Worrying situations and anxious thoughts can make you tense and stressed. One way to combat stress is to activate the body’s natural relaxation response. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation and yoga all are proven ways to relax your body. Fitting these activities into your life can help reduce everyday stress, boost your energy and mood, and improve your mental and physical health.
What to do
Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation teaches you how to relax as well as how to become aware of unwanted muscle tension.
To start with, loosen your clothing, take off your shoes and get comfortable in a quiet place.
1. Take a few minutes to breathe in and out in slow, deep breaths.
2. Shift your attention to your right foot. Take a moment to focus on the way it feels.
3. Slowly tense the muscles in your right foot, squeezing as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10.
4. Relax your foot. Focus on the tension flowing away and how your foot feels as it becomes limp and loose.
5. Stay in this relaxed state for a moment, breathing deeply and slowly.
6. Shift your attention to your left foot. Follow the same sequence of muscle tension and release.
7. Move slowly up through your body, contracting and relaxing the different muscle groups from your feet to your head.
Rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, mindfulness meditation switches the focus to what is happening right now, enabling you to be fully engaged in the present moment. Mindfulness can also be applied to activities such as walking, exercising or eating.
A basic mindfulness exercise:
1. Sit on a straight-backed chair or cross-legged on the floor.
2. Focus on an aspect of your breathing, such as the sensation of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth, or your belly rising and falling.
3. Once you’ve narrowed your concentration in this way, begin to widen your focus. Become aware of sounds, sensations and thoughts.
4. Embrace and consider each thought or sensation without judging it good or bad. If your mind starts to wander, return your focus to your breathing. Then expand your awareness again.
Here is a selection of mindfulness sessions led by Deakin counselling staff on YouTube:
Deakin Counselling Service provides information and resources on topics such as mindfulness and relaxation. Deakin students can also access counsellors by making an appointment online or on campus.