relaxation technique you need to tryHealth & Wellness

5-Minute Relaxation Technique You Need to Try

Do you ever feel tense during the day or have trouble sleeping at night? If so, you are not alone. For many, relaxation may consist of scrolling endlessly on your phone through social media. But this does little to reduce the damaging health effects of chronic stress and can actually harm the quality of your sleep. On the other hand, relaxation exercises are designed to help your body let go of tension, clear your mind, and cause you to fall asleep faster while experiencing deeper and better quality sleep. This article will provide an overview of one of the most effective relaxation techniques: Progressive Muscle Relaxation.

Don’t really feel like reading? Then simply sit back and play this 10-minute video, in which Dr. Chi gives a brief overview of the physiologic stress response before guiding you through a soothing session of relaxation.

Overview of the Physiologic Stress Response

The Stress Response 

The physiologic stress response is what happens when you are feeling anxious, tense, or stressed out. The “fight-or-flight” or stress response is a reaction to perceived danger, which causes your body to experience the following:

  • Pounding and racing heartrate
  • Fast and shallow breathing
  • Rising blood pressure
  • Tight and tensed muscles
  • Anxiety and inability to think clearly

The Relaxation Response

In opposition to the physiologic stress response is the relaxation response. This is what happens when you do relaxation techniques. This response puts your body at rest and allows you to experience the following:

  • Slow and steady heartrate
  • Deeper and more even breaths
  • Normalized and stable blood pressure
  • Loosened and relaxed muscles
  • Mental clarity due to improved oxygen delivery to the brain

Related Article: Effects of Stress on Your Body & Health: What to Know

Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique

Tips for Successful Relaxation

  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing.
  • Find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted for at least 15 minutes.
  • Turn the lights down.
  • If there is unavoidable noise, put on some background music or nature sounds.
  • Turn off the phone and give yourself permission to devote some time to self-care.
  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, with legs uncrossed and extended.
  • Try each relaxation technique for at least a few days to give yourself a chance to find the one that is right for you.
  • Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t achieve a given result the first few times.
  • Remember that you are practicing a skill – like playing the piano. The more you practice, the more effective your relaxation skills become.

How to Do Progressive Muscle Relaxation by Yourself

The progressive muscle relaxation technique takes less than 10 minutes and works by increasing your awareness of the muscle tension that occurs during stress, and then forcing your body to release that pent-up tension.

  1. Sit back or lie down in a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Take a few slow, deep breaths.
  2. Beginning at your face, notice how your muscles feel. Are they tense, or relaxed?
  3. Tightly tense the muscles in your face by squeezing your eyes shut and tightening your lips.
  4. Hold this for 5-10 seconds.
  5. Now, release the tension from your face, allowing it to relax. Notice how relaxed they feel.
  6. Move down your body slowly and repeat this process with each group of muscles, one at a time:
    • Neck
    • Shoulders
    • Chest
    • Arms
    • Hands
    • Back
    • Abdomen
    • Hips/Buttocks
    • Thighs
    • Lower Legs
    • Feet
    • Toes

Try this a couple of times and notice what a difference it makes in your day. Bookmark this page and revisit whenever you feel tense. 

*The information presented in this post can be found in Being Empowered for a Healthy Heart: A personal guide to taking control of your health while living with chronic conditions, by Phoebe Chi, MD, MPH.

Phoebe Chi, MD
Phoebe Chi, MD

As a physician educator and the managing editor of Health + Inspiration, Dr. Chi aims to inspire, inform, and empower the reader community. She is the author of Being Empowered for a Healthy Heart: A personal guide to taking control of your health while living with chronic conditions, a poetry-infused health guide, and founder of Pendants for a Cause, a nonprofit organization with the purpose of raising funds to fight illness, provide care, and bring awareness to medically vulnerable populations around the world.

Pendants for a Cause Charity Jewelry

28 replies »

  1. Really enjoyed the article and think children should learn different kinds of relaxation techniques in school! It’s so important in this fast developing world! 🙏🙏🙏

  2. Hi Puppydoc. Always been so laid back I can fall asleep standing up! Thank you for calling by so nice to hear from you again hope all is well. Thank you for liking “Taylor!” Be Safe #TheFoureyedPoet.

  3. I absolutely love these techniques! I began doing them about a year or so ago for anxiety and they have helped tremendously. It’s always great to be reminded of just how powerful a few minutes of relaxation can be. Awesome post! 😃

  4. I am trying to learn to live with PTSI without meds (which leave me feeling like a zombie). In time, I will most definitely be incorporating these techniques in the daily course of action. Thank you so much.

  5. Semi-Tantric yoga breathing techniques – usually at full recline with hands folded over solar plexus – which helps monitor both inhalation and exhalation and gives them something to do while I count – taking in a slowly measured full inhale by nasal passage until the chest cavity fills and pushes up the belly with a diaphragmic distension (is that a term?) during a long)ish) four count. Hold breath for another four count and then rapidly exhale via the mouth, sometimes adding a slight push to the plexus to help expel all air, hold another four count, then breath again. Repeat repeatedly (although sometimes I extend the counts – in, hold – and out – by increments to as many as 15 counts. A great stress reliever and substitute nap/sleep. Been doing that off-and-on since the late 1960s. I will swipe our Stress Management postingts and share.

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