- 6 Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
- Deep Breathing Exercises
- Belly Breathing
- Breath Focus
- 4-7-8 Approach
- Visualization or Guided Imagery
- Self-Massage Technique
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Body Scan Meditation
- Yoga and Tai Chi
- Final Word
- Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief — HelpGuide.org
- Relaxation technique #1: Deep breathing
- How to practice deep breathing
- #2: Progressive muscle relaxation
- Practicing progressive muscle relaxation
- #3: Body scan meditation
- #4: Visualization
- Practicing visualization
- #5: Self-massage
- #6: Mindfulness meditation
- #7: Rhythmic movement and mindful exercise
- For maximum stress relief, add mindfulness to your workout
- #8: Yoga and tai chi
- Tai chi
- Tips for starting a relaxation practice
- Relaxation Techniques for Children With Serious Illness
- Techniques That Can Help
- Focused Breathing
- Relaxation Response Method
- Guided Imagery
- Music Therapy
- Energy Therapy
- Massage Therapy
- Learn More
6 Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety are common for most people as they are a natural part of a fight or flight response that prepares the body to deal with danger. It’s a perfectly normal reaction to threatening situations, which helped humans in prehistoric times survive threats natural disasters or animal attacks.
Today, we rarely deal with physical dangers, but challenges of our daily life can also evoke a stress response and make us feel anxious. Sometimes, stress and anxiety may become so overwhelming that they take a toll on our well-being and negatively affect our lifestyle.
But while we can’t completely avoid stressful situations, we can develop healthier ways of responding to the sources of stress. There are special stress management techniques that you can learn and practice regularly to quickly calm your mind and your body.
You can use these relaxation techniques when you are stressed or worried because they address your body’s stress response and invoke a relaxation response – a state of profound rest. If you regularly practice any of them just a few minutes a day, you’ll be able to reduce stress and relieve anxiety when a need arises.
Here are effective relaxation techniques supported by research. They are simple but provide many health benefits.
Deep Breathing Exercises
Deep breathing exercises can help calm stress, anxiety, and panic in just a few minutes. They are easy to learn because you simply focus on your breathing, and you can do them anywhere. You’ll benefit a lot if you practice them regularly as a part of your daily routine. You may begin with just a few minutes a day, and when you get used to it, you can increase your time.
There are many different breathing exercises that can help you relax, including belly breathing, 4-7-8 approach, breath focus, lion’s breath, and more. Deep breathing is also a part of many relaxation practices, and you can combine it with other relaxing techniques, for example, listening to soothing music and aromatherapy.
This technique is also called diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, and paced respiration. Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange and helps strengthen your diaphragm, a large muscle that sits below the lungs. It also promotes relaxation, reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body.
Here is how to do it:
- Sit in a comfortable position or lie on your back on the floor or your bed with your knees bent and your head on a pillow. You may also use a pillow under your knees for support.
- Put one hand on your upper chest and the other on your stomach, just below your rib cage.
- Start with observing your breath as you inhale and exhale.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose. Let the air move in deeply so that you can feel your stomach rise, pressing into your hand. The hand on your chest should remain still.
- Purse your lips and exhale slowly. Tighten your abdominal muscles and let them fall inward.
Most people begin by repeating these steps several times and working up to 5 to 10 minutes. You can practice belly breathing several times a day.
This exercise helps you concentrate on slow, deep breathing so you can disengage from distracting thoughts and sensations. While you practice this deep breathing technique, you should focus on words and phrases or use a picture in your mind that can help you feel more relaxed.
- Find a quiet place to sit or lie down and close your eyes – it will be easier to maintain your focus.
- Relax and first take a normal breath, and then try a deep, slow breath.
- Alternate between normal and deep breaths several times. Pay attention to how you feel and notice any differences in sensations between normal breathing and deep breathing.
- Now, start practicing breath focus by combining deep breathing with helpful imagery and a focus word or phrase that will support relaxation.
- As you breathe in, you can imagine that the air is filled with a sense of peace and calm, and try to feel it throughout your body. And you can say in your mind, “I’m inhaling peace and calm.”
