This resource page on relaxation has been brought together by the Manchester Integrated Community Rehabilitation Services.
Its goal is to provide patients, caregivers, and professionals with information and strategies to help them cope with the stresses and anxiety of daily life.
It is an introduction to relaxation and its benefits. Should you need additional support for low mood, depression, or high levels of anxiety, then please contact your GP or healthcare provider to discuss this with them.
The Benefits of Relaxation
Relaxation is perhaps the single most important key to health and well-being. It is the antidote to stress which is known to contribute to the development of disease. When we relax our body has an opportunity to unwind.
Relaxation can also help to:
- Give the heart a rest by slowing down the heart rate.
- Lower your blood pressure.
- Slow your breathing rate, which reduces your need for oxygen.
- Increase the flow of blood to the muscles.
- Decrease any muscle tension.
As a result, many people experience:
- Smoother emotions such as less anger, crying, anxiety and frustration
- More energy
- Enhanced immunity
- Better problem-solving abilities
- Fewer headaches and bodily pain
- Better sleep
- Increased concentration
- Greater efficiency
How is relaxation different to taking it easy?
Muscle tension, as well as contributing to a variety of medical problems, keeps our bodies in a high state of alertness. When your body is tense, it affects your ability to relax. By following a relaxation technique, you formalise and recognise relaxation as a tool that will help you de-stress and cope with life’s frustrations and difficulties. An example is watching television. This may feel like a way to relax, but your muscles and mind are not formally relaxing in this way. Reading a book, doing breathing exercises, going on a walk, listening to tranquil music, or taking a bath can all be ways to allow your body to relax.
Get motivated for relaxation
You must want to relax and recognise that learning a simple relaxation technique will help you. You need to be motivated to allow this to become part of your self-care routine. Each time you do a relaxation session, you will find that your stress levels will begin to fall and your concentration and state of relaxation increase. You take control of your levels of tension and stress.
A skill you can learn
Any skill, such as driving a car or riding a horse, requires a bit of commitment. If you don’t succeed the first time, try again. Giving yourself permission to relax may sound a little strange, but this is the first step you must take.
How often should you formally relax?
You must decide that. It will help if you can practice daily at first so that you can learn the relaxation technique. It does not take long, but you need to dedicate a period of time—at least five minutes for a simple breathing exercise to half an hour, depending on the relaxation activity.
Getting ready to relax
It is essential that you have a quiet, warm, and comfortable place that allows you privacy and peace. No television, music (although very soft relaxing music is acceptable), or interruptions. Do not leave it too late in the day, as you may fall asleep rather than relax. Choose a bed or a comfortable chair that supports your neck, head, and back. Also, wear comfortable clothes.
Try some of our relaxation audio files
Below, we have eight audio relaxation tracks for you to try.
Please read the content of each one carefully before listening to them and carrying out any of the techniques. This is to help ensure the track is right for you. You can also tailor the audio tracks to suit your needs and stop them at any time.
Track 1: Mindful breathing
This audio track provides an introduction on how to focus your attention on your breath, through a guided meditation and to bring awareness of your natural breathing cycle.
Note: This track may not be suitable for people with underlying medical conditions such as Asthma or COPD. Please try it only if you can and stop if you experience any difficulties.
Track 2: Active muscle relaxation
This second audio track talks you through an active muscle relaxation exercise. It can help to reduce stress and anxiety by having you slowly tense and release each muscle in the body. The idea is that it makes you more aware of when you are feeling tense in your day and bring awareness in being able to release this.
Note: This track may not be suitable if you live with chronic pain. Please try it only if you can and stop if you experience any difficulties.
Track 3: Passive muscle relaxation
This track includes an exercise to assist relaxation in allowing your body to deeply rest and let go, through guided meditation, breathing and focusing on different parts of the body to help unwind and calm your thoughts.
Track 4: Ocean beach relaxation
This track is a visualisation exercise that encourages tranquil and calming thoughts. The idea of being in a more serene setting can assist in reducing stress and tension.
Track 5: Floating on a cloud
The floating on a cloud audio track is a calming visualisation session that encourages relaxation through the idea of allowing your body to be as light as a cloud and allow yourself to let go of current troubles and worries, to help calm the mind and embrace relaxation.
Track 6: Forest visualisation
The forest visualisation track is another visual guided session. It can help aid calming thoughts by transporting you into a beautiful forest setting. Nature has many benefits for reducing stress and anxiety, it can calm emotions and boost well-being.
Track 7: Open summer meadow
This audio track is a relaxation visual guide that transports you into a relaxing natural summer meadow setting, where it can influence many positive emotions, such as calmness and joy.
Track 8: Ten-minute body guided scan
Body scanning involves paying attention to different parts of the body and bodily sensations in a gradual sequence from the head, down to the feet. Through this, you can start to notice how you are feeling within and any aches, pains or tension you may have been holding. It heightens awareness to relax these areas and decrease tension.
- Relaxation diary (print double sided) [PDF, 129KB]
- Apps such as Calm or Headspace offer free content for mindfulness and breathing techniques. These can be downloaded from the Google Play or Apple store
- The NHS Every Mind Matters website has lots of useful information and advice on anxiety. Visit nhs.uk/every-mind-matters for details
- The Mindfulness Association is a website that details in person and online meditation course. Some also can be accessed for free