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Being able to relax is an important part of feeling well both physically and mentally. Relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing can calm you down when you're feeling stressed but learning to relax and finding time to practice it every day will help you to feel generally less stressed. Taking 10 minutes each day to try a relaxation technique will mean that you will begin to feel calmer and you will be less likely to react to stressful situation and more able to deal with daily hassles.

Read this information and experiment with the different techniques. Not all of the techniques will be beneficial for everybody and some people may experience more benefit than others but most people will gain something from learning how to relax.
7-11 Breathing
This exercise is designed to regulate your breathing  when your stress levels begin to rise.
  1. Assume a comfortable position if possible and close your eyes if you wish.
  2. Take a slow breath in to the count of 7.
  3. Hold for a few seconds.
  4. Release your breath out slowly to the count of 11.
  5. Hold for a few seconds.
  6. Repeat as necessary until you feel yourself calm down.

'Brown paper bag' breathing

This breathing technique is based on the old technique of using a brown paper bag to slow down your breathing and reduce the excessive amount of oxygen you may have taken into your body during a panic attack.

  1. Cover your mouth and nose by cupping your hand over them as soon as you feel that you are beginning to overbreathe.
  2. Using the 7-11 breathing technique (above) breathe in and out 3 times.
  3. Uncover your mouth for a few seconds.
  4. Recover your mouth and repeat as neccessary until your breathing has returned to a more normal rhythym and rate.

Body Scan

This exercise can be used before a stretching or tensing exercise, or used as a method of relaxation in its own right.

  1. Assume a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  2. Take a few long, slow, deep breaths.
  3. Focus your mind on how your body feels and scan up from your feet to your head identifying areas that are causing you discomfort.
  4. Taking each area of discomfort, starting with the lowest point first:
  5. Take a long, deep breath to the count of 7.
  6. Focus on the area of discomfort.
  7. Exhale to the count of 11 in a slow and controlled manner, imagining your discomfort flowing out of your body with the exhaled air.
  8. Repeat for each area of discomfort as many times as neccessary to feel an improvement before moving on to the next.


Stretching exercise help to keep muscles toned and supple, preventing aches and reducing tension.

  1. For a full body stretch lay down and stretch your back as far as you can without discomfort.
  2. Keeping the back stretched, stretch your legs, feet and toes; then your arms hands and fingers; then your neck, head and face until your body is at full stretch.
  3. Hold for the count of 5.
  4. And relax!
  5. Repeat as necessary.

Progressive muscular relaxation

You might find it useful to do a body scan exercise before this.

  1. Assume a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  2. Take several deep, slow breaths.
  3. Focus your mind on each of the following body parts in turn tensing them as hard as you can before you relax them.
  • Feet
  • Ankles
  • Lower legs
  • Knees
  • Upper legs
  • Bottom
  • Lower back
  • Lower abdomen
  • Sides of torso
  • Tummy and back
  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Upper arms
  • Lower arms
  • Wrists and hands
  • Neck
  • Head and face

When you have completed this technique, enjoy the feeling of relaxtion for a few moments before bringing yourself slowly back round.

Meditative Stretching

This technique can be extremely relaxing and is particularly useful for those who have mobility problems that may restrict their ability to do other relaxation techniques.

  1. Assume a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  2. Imagine your whole body is curled up in ball; your spine is curled round and contracted; your legs are bent up to your tummy; your arms are pulled in tightly towards your chest; your head is bent right down.
  3. Focus on this thought for a few moments.
  4. Now imagine yourself beginning to uncurl; your spine straightens and becomes longer and longer; your legs, ankles and feet uncurl; then your arms, wrists and hands; and your head lifts and your neck extends.
  5. Focus on this feeling for a few moments.
  6. Now imagine your body, arms, legs and neck are becoming longer and longer, flowing into the distance.
  7. Enjoy the feeling of relaxation for a few moments before slowly and gently bringing yourself back round.

Guided Meditation

The purpose of this technique is to distract us from our negative thoughts and to transport us away from them. To practice this meditation you will first need to devise your own guide, perhaps incorporating your favourite places, people, smells, sounds, sensations and emotions to create an idyllic place for you to travel to.


Assume a comfortable position and take a few slow, deep breaths.
Transport yourself to your idyllic place - you could try recording yourself describing it and then play the recording back to yourself when you are trying to relax.
Experience all the smells, sounds and other sensations that make up youe idyllic place and try to 'lose' yourself completely by forgetting your current surroundings and distractions.
You should aim to stay in this place for 5-10 minutes, although when you start practising this technique it will be hard to manage more than a few moments before your thoughts egin to wander. If this should happen merely try to guide your thoughts back to your idyllic scene.



Changing Minds, Mobile X3 Park Campus, University of Northampton, Boughton Green Road, Northampton, NN2 6AL