- As you breathe out, you can imagine that the air washes away your stress and tension. You can say to yourself, “I’m exhaling stress and tension.”
This exercise is also called a relaxing breath and involves taking a long, deep breath in and out. It forces the mind and body to focus on regulating the breath and not on worries. It’s best to do this exercise when you sit in a comfortable position with your back straight.
You need to place the tip of the tongue on the tissue right behind your top front teeth and keep it in the place throughout the practice as you follow this breathing pattern:
- Exhale through your mouth
- Breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 second
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds
- Exhale forcefully through the mouth, making a whoosh sound, for 8 seconds.
You should repeat this cycle up to 4 times.
Visualization or Guided Imagery
This effective stress management technique is also known as guided meditation. It’s easy to learn and pleasant to practice. Visualization involves forming mental images of peaceful, calming places or situations to help you relax and focus. The goal is to quickly calm your body and mind through relaxation and mindfulness.
Close your eyes and use diaphragmatic breathing to get into a relaxed state. Then create in your mind your ideal spot. You can choose any setting that you find soothing.
This place can be real or imaginary, but it should be a place that has some personal significance and where you would want to return if you have the need to relax.
For example, you may imagine your favorite childhood spot, a tropical beach, a beautiful waterfall, or a lush forest.
You should imagine your happy place in as much detail as you can to make it real. Use all your senses to picture it as vividly as you can.
As you explore your restful place, you should try to imagine what you can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. Imagine yourself completely relaxing in this place. Try to focus on your sensations and think positive thoughts.
When you are ready to return to reality, count to three and open your eyes.
You can practice guided imagery on your own or use an app or audio recording to guide you through a peaceful scene. You can also work with a professional therapist to master this practice.
Self-massage is also a great way to relax. You may be already aware that professional massage in the health club or spa has the ability to reduce stress and tension. However, it is also possible to enjoy the relaxing benefits of massage in the comfort of your home, thanks to self-massage.
Consider spending a few minutes massaging yourself, whether at your desk or on the couch. You could even use scented lotion or aromatic oil to enhance relaxation. It is also possible to combine self-massage with other techniques, including deep breathing and mindfulness.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This stress management technique is the idea that mental calmness is a natural result of physical relaxation. It can be easily learned by nearly anyone.
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is generally used along with other CBT techniques, but you can also practice it alone. It will give you a greater sense of control over your body’s fight or flight response.
This exercise can help you relax when you are feeling anxious, relieve insomnia, and reduce such physical problems as stomachaches and headaches.
It involves tightening and relaxing all the muscle groups in your body, one by one. The goal is to release tension from your muscles.
With regular practice, you can learn to recognize the difference between muscle tension and relaxation and become more aware of physical sensations. That will help you relax more easily.
You can do this exercise together with deep breathing for additional stress relief.
You should find a comfortable place to sit or lie down and close your eyes. Start with taking a few deep, slow breaths. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
Then practice tightening and relaxing each muscle group. Tense your muscles for about 5 seconds and relax for 10-20 seconds. Then repeat.
Continue to breathe slowly and evenly and enjoy how the feeling of relaxation is sweeping through your body.
Move in a sequence that works for you. You can start with your toes and progressively work your way up to your neck and head. Or you may start with your forehead and move down to your toes.
Body Scan Meditation
This relaxation technique is one of the most effective ways to begin a mindfulness meditation practice.
It blends breath focus with progressive muscle relaxation and helps boost your awareness of the mind-body connection.
A body scan trains you to notice any sensations you are experiencing without judgment and be more accepting. This is especially helpful when you are experiencing unpleasant emotions or thoughts.
- You can perform this practice while comfortably lying down, sitting, or in other postures.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breathing for 1-2 minutes until you start to feel relaxed.
- Then mindfully scan your body for sensations of tension, pain, or anything the ordinary.
- Start from your head and slowly and deliberately move your attention downward to different parts of your body.
- Focus on each body part for about 20-30 seconds. Breathe deeply and explore your sensations.
