Relaxation therapy really had its birth in the 1970’s. While it was around before then, it was during the general renaissance of psychotherapy, the relaxation therapy also got its foothold in popular culture. Relaxation therapy is the use of muscle relaxation to treat somatic problems, the most common of which being high anxiety. Relaxation therapy has also been found very effective in the use of tension headaches and moderately effective in the treatment of migraine headaches.
While relaxation therapy is most commonly used in the treatment of psychopathologies, such as panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), it has been found just effective in the treatment and control of common anxiety issues. These issues include all types of performance anxiety and well as many types of social phobias. Relaxation therapy is also commonly found used in conjunction or as a part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
All of this is said to show that while often overlooked in the world of psychotherapies, relaxation therapy has great benefits and truly belongs along the side of many of the other popular therapies out there today.
The method of relaxation therapies varies greatly. One of the most commonly used is known as biofeedback. Essentially, one follows a list of instructions that run through the entire body, tensing and relaxing each muscle in turn. Not only does this assist in the somatic aspect of relaxation, but it also assists in the mental aspect of stress and relaxation. By consciously focusing on one’s different body parts, and the tensing and relaxing thereof, the mind becomes free of the daily stresses and worries that cloud and inhibit its functioning.
Another common method is that of controlled breathing. It involves deep breathing and is often coupled with the utterance of some type of mantra on the exhale. The great thing about breathing therapy is its functionality; it can be done almost anywhere and in very little time. In conclusion, relaxation therapy, while not often talked about, is a very effective way to treat many of life’s problems, the most common of which being high anxiety.
Stress Relief: Relaxation
Calm Your Mind
Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Then try the following:
- Sit comfortably. Take off your shoes. Turn off distractions like your cell phone or pager. Take a few deep breaths.
- Focus your mind on one peaceful thought, image, or word. You can repeat a saying, a word, a poem, or a prayer. Hold these thoughts for 5 minutes.
- When other thoughts enter your mind, relax and refocus by reminding yourself that this is a time to rest and relax and that you will address your worries later. Go back to your peaceful thought. Let the distracting thoughts fall away.
- When you’re done, stand up slowly and stretch your arms over your head. With practice, this exercise can help you feel restored.
Calm Your Body
With practice, you can use mental cues to help your body relax.
- Sit comfortably and clear your mind. A few deep breaths will help.
- Mentally focus on your left hand and repeat to yourself, “My left-hand feels warm and still.” Keep doing this until your hand does feel warmer and more still.
- Repeat the exercise using your right hand. Then focus on your arms, legs, and feet until your whole body feels relaxed.
- When you’re done, stand up slowly and stretch your arms overhead.
Relaxation Therapy Through Visualization
Visualization is like taking a mental vacation. It frees your mind while keeping your body in a calm state. To get started, picture yourself feeling warm and relaxed. Choose a peaceful setting that appeals to you and fill in the details. If you imagine a tropical beach, listen to the waves on the shore. Feel the sun on your face. Dig your toes in the sand. By using the power of your mind, you can take a soothing break when you need to.
Article from the VA National Library. For more information visit VA.GOV