttocks muscles for 5 seconds, then relax
  • Thighs - tense your thigh muscles for 5 seconds then release
  • Calves - tighten you calf muscles for 5 seconds then relax
  • Feet - tense up your feet for 5 seconds then release
  • Toes - spread those toes for 5 seconds then release

Tense for 5 seconds, then release each set of muscles. You may need to repeat several times for certain muscle groups. Keep going until you feel the tension and stress leave your body.


10 to 1 Countdown

10-to-1 Countdown

This relaxation exercise involves counting down numbers out loud or in your mind and tying those numbers to areas of your body. I believe this technique is best performed when laying down, wearing loose-fitting clothing or pajamas.

10. My mind is relaxing. All of the thoughts racing through my mind have been quieted. I am completely focused on how my body feels from the inside.

9.  My head is relaxing. My forehead is smooth and tension-free. My jaw is relaxed. My eyes are lightly closed.

8. My neck is relaxing. The stress and worry from the day is flowing out of my body.

7. My shoulders are relaxing. My shoulders are not tensed and are pressing down into my body.

6. My arms are relaxing. I am not fidgeting. My arms are calm and still.

5. My chest is relaxing. I am breathing deeply and evenly, aware of each breath that comes into and leaves my body. With each exhale, more stress and worry from the day is flowing out of my body. I am aware of my own heartbeat and how powerful it is.

4. My core is relaxing. My stomach muscles are loose and relaxed. I am not tensing my stomach to make it flatter. I am letting the tension and stress that has gathered in y back pour from my body like a faucet. I am aware of my core and appreciate how strong it is and how it supports me.

3. My rear end is relaxing. I have no tight muscles and feel stress and tension being released.

2. My legs are relaxing. My thighs, knees and calves are melting into relaxation. Nothing is tense or filled with stress. My legs are free and loose and happy.

1. My feet are relaxing. All of the stress and tension from the rest of my body has flowed out my big toes like a spigot. My body is totally relaxed and free of stress.

If any part of your body still feels tense, repeat the entire process starting with #10.


Deep Breathing

For these relaxation exercises, focus on the act of breathing. Feel your lungs, ribs and chest expand as you take a deep breath in. Hold that breath for 5 seconds and concentrate on the fullness you feel in your torso. Visualize the oxygen in you lungs being absorbed and carried away in your blood. Slowly begin releasing your breath, using a slow and steady exhale to empty your lungs.

Deep breathing works best for me when I'm super-stressed and need a few minutes to reclaim my cool.

Visualization

Visualization

Clear your mind as best you can for these relaxation exercises. Dam up the stream of would haves, could haves and should haves. Begin by focusing on a pleasant image, thought or word. Let yourself be absorbed by the feelings that come from the image, thought or word.

Once you are filled with feelings of contentment and happiness, begin by visualizing that which you are grateful for. This may include your health, your home, your family, your friends, your career, etc. Take your time and spend at least 5 minutes actively being grateful for that which you have.

After you have filled yourself with gratefulness, begin visualizing your goals as if they've already been met. Imagine yourself in you dream job, exactly what you'll be doing, and exactly what it looks and feels like. Feel exactly as if your goal was met. If your goal is to have a child, physically rock that fussing baby and kiss her forehead to calm her. If your goal is a new sports car, sit as if you would in the car. Use your hands to steer and your feet for gas and brake. Create the entire goal in your mind, down to the minute details, and then immerse yourself in the vision.

After you have soaked up all of the triumphant feelings, don't forget to focus on gratefulness for another 5 minutes - but this time, be grateful for obtaining your goal. This may take some practice, but training yourself to be grateful for that which has not yet happened is possible and powerful.


Back or Foot Rub

If and only if you have a supportive partner, enlist his/her services. Let your partner know, gently, that this is your time but you would appreciate some help relaxing. Would (s)he be willing to trade back or foot rubs? Maybe you take turns massaging each other on alternating nights. Maybe you rub each others' feet while visualizing. Only incorporate massage if you can feel totally relaxed with your partner. If you are having relationship problems, please perform your relaxation exercises in private.


Meditation is also a great way to relax.

For more on Deep Breathing, try Breathing Exercises.

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