- Spend some time noticing how your entire body feels and slowly open your eyes.
At first, it might feel as if you don’t feel anything, but with regular practice, you’ll begin to notice new sensations. They may be pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant. Whatever they are, just note them and don’t try to react.
Yoga and Tai Chi
Tai chi and yoga have been around for thousands of years. They are ancient arts that blend rhythmic breathing with flowing movements or a series of postures. They also offer a mental focus that helps distract you from racing thoughts.
Yoga has roots in ancient Indian philosophy. It can be a perfect remedy to stress-related problems and improves flexibility, strength, balance, and overall physical and mental health. In fact, it works across multiple systems in your body at one time. Postures and movements are combined with focused breathing and meditation.
You can learn yoga by hiring a private teacher, attending group classes, or following video instructions. If you incorporate yoga in your life in a consistent way, you are ly to receive long-term physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits.
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese practice that is sometimes described as “meditation in motion.” First, it was practiced for self-defense, but now, it’s mainly used to improve overall health.
It’s a very accessible form of exercise that involves a series of slow, graceful movements that can be done even by people who are shape.
But its meditative aspects that teach stress management are also important.
Tai chi is a holistic approach that addresses people’s overall well-being and is safe for people of all ages. The practice provides a moderate aerobic workout, teaches body awareness, and encourages relaxation that helps relieve stress.
In this article, we’ve provided you with easy tips on how to reduce stress and relieve anxiety using popular relaxation techniques.
They are skills that require regular practice to perfect and feel the benefits, so you should set aside at least 15 minutes a day for them and be patient with yourself.
Try to always practice at the same time to establish a habit.
You should choose a special quiet place where you can sit (or lie down) comfortably and won’t be disturbed. It’s better to make a note of how relaxed you were before and after the exercises to see if it’s helped. You may share this information with your therapist.
Remember that stress management is not all-size-fits-all. You may experiment with different relaxation techniques to see which of them works best for you. Also, keep in mind that relaxation techniques tend to be more effective when incorporated into general self-care and wellness strategies.
You shouldn’t rely on relaxation techniques alone to treat chronic mental health conditions such as anxiety or panic disorder. Consider getting therapy on Calmerry. Our therapists can help you learn to identify and manage the factors that contribute to your mental health issues and teach you effective coping skills.
Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief — HelpGuide.org
For many of us, relaxation means flopping on the couch and zoning out in front of the TV at the end of a stressful day. But this does little to reduce the damaging effects of stress.
Rather, you need to activate your body’s natural relaxation response, a state of deep rest that puts the brakes on stress, slows your breathing and heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and brings your body and mind back into balance.
You can do this by practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, rhythmic exercise, yoga, or tai chi.
While you may choose to pay for a professional massage or acupuncture session, for example, most relaxation techniques can be done on your own or with the aid of a free audio download or inexpensive smartphone app. It’s important to remember, however, that there is no single relaxation technique that works for everyone. We’re all different.
The right technique is the one that resonates with you, fits your lifestyle, and is able to focus your mind to elicit the relaxation response. That means it may require some trial and error to find the technique (or techniques) that work best for you.
Once you do, regular practice can help reduce everyday stress and anxiety, improve your sleep, boost your energy and mood, and improve your overall health and wellbeing.
Relaxation technique #1: Deep breathing
With its focus on full, cleansing breaths, deep breathing is a simple yet powerful relaxation technique. It’s easy to learn, can be practiced almost anywhere, and provides a quick way to get your stress levels in check.
Deep breathing is the cornerstone of many other relaxation practices, too, and can be combined with other relaxing elements such as aromatherapy and music.
While apps and audio downloads can guide you through the process, all you really need is a few minutes and a place to sit quietly or stretch out.
How to practice deep breathing
- Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
- Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
- Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.
If you find it difficult breathing from your abdomen while sitting up, try lying down.
Put a small book on your stomach, and breathe so that the book rises as you inhale and falls as you exhale.
Listen to HelpGuide’s deep breathing meditation.
