What Are Relaxation Techniques?
Relaxation techniques include a number of practices such as progressive relaxation, guided imagery, biofeedback, self-hypnosis and deep breathing exercises. The goal is similar in all – to produce the body’s natural relaxation response characterized by slower breathing, lower blood pressure, and a feeling of increased well-being.
Stress management programmes commonly include relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques have also been studied to see whether they might be of value in managing various health problems.
The Importance of Practice
Relaxation techniques are skills, and like other skills, they need practice. People who use relaxation techniques frequently are more likely to benefit from them. Regular, frequent practice is particularly important if you’re using relaxation techniques to help manage a chronic health problem. Continuing use of relaxation techniques is more effective than short-term use.
Relaxation techniques include the following:
Autogenic Training: In autogenic training, you learn to concentrate on the physical sensations of warmth, heaviness and relaxation in different parts of your body.
Biofeedback-assisted Relaxation: Biofeedback techniques measure body functions and give you information about them so that you can learn to control them. Biofeedback-assisted relaxation uses electronic devices to teach you to produce changes in your body that are associated with relaxation, such as reduced muscle tension.
Deep Breathing or Breathing Exercises: This technique involves focusing on taking slow, deep, even breaths.
Guided Imagery: For this technique, people are taught to focus on pleasant images to replace negative or stressful feelings. Guided imagery may be self-directed or led by a practitioner or a recording.
Progressive Relaxation: This technique, also called Jacobson relaxation or progressive muscle relaxation, involves tightening and relaxing various muscle groups. Progressive relaxation is often combined with guided imagery and breathing exercises.
Self-Hypnosis: In self-hypnosis programmes, people are taught to produce the relaxation response when prompted by a phrase or nonverbal cue (called a “suggestion”).
What Science Says About the Safety and Side Effects of Relaxation Techniques
- Relaxation techniques are generally considered safe for healthy people. However, occasionally, people report unpleasant experiences such as increased anxiety, intrusive thoughts or fear of losing control.
- There have been rare reports that certain relaxation techniques might cause or worsen symptoms in people with epilepsy or certain psychiatric conditions or with a history of abuse or trauma. People with heart disease should talk to their healthcare provider before doing progressive muscle relaxation.
More To Consider
- If you have severe or long-lasting symptoms of any kind, see your healthcare provider. You might have a condition that needs to be treated promptly. For example, if depression or anxiety persists, it’s important to seek help from a qualified healthcare professional.
- Tell all your healthcare providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.