Writted by: Alyssa Wence, MA
Many types of relaxation training can help reduce stress levels, enhance relaxation states,
and improve overall well-being. Below are some relaxation training techniques that I use duringntherapy sessions to help my clients slow down their thinking, focus on their breathing, andnpromote positive imagery.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) involves individuals creating tension by contracting
their muscles and progressively releasing them until muscle relaxation is achieved. We focus on tensing and relaxing one area of the body at a time, which promotes being mindfulness by being aware of the sensations you are feeling in your body.
Example of a Part of a Progressive Muscle Relaxation Script:
Sit back and lie down in a comfortable position. Shut your eyes if you feel comfortable
doing so. Begin by taking a deep breath and noticing the feeling of air filling your lungs. Hold your breath for a few seconds. Release the breath slowly and let the tension leave your body.
Now, move your attention to your feet. Begin to tense your feet by curling your toes and
the arch of your foot. Hold onto the tension and notice what it feels like. Release the tension in your foot. Now notice the feeling of relaxation.
Next, begin to focus on your lower leg. Tense the muscles in your calves. Hold them
tightly and pay attention to the feeling of tension. Release the tension from your lower legs.
Again, notice the feeling of relaxation. Remember to continue taking deep breaths.
(To be continued, progressively tensing and relaxing different muscles)
Deep breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) helps promote relaxation by integrating the
body and mind. Deep breathing involves slowly inhaling and exhaling, contracting the
diaphragm. This helps to reduce stress and anxiety by amplifying blood oxygen levels,
massaging the inner organs near the abdomen, and stimulating the vagus nerve.
Example of a Deep Breathing Exercise:
Inhale. Breathe in slowly through your nose for 4 seconds.
Pause. Hold the air in your lungs for 4 seconds.
Exhale. Breathe out slowly through your mouth for 6 seconds. (Your exhalation can be slowed down by puckering your lips, like you’re breathing through a straw).
Repeat. Practice for at least 2 minutes, preferably 5-10 minutes.
Guided imagery helps ease stress and anxiety by replacing disturbing memories with
positive mental imagery. This instructional guidance helps to invoke sensory experiences and behavioral and psychological responses. The instructional guidance also allows individuals to be more engaged in the exercise, which helps gain greater perceptual detail of the images generated and creates a more realistic mental representation during the relaxation exercise.
Example of a Part of a Guided Imagery Script:
Allow yourself to settle into a comfortable position, and as you are ready, become aware
of your breath. Imagine that when you breath in, you’re breathing in fresh energy and oxygen that’s flowing through your whole body. And with every breath out, you let go of a little bit of tension, a little bit of discomfort, and a little distraction. Breath in relaxation… and breath out tension.
Now begin to imagine yourself going to a place that’s peaceful for you… beautiful, and
safe. This might have been a place that you’ve been to in your life, or it might be a place in your imagination. Allow yourself to take a look around. Notice the colors, shapes, and things that you see there. Breathe in… and breathe out…
Imagine hearing any sounds in this special, peaceful place. Or maybe it’s just very quiet.
Breathe in… and breath out…
Notice the temperature and weather around you. It may feel warm or cool. Is the sun out
or is there a lot of clouds? It can be anything that feels right for you, in this moment. Breathe
in… and breathe out…
(To be continued)
Toussaint, L., Nguyen, Q. A., Roettger, C., Dixon, K., Offenbächer, M., Kohls, N.,
Hirsch, J., & Sirois, F. (2021). Effectiveness of progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing,
and guided imagery in promoting psychological and physiological states of relaxation. Evidence-
Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2021, 1–8.