#2: Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a two-step process in which you systematically tense and relax different muscle groups in the body.
With regular practice, it gives you an intimate familiarity with what tension—as well as complete relaxation—feels in different parts of your body.
This can help you react to the first signs of the muscular tension that accompanies stress. And as your body relaxes, so will your mind.
Progressive muscle relaxation can be combined with deep breathing for additional stress relief.
Practicing progressive muscle relaxation
Consult with your doctor first if you have a history of muscle spasms, back problems, or other serious injuries that may be aggravated by tensing muscles.
Start at your feet and work your way up to your face, trying to only tense those muscles intended.
- Loosen clothing, take off your shoes, and get comfortable.
- Take a few minutes to breathe in and out in slow, deep breaths.
- When you’re ready, shift your attention to your right foot. Take a moment to focus on the way it feels.
- Slowly tense the muscles in your right foot, squeezing as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10.
- Relax your foot. Focus on the tension flowing away and how your foot feels as it becomes limp and loose.
- Stay in this relaxed state for a moment, breathing deeply and slowly.
- Shift your attention to your left foot. Follow the same sequence of muscle tension and release.
- Move slowly up through your body, contracting and relaxing the different muscle groups.
- It may take some practice at first, but try not to tense muscles other than those intended.
Listen to HelpGuide’s progressive muscle relaxation meditation.
#3: Body scan meditation
This is a type of meditation that that focuses your attention on various parts of your body. progressive muscle relaxation, you start with your feet and work your way up. But instead of tensing and relaxing muscles, you simply focus on the way each part of your body feels, without labeling the sensations as either “good” or “bad”.
- Lie on your back, legs uncrossed, arms relaxed at your sides, eyes open or closed. Focus on your breathing for about two minutes until you start to feel relaxed.
- Turn your focus to the toes of your right foot. Notice any sensations you feel while continuing to also focus on your breathing. Imagine each deep breath flowing to your toes. Remain focused on this area for three to five seconds (or more).
- Move your focus to the sole of your right foot. Tune in to any sensations you feel in that part of your body and imagine each breath flowing from the sole of your foot. After one or two minutes, move your focus to your right ankle and repeat. Move to your calf, knee, thigh, hip, and then repeat the sequence for your left leg. From there, move up the torso, through the lower back and abdomen, the upper back and chest, and the shoulders. Pay close attention to any area of the body that causes you pain or discomfort.
- After completing the body scan, relax for a while in silence and stillness, noting how your body feels. Then slowly open your eyes and stretch, if necessary.
Listen to HelpGuide’s body scan meditation.
Visualization, or guided imagery, is a variation on traditional meditation that involves imagining a scene in which you feel at peace, free to let go of all tension and anxiety. Choose whatever setting is most calming to you, whether it’s a tropical beach, a favorite childhood spot, or a quiet wooded glen.
You can practice visualization on your own or with an app or audio download to guide you through the imagery. You can also choose to do your visualization in silence or use listening aids, such as soothing music or a sound machine or a recording that matches your chosen setting: the sound of ocean waves if you’ve chosen a beach, for example.
Close your eyes and imagine your restful place. Picture it as vividly as you can: everything you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. Just “looking” at it in your mind’s eye you would a photograph is not enough. Visualization works best if you incorporate as many sensory details as possible. For example, if you are thinking about a dock on a quiet lake:
- See the sun setting over the water
- Hear the birds singing
- Smell the pine trees
- Feel the cool water on your bare feet
- Taste the fresh, clean air
Enjoy the feeling of your worries drifting away as you slowly explore your restful place. When you are ready, gently open your eyes and come back to the present.
Don’t worry if you sometimes zone out or lose track of where you are during a visualization session. This is normal.
You may also experience feelings of heaviness in your limbs, muscle twitches, or yawning. Again, these are normal responses.
Listen to HelpGuide’s guided imagery meditation.
You’re probably already aware how much a professional massage at a spa or health club can help reduce stress, relieve pain, and ease muscle tension. What you may not be aware of is that you can experience some of the same benefits at home or work by practicing self-massage, or trading massages with a loved one.
