A certain amount of stress is an essential part of ordinary, everyday life, keeping you on your toes and out of danger. Every time you cross a busy road, have an argument or watch an exciting television programme, your stress level goes up for a while. But if anxiety or pressure at work or at home continues for many months or years, then your health may suffer. This kind of chronic stress can be difficult to recognise and is sometimes impossible to avoid. It therefore becomes important to give some time every day to helping your mind and body to relax.

Research has shown that relaxation is good for your health: it can bring down blood pressure and reduce levels of anxiety. However, relaxation does not mean sitting down and taking it easy and reading a newspaper, watching television or having a gin and tonic. Relaxation is a skill and has to be learnt. It involves becoming aware of all your muscles, feeling the tension that they carry and finally, letting that tension go. Following are some techniques in relaxation; all can be carried out sitting or lying.

What can be done?

Deep breathing

This is particularly good to carry out at home or in the office after a stress provoking incident.

  • sit quietly for a moment
  • picture a scene of tranquillity, like leaves rustling in a gentle breeze
  • slowly breathe in through your nose and slowly fill your lungs to a count of six or seven, or as far as you can comfortably tolerate
  • hold your breath for four to five seconds
  • slowly breathe out through your nose to a count of five
  • repeat four or five times

Clench and let go exercises

This requires more time and privacy.

  • sit or lie quietly in as peaceful a place as possible
  • clench both fists for about 15 seconds
  • relax them and feel the tension drain away from your arm muscles
  • repeat this twice
  • hunch your shoulders for 15 seconds
  • relax and feel the tension drain away
  • repeat twice
  • clench your jaw for 15 seconds and relax
  • repeat twice
  • screw up your eyes tightly for 15 seconds and relax
  • repeat twice
  • Feel the tension drain away.


  • This is best carried out in the quiet of your own home.
  • Sit or lie quietly in as peaceful a place as possible and close your eyes
  • repeat over and over to yourself a simple sound, word or phrase (anything, so long as it is simple and easy to repeat)
  • concentrate on the repetition so that it fills your mind and banishes anxious thoughts
  • relax in this steady rhythm for 5 to 10 minutes

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