Peter M. Barach, Ph.D.
Relaxation Techniques
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Some basic points

1. Relaxation techniques are a skill that must be practiced for at least two weeks every day before they can be used to calm down. Without regular practice, they will not work.

2. Relaxation is an automatic response of the human body. You have to allow it to develop. If you push yourself to relax, it will only make you more tense. Remember: "Try easier, not harder."

3. Some relaxation practice sessions will work better than others. This is normal. Don't be a perfectionist about relaxing, because you will only cause yourself to get more tense.

4. Don't worry if you find that your mind wanders now and then during relaxation practice. Just gently steer your thoughts back on course.


How to practice relaxation

1. Go to a comfortable place where you won't be disturbed. Turn on your answering machine and make sure that children or other people in your home are aware that you need ten minutes to yourself according to "doctor's orders." If necessary, you can set your kitchen timer and leave it outside the area where you're practicing so that they know when you will be done.

2. Lie down on a bed or sofa, or recline in a chair. Loosen any tight clothing. Rate your level of tension now, on a 0-10 scale, with 0 being completely relaxed, and 10 being as tense as you can imagine.

3. Place your hand on your abdomen, just below your ribcage. Breathe normally, and not more deeply than usual.

4. When you breathe in, your hand should lift; when you breathe out, your hand should fall.

5. Think of your exhaled breath as a brook flowing out of you and carrying away excess tension and worry.

6. Close your eyes and picture a relaxing scene (pick one that works for you). If you have difficulty getting a mental picture, then skip this step and go to #7.

7. Pick a word that means peace, comfort, serenity, relaxation. It can be any word you want, as long as it's a word that doesn't carry a lot of emotional baggage.

8. Every time you breathe out, think the word to yourself that you chose in #7. Keep doing this for about ten minutes. If your mind wanders away from doing this, just gently steer your thoughts back to the chosen word.

9. Now rate your present level of tension from 0-10.