Try taking a few minutes to massage yourself at your desk between tasks, on the couch at the end of a hectic day, or in bed to help you unwind before sleep. To enhance relaxation, you can use aromatic oil, scented lotion, or combine self-message with mindfulness or deep breathing techniques.
#6: Mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness has become extremely popular in recent years, garnering headlines and endorsements from celebrities, business leaders, and psychologists a. So, what is mindfulness? Rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, mindfulness switches your focus to what’s happening right now, enabling you to be fully engaged in the present moment.
Meditations that cultivate mindfulness have long been used to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions.
Some of these practices bring you into the present by focusing your attention on a single repetitive action, such as your breathing or a few repeated words.
Other forms of mindfulness meditation encourage you to follow and then release internal thoughts or sensations. Mindfulness can also be applied to activities such as walking, exercising, or eating.
Using mindfulness to stay focused on the present might seem straightforward, but it takes practice to reap all the benefits. When you first start practicing, you’ll ly find that your focus keeps wandering back to your worries or regrets. But don’t get disheartened.
Each time you draw your focus back to the present, you’re strengthening a new mental habit that can help you break free of fretting about the past or stressing about the future.
Using an app or audio download can also help focus your attention, especially when you’re starting out.
Listen to HelpGuide’s mindful breathing meditation.
#7: Rhythmic movement and mindful exercise
The idea of exercising may not sound particularly soothing, but rhythmic exercise that gets you into a flow of repetitive movement can produce the relaxation response. Examples include:
For maximum stress relief, add mindfulness to your workout
While simply engaging in rhythmic exercise will help you relieve stress, adding a mindfulness component can benefit you even more.
As with meditation, mindful exercise requires being fully engaged in the present moment, paying attention to how your body feels right now, rather than your daily worries or concerns. Instead of zoning out or staring at a TV as you exercise, focus on the sensations in your limbs and how your breathing complements your movement.
If you’re walking or running, for example, focus on the sensation of your feet touching the ground, the rhythm of your breath, and the feeling of the wind against your face.
If you’re resistance training, focus on coordinating your breathing with your movements and pay attention to how your body feels as you raise and lower the weights.
And when your mind wanders to other thoughts, gently return your focus to your breathing and movement.
#8: Yoga and tai chi
Yoga involves a series of both moving and stationary poses, combined with deep breathing. As well as reducing anxiety and stress, yoga can also improve flexibility, strength, balance, and stamina.
Since injuries can happen when yoga is practiced incorrectly, it’s best to learn by attending group classes, hiring a private teacher, or at least following video instructions.
Once you’ve learned the basics, you can practice alone or with others, tailoring your practice as you see fit.
If you’re unsure whether a specific yoga class is appropriate for stress relief, call the studio or ask the teacher.
If you’ve seen a group of people in the park slowly moving in synch, you’ve ly witnessed tai chi. Tai chi is a self-paced series of slow, flowing body movements. By focusing your mind on the movements and your breathing, you keep your attention on the present, which clears the mind and leads to a relaxed state.
Tai chi is a safe, low-impact option for people of all ages and fitness levels, including older adults and those recovering from injuries. As with yoga, it’s best learned in a class or from a private instructor. Once you’ve learned the basics, you can practice alone or with others.
Tips for starting a relaxation practice
Learning the basics of these relaxation techniques isn’t difficult, but it takes regular practice to truly harness their stress-relieving power. Try setting aside at least 10 to 20 minutes a day for your relaxation practice.
Set aside time in your daily schedule. If possible, schedule a set time once or twice a day for your practice. If your schedule is already packed, try meditating while commuting on the bus or train, taking a yoga or tai chi break at lunchtime, or practicing mindful walking while exercising your dog.
Make use of smartphone apps and other aids. Many people find that smartphone apps or audio downloads can be useful in guiding them through different relaxation practices, establishing a regular routine, and keeping track of progress.
Expect ups and downs. Sometimes it can take time and practice to start reaping the full rewards of relaxation techniques such as meditation. The more you stick with it, the sooner the results will come. If you skip a few days or even a few weeks, don’t get discouraged. Just get started again and slowly build up to your old momentum.
