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Relaxation

Stress and distress are associated with physiological arousal and activation of the sympathetic nervous system. This is the ‘fight or flight’ branch of the nervous system and its operation is designed to activate the individual to prepare for or to take action. In some clinical conditions normal physiological arousal leads to distress because it is misappraised. For example, in patients who panic, normal body sensations are misappraised in a manner indicating that catastrophe is imminent. In patients who struggle with affect regulation, physical arousal may be experienced as particularly aversive and associated with beliefs that its continuation is intolerable. Many people find that relaxation training is a helpful clinical intervention. Relaxation by breathing retraining or progressive muscle relaxation activates the parasympathetic nervous system—sometimes known as the ‘rest and digest’ system. Within compassion-focused therapy (CFT) it is quite reasonably proposed that ‘the mind sits in the body’ giving coherent rationale for soothing techniques to be used in order to help patients to access different social mentalities (‘mindsets’). Read more

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23 of 23 resources

Grounding Techniques Menu

Dissociation can be described as a shift of a person’s attention away from the present moment. When working with traumatized clients, this shift oft ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/grounding-techniques-menu

Fight Or Flight Response

The fight or flight response is an automatic physiological reaction to an event that is perceived as stressful or frightening. The perception of threa ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/fight-or-flight-response

Grounding Techniques

Individuals who have experienced trama often find it difficult to stay within the 'window of tolerance'. Grounding techniques (which can be sensory/pe ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/grounding-techniques

Audio Collection: Psychology Tools For Relaxation

The Psychology Tools For Relaxation Audio Collection is designed to help anyone experiencing stress or heightened physiological arousal. The audio col ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/psychology-tools-for-relaxation-audio-collection

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive relaxation training originated in the 1930’s as a treatment for tension and anxiety. Edmund Jacobsen developed a systematic and lengthy ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/progressive-muscle-relaxation

Relaxed Breathing

Practising Relaxed Breathing serves to reduce physiological arousal and can be an excellent grounding technique. This client information handout descr ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/relaxed-breathing

Guidelines For Better Sleep

Some sleep experts recommend that sleep hygiene issues be attended to as one component of treatment for poor sleep. This sleep hygiene information wor ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/guidelines-for-better-sleep

How Breathing Affects Feelings

Normal, anxious, and exercise breathing have significant effects upon our physiology and our emotions. This information handout explains the physiolog ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/how-breathing-affects-feelings

Mastery Of Your Anxiety And Worry (Second Edition): Workbook

Mastery Of Your Anxiety And Worry comes in two volumes. This page is for the Workbook. Click on the following link to access the accompanying Therapis ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/mastery-of-your-anxiety-and-worry-workbook

Autonomic Nervous System

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) automatically regulates the function of body systems outside of voluntary control. The Autonomic Nervous System han ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/autonomic-nervous-system

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (Audio)

Progressive Muscle Relaxation is an audio exercise from the Psychology Tools For Overcoming PTSD Audio Collection. It is designed to help anyone exper ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/progressive-muscle-relaxation-audio

Mastery Of Your Anxiety And Worry (Second Edition): Therapist Guide

Mastery Of Your Anxiety And Worry comes in two volumes. This page is for the Therapist Guide. Click on the following link to access the accompanying W ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/mastery-of-your-anxiety-and-worry-therapist-guide

Fight or Flight (CYP)

The Fight Or Flight (CYP) information handout has been specifically designed for younger children and includes carefully simplified language. The prof ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/fight-or-flight-cyp

Learning To Relax (CYP)

Stress and tension are prevalent complaints amongst children and young people. Teaching relaxation exercises can engender a beneficial sense of contro ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/learning-to-relax-cyp

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (Archived)

NOTE: An improved version of this resource is available here: Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Older versions of a resource may be archived in the event ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/progressive-muscle-relaxation-edition-1

Combined Relaxation Exercise (Audio)

The Combined Relaxation Exercise is an audio track from the Psychology Tools For Relaxation Audio Collection. It is designed to help anyone experienci ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/combined-relaxation-exercise-audio

Relaxed Breathing Exercise 1 (Audio)

Relaxed Breathing Exercise 1 is an audio track from the Psychology Tools For Overcoming PTSD Audio Collection. The aim of this breathing exercise is t ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/relaxed-breathing-exercise-1-audio

Peaceful Place (Audio)

The Peaceful Place exercise guides the listener through a short imagery exercise designed to facilitate the visualization of soothing imagery and noti ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/peaceful-place-audio

Breathing To Calm The Body Sensations Of Panic (Psychology Tools For Overcoming Panic)

Psychology Tools for Overcoming Panic takes a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) approach to this common anxiety problem. This chapter discusses the ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/breathing-to-calm-the-body-sensations-of-panic-psychology-tools-for-overcoming-panic

Relaxed Breathing Record Form

Practicing relaxed breathing serves to reduce physiological arousal and can be an excellent grounding technique. This record form helps clients to mon ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/relaxed-breathing-record-form

Relaxed Breathing Exercise 2 (Audio)

Relaxed Breathing Exercise 2 is an audio track taken from the Psychology Tools For Overcoming PTSD Audio Collection. The aim of this breathing exercis ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/relaxed-breathing-exercise-2-audio

Relaxed Breathing Exercise 3 (Audio)

Breathing Exercise 3 uses the imagery of breathing air of different colours to help the listener make their breathing slower, deeper, and more regular ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/relaxed-breathing-exercise-3-audio

Relaxed Breathing Exercise 4 (Audio)

Relaxed Breathing Exercise 4 is an audio track from the Psychology Tools For Overcoming PTSD Audio Collection. Slow, relaxed, diaphragmatic breathing ... https://www.psychologytools.com/resource/relaxed-breathing-exercise-4-audio

Links to external resources

Psychology Tools makes every effort to check external links and review their content. However, we are not responsible for the quality or content of external links and cannot guarantee that these links will work all of the time.

Exercises

Information Handouts

  • Progressive muscle relaxation | Centre For Clinical Interventions
  • Progressive muscle relaxation instructions | Bourne | 1995
  • Relaxation handout | Holdsworth, Paxton | 1999

Information (Professional)

Protocols

  • Relaxation script (progressive muscle relaxation)
  • Relaxation script deep muscle relaxation

References

  • Bernstein, D. A., & Borkovec, T. D. (1973). Progressive relaxation training: A manual for the helping professions. Champaign, IL: Research Press.
  • Jacobson, E. (1938). Progressive relaxation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Suess, W. M., Alexander, A. B., Smith, D. D., Sweeney, H. W., & Marion, R. J. (1980). The effects of psychological stress on respiration: A preliminary study of anxiety and hyperventilation. Psychophysiology, 17(6), 535–540.
  • Wolpe, J. (1958). Psychotherapy by reciprocal inhibition. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.