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Relaxation Techniques

There are several benefits of regularly practising relaxation techniques for an individual’s mental health in the here-and-now and they are also known to have a life-long positive impact. Relaxation techniques are known to help university students effectively manage stress, improve mood, concentrate better, and improve confidence among other things.

Like most other skills, relaxation techniques are most effective when practised regularly. Keeping some time aside (even just 10 minutes) for daily practice, especially when you’re feeling relatively better, can help you build a very useful tool for times of distress.

Techniques

Deep breathing / abdominal breathing

Taking conscious, slow, deep breaths and focusing your attention on your body while doing this is one of the easiest ways to feel more relaxed.

How does it work?

Deep breathing helps to get more oxygen in and promotes a sense of calmness.

Helps with:

While this technique can help at pretty much all times, it is especially useful when you’re feeling overwhelmed by difficult emotions or thoughts. Apart from relieving stress, improving mood and overall well-being, it can also help you feel more connected to your body and be present.

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Guided imagery

Guided imagery involves using audio recordings by instructors, recordings by self, or using one’s own imagination to visualize a relaxing scene with as many details as possible that relate to all of our five senses. This scene can be different for different people (like sitting by the ocean or looking down from a mountain top or a walk through the garden).

How does it work?

This imagery technique makes use of the fact that our thoughts can greatly impact the way we feel. When we consciously think of a place that we find soothing, we are more likely to feel relaxed.

Helps with:

It’s known to help relax and feel better quickly as well as distract from what’s causing distress.

Safe place visualization

Safe place visualization is a variation in which you specifically imagine a space in which you feel safe and relaxed. It is especially useful when you’re feeling overwhelmed and helps contain difficult emotions.

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Container Exercise

The Container exercise, another visualization, encourages creating an image of a secure container that can be used to store distressing thoughts, emotions and memories.

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Meditation

Meditation is a practice of building awareness and perspective.

How does it work?

Contrary to what some people believe, meditation isn’t about shutting off your thoughts and feelings but rather learning to observe them without judgment or acting on them and in due course understanding them better.

Helps with:

The benefits of meditation include deep relaxation, help with anxiety, increased feelings of well-being, better concentration, feeling centered among many others.

While there are different types of meditation, some for specific purposes,
three common ones are mentioned below:
Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness emphasizes being completely in the present moment and engaging with whatever it is that you’re doing. It’s about bringing awareness to the ‘here and now’ rather than the past or future. Mindfulness meditation builds on the same and involves maintaining awareness of the present. While beginning, it is natural that you will be distracted by other thoughts that enter your mind. The objective isn’t to ignore or stop uncomfortable thoughts and feelings but to change our response to the same by acknowledging and letting them go without getting caught in them.

A component of mindfulness is present in almost all kinds of meditations.

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Breath awareness meditation

Breath awareness meditation involves using the breath as a focus point. While some prefer simply focusing on slow, deep breaths, others prefer counting their breaths.

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Body scan meditation

A mental scan of sorts, it includes paying attention to different parts of the body and different sensations like pain and discomfort in a sequential way.

How does it work?

While many of us experience headaches, backaches, and other pains as a result of stress, many of us are not completely conscious of it or realize that the two are connected. A body scan meditation helps us become aware of what we’re experiencing in our bodies and better address the same.

Helps with:

It can help to be mindful of and cope with physical manifestations of distress.

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Additionally, spending time in nature, listening/playing music, spending time with animals can also be a great source of relaxation.

Seek help

  • Get your physician’s advice if you have any ongoing health issue, before practising the above.
  • If you have been trying a few of the above techniques and yet do not feel much improvement in your feelings or physical discomfort, please reach out to the Student Wellness Centre for individual support.