Authors: Lawrence Robinson, Robert Segal, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Melinda Smith, M.A.
Last updated: September 2020
Relaxation Techniques for Children With Serious Illness
Nothing about serious illness is easy, but one of the hardest things for parents may be watching their child struggle with pain, stress, and anxiety.
Despite what we may sometimes tell ourselves, stress is not just «in our heads.
» The stress response — also called the flight-or-fight response — causes a rush of adrenaline and other hormones that trigger physical changes in the body: your heart races, your blood pressure rises, you breathe faster, your digestion slows, and your pupils dilate. Chronic stress takes a toll on the body as well as the mind.
The good news is that using a variety of mind-body relaxation techniques can help short-circuit the flight-or-fight response.
Relaxation techniques not only can lessen a child's physical symptoms, they can also help him or her (and you!) regain a sense of control and confidence over a situation, helping everyone find moments of peace amid the chaos and isolation of illness and medical treatment.
Techniques That Can Help
These techniques are designed for parents and kids to practice together. Most can be done in a few minutes wherever you are, whether that's a quiet place or a crowded hospital, without any special tools.
However, it's important to note that these techniques should be used as a complement to conventional medical treatment for anxiety and pain, and not as a replacement — doing so could do a child more harm than good.
If your child is suffering from anxiety or pain, ask your doctor what can be done to help. And always check with your health care team to make sure that your child's symptoms are related to stress and not a different medical problem.
Pain and stress can leave a child breathing faster and shallower, or even holding his or her breath — all of which can actually keep the stress response going and heighten the intensity of pain. Paying attention to breathing can help calm the mind.
Try this exercise with your child:
- Step 1. Sit or lie comfortably and put one hand on your stomach, the other on your chest.
- Step 2. Close your eyes and try to relax all of your muscles, one by one, from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. Don't forget to relax the muscles in your face, neck, and jaw; you may be storing a lot of tension there.
- Step 3. Breathe deeply and regularly for several minutes— and try to make your stomach (abdomen) rise and fall, not only your chest. This will help you deepen your breath.
- Step 4. Pay attention to each breath; try to turn all your thoughts to each inhale … exhale. As you breathe out, imagine the tension leaving your body with the breath.
At first, it may be difficult for you and your child to focus on breathing. Distracting thoughts are normal — but rather than following a thought and letting it consume you, try to let it drift your mind, a balloon.
Relaxation Response Method
This technique asks a person to focus on breathing and quiet the mind to create a sense of calmness and well-being.
And by repeating a word, phrase, or prayer during the exercise, the mind is able to stay focused more easily. When practicing this, it's normal for thoughts to pop into the mind.
Tell your child to disregard them and just focus on the word or phrase he or she is repeating.
Resembling an Eastern form of meditation, this technique — called the relaxation response — was popularized and put into Western practice in the 1970s by Herbert Benson, MD. To elicit the relaxation response, follow Steps 1-4, and then:
- Step 5. Pick a focus word, phrase, sound, or prayer such as «om,» «one,» or «peace.»
- Step 6. As you breathe, say the focus word silently to yourself as you exhale.
- Step 7. Continue for 5 or 10 minutes, ideally building up to 10 to 20 minutes for each session.
- Step 8. When you're finished, do not stand up immediately. Continue sitting quietly for a bit, letting other thoughts back into your mind. Open your eyes, but stay sitting for another minute before getting up.
When practicing, go at your own pace. Don't feel you have to achieve a deep level of relaxation right away. Often, feelings of calmness and well-being are felt later on or at times of crisis.
To achieve ongoing results, try to practice the technique with your child once or twice daily, but not within 2 hours after eating, as digestion can interfere with the relaxation response. Some people find that the best time to meditate is first thing in the morning, before breakfast.
A growing body of medical research suggests that imagery also can help lessen pain and anxiety, and promote positive feelings. In fact, studies have found that people who practice guided imagery during chemotherapy feel more relaxed and positive about their chemo experience than those who don't use the technique.
Guided imagery (also called «visualization») often works best when a person starts with a few minutes of focused breathing. Here's how it works: With eyes closed, imagine a safe place or a location you once visited that brought a feeling of contentment and joy. Hold on to the image of that place for a while, trying to picture all the sights and sounds:
- What does the ground beneath you feel ? Is it weather warm or a chilly? Is there a breeze?
- Are there any animal noises in the distance, or nature sounds ( running water) that you could hear?
Getting as descriptive as possible about this safe place will help you and your child get «into» the moment and feel relaxed.
Some children find this exercise more helpful when they are «guided» by a parent, another live instructor, or with a guided imagery CD or DVD.
As with meditation, distracting thoughts will float into the mind as you practice guided imagery. Acknowledge these thoughts, and then let them drift away while you move your attention back to the images in your mind and sounds you hear.
Just as pleasant images can calm the mind and soothe the body, so can music. Kids who undergo music therapy — the research-based use of music to lift moods and promote mental and physical well-being — have been found to have lowered heart rates and blood pressure, and improved anxiety.
Many hospitals provide a licensed, trained music therapist who can work individually with kids to develop a customized treatment plan that engages them in:
- active play that includes listening to music
- dancing or moving the body to music
- playing instruments or improvising on them
- singing along
To participate in music therapy, your child doesn't need to read music or have any special musical talents. And the best part is that you can practice music therapy at home. By choosing music that both you and your child enjoy — and setting aside time to listen, dance, sing, or experiment with an instrument together — you, too, can teach your child the joys of music.
Energy therapy is the understanding that there are electrical currents in all living organisms.
This produces magnetic energy fields that extend around and beyond the body, just the Earth's electromagnetic field.
Proponents of this therapy believe that gentle, light touch or above-the-body hand movements can redirect energy to places where it's needed in an effort to bring the body into «balance» or harmony.
Energy therapy continues to be scientifically explored and, and findings note that it promotes healing as it helps kids feel more relaxed, less anxious, and less bothered by pain. It also empowers them to feel they are in control and can do something to help themselves feel better.
Many different types of energy therapy are practiced all over the world, including Healing Touch, therapeutic touch, Reiki and Johrei (from Japan), and Qi gong (from China).
In the United States, many hospitals offer Healing Touch as a complement to standard treatments for anxiety, pain, or other medical problems, meaning that they are used with the therapies and/or medications that the medical teams order.
And some nurses, doctors, or other health care providers are certified in Healing Touch techniques through a required national certification examination. Healing Touch is the only energy therapy with this requirement. They may be able to offer this service to your child, and can teach you how to practice Healing Touch at home.
If you to take a more hands-on approach to soothing and comforting your child, you might prefer massage. The benefits of massage are well known, offering muscle relaxation and increased blood flow and oxygen to body parts to help alleviate stress and ease pain.
But some types of massage are not recommended for certain types of conditions, so check with your doctor first before massaging your child or taking your child to a massage therapist.
The most common forms of massage used in complementary medicine include:
- Swedish massage. Therapists use their hands to move muscles and joints with long, gliding strokes, tapping movements, friction (made by moving hands quickly) and kneading. Massage oils may be used, so be sure to tell the therapist about any allergies or sensitivities to ingredients that your child may have.
- Deep-tissue massage. Many of the same techniques are used as in Swedish massage, only therapists apply more pressure to specific areas, concentrating on the deeper layers of muscles and connective tissue.
- Trigger-point massage. deep-tissue massage, this technique massages deeper layers of tissue, focusing on what therapists call trigger points («knots») within the connective tissue or muscles that are usually painful when pressed.
Many hospitals have massage therapists on hand to offer massages to both patients and their family members, so find out if massage therapy is offered at your hospital.
These are just a few of the many methods designed to help patients and families cope with pain and anxiety. Many people find that yoga, stretching, or light, gentle exercise also helps to quiet the mind and soothe the body.
To learn more about relaxation techniques, talk to your child's health care team.