About Relaxation





How it works



The body has a natural mechanism to respond to stress,variously called the Generalized Adaptation Syndrome, the fight-or-flightreaction, or simply the stress response. It works best for brief, emergency situations.  Unfortunately, in today’s world, the stress response reactsto longer term types of stress. When this happens, people start to feel run down, irritable, oroverwhelmed.


The activation of the stress response is caused by thesympathetic nervous system.  Thissystem increases general arousal, such as making your heart beat faster, yourbreathing to get faster, your muscles to become tense, and so on.  The opposite effect is caused by theparasympathetic nervous system, which induces relaxation.  It is not possible to be relaxed andstressed at the same time.  Therelaxation induction works by teaching you to consciously activate the functions ofthe parasympathetic nervous system.



Contents of the sound file



The relaxation sound file (mp3) contains three types ofrelaxation induction, each shown in clinical studies to activate theparasympathetic nervous system.  Ihave found that they also work well together, as in this file.  After you gain experience withrelaxation, however, you may find that one or two techniques work best foryou.  You may then customize yourown relaxation procedure accordingly