As you may know relaxation techniques are simple practices you can do to help yourself calm down, cope with stressful situations, and relieve stress. The warning signs are out there: headaches, stomach knots, and racing thoughts. They are all signalling you to take action. The good news is that you can. The resources are here. They can also help you fall asleep, and go to sleep (or back to sleep) faster.
Try out the different tips and techniques listed here and see what works best for you.
1. One Hour to Let Go
This technique allows you to finish your daily tasks and help you get ready for sleep an hour before bedtime. This exercise is done in three 20-minute sessions.
- In the first 20 minutes, take care of any simple tasks, for instance preparing the dishwasher or feeding your cat.
- In the second 20 minutes, do some relaxing activities like talking with family members, doing an additional relaxation technique, or thanking for three things that have happened in your day. Avoid scrolling on your phone though, as the blue light on your screen can inhibit your natural melatonin production and make it harder for you to fall asleep.
- In the last 20 minutes, take care of your personal hygiene. Take a warm bath or shower.
Creating consistent and healthy rituals is really a good way to getting a good night’s sleep each night.
2. Guided Visualisation
Guided Visualisation uses your imagination to engage your senses. This simple exercise can be done on your own, or with the help of a therapist or a guided imagery practitioner. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- What can you see? Look close and far, colours, shapes, and light.
- What can you hear? Hear as many sounds as you can and keep looking for new ones, don’t focus on anyone for too long.
- What can you taste? This is less fun as you are not eating, but try to imagine yourself eating something you love.
- What can you smell? Focus on the smells around you – what are they and how many can you find?
- What can you feel? Send your attention to the parts of your body that have contact with something, like the floor or a chair or table.
Through this technique, you can connect your conscious mind to your unconscious mind and help direct your body and brain towards a desired goal response. Guided imagery helps you relieve stress, reduce feelings of anxiety, and encourage healthy sleep.
3. Self-Hypnosis. If you are only familiar with hypnosis that you might have seen on films, forget about it. Hypnosis is a state of consciousness where someone is intensely focused on an idea, which can make their brain more receptive to new thoughts or ideas. If you want to try it, there are apps or tutorials on YouTube available.
4. Breathing Exercises
You probably know that a deep breath can help you stabilize your breath when you are anxious or worry about something deeply. A breathing exercise can help encourage relaxation, reduce muscle tension, and even lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Repeat this as many times as you need. By practising deep breathing, you reproduce your breathing patterns as you fall asleep. In doing so, you encourage your body to enter that state of restfulness and get itself ready for sleep.
5. Progressive Relaxation
This technique allows you to become more familiar with your body and any of the places you may be holding onto stress or tension.
Progressive relaxation involves working with your body in different areas and each muscle group, first by tensing the muscles and then relaxing them. Usually you start with your feet and go your way up to the top of the head. In this way you will be aware of how the parts of your body feel when they are tense, as well as when they are relaxed. You can use this technique to address any tension or stress you may have.
6. Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra is also known as yogic sleep. It helps the body relax while the mind is alert and awake. The goal is to guide yourself through the main four stages of brain wave activity— beta, alpha, theta, and delta— and achieve a state of being between wakefulness and sleep.
To practice Yoga Nidra, all you need is a comfortable place to lie down. Begin then by lying face-up and set an intention for that session, for example stress relief or relaxation. Watch your body and notice any tension or sensations you feel. You can always find apps or tutorial on the Internet to guide you through this practice.
One study has shown that Yoga Nidra can be a very effective supplemental treatment for insomnia. In participants practicing Yoga Nidra, regular participation improved their sleep quality and reduced their insomnia severity, anxiety symptoms and their stress levels. This improvement even continued 3 months after they began practising.
Remember not to practice any of these relaxation techniques while operating machinery, driving a car, or doing anything that requires your full attention.