Relaxation exercises are a good way of coping with stress or anxiety. Try these exercises and see which suit you. Then you can use the exercise regularly to help you unwind and calm down.
Click on the audio files below to listen online or to download them. In some systems you may have to right click to download or save the files.
- It is best to relax in a quiet environment, away from bright lights and distractions such as a phone.
- Find a comfortable position, lying down or in a soft armchair.
- Wear comfortable, loose clothing.
- Feel free to change position to get more comfortable.
- It usually helps to close your eyes.
- Let your mind drift – don't fight your thoughts or the tapes.
- Let your breathing become slow and deep.
- Stop if you feel very uneasy.
- Don't use these tapes whilst driving.
Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach. As you breathe in through your nose allow your stomach to swell. This means that you are using the diaphragm to breathe in and allowing air right down into your lungs.
Try to keep the movement in your upper chest to a minimum and keep the movement gentle. Slowly and evenly breathe out through your nose. Repeat and get a rhythm going. You are aiming to take 8-12 breaths a minute - breathing in and breathing out again counts as one breath.
Practise this exercise frequently, preferably 1-3 times a day, until you can easily switch to this deep regular breathing whenever you want to. Now you can also use this breathing pattern when you feel anxious, helping you reduce the tension. It is best to learn the technique when you feel less stressed before you use it to calm yourself when you are anxious.
The Mental Health Foundation produce a series of downloadable mental health podcasts to help you reduce stress. The podcasts include brief relaxation and meditation exercises, exercises to help you feel and think more positively, and information and tips on beating stress.
Free meditations from Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World, a mindfulness course developed at Oxford University.
The Multifaith Chaplaincy runs a regular weekly meditation group.