What is it?
Relaxation Techniques are skills that you can learn which help you to feel calm and in control of your body, mind and emotions. These can include progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing techniques, guided imagery and visualisation. These are taught and practiced in an environment that is comfortable and chosen by the participant. Over time they can be incorporated into a range of situations and environments that pose challenges so you learn to feel more in control of your responses and to function at your best when and where you need to.
Biofeedback is used as one way to check how you are relaxing and to help you improve your ability to relax. Simple feedback such as pulse rate, skin temperature and GSR (Galvanic Skin Response - a measure of the sweat glands) can be used to measure how much particular Relaxation Techniques help, as well as providing you with immediate feedback about how well you are calming down your nervous system.
Relaxation Techniques have been shown to improve outcomes for adults and children with a range of issues including anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, headaches, pain, substance use and cravings, and high blood pressure.
How does it work?
Our body’s normal response to stress is to activate the sympathetic nervous system, which causes a range of things to happen - including increased heart rate, increased tension in our muscles, increased rate of breathing - as part of the fight / flight / freeze response. When we experience continued stress these responses may essentially ‘remain switched on’ for long periods, a bit like a light bulb. The bulb that is left on for long periods will blow out before one that is switched off when not needed. Over time if we do not have ways to calm down or ‘switch off’ our sympathetic response our nervous system can feel worn out or ready to ‘blow out’ like the light bulb.
Relaxation Techniques support engagement in meaningful activities, roles and routines and offer coping skills which do not rely on traditional cognitive or talking therapies. They promote healthy self regulation, as well as feeling safe and in control, particularly when experiencing challenging emotions or physical symptoms. Relaxation Techniques may be aimed at helping to self-soothe or calm down, improve sleep, reduce pain and tension, distract from traumatic thoughts, increase feelings of pleasure and confidence. Relaxation Techniques are identified to suit a person’s lifestyle, preferences and needs and are then incorporated into daily activities, routines and plans for times of increased stress. They can also be used to promote nurturing environments for clients, families, carers, teachers and health workers.
What are the potential advantages?
Relaxation Techniques can be relatively easy to learn and quick to provide relief from stress. They also recognise that many people’s preferred mode of feeling better may not involve talking or thinking about issues. Because we all face times of stress, Relaxation Techniques can help everyone understand and master normal bodily responses. They may be particularly helpful for people affected by trauma, anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, pain and headaches, illness, substance use and emotional challenges, and for those without fully developed language and cognition including children and young people, and for people needing to use their cognitive focus for work who need a strategy alongside this in order to function at their best.
How do I learn more?
Mudanca provides consultation, training and supervision for Relaxation Techniques.
Mudanca also has a clinic where we use this approach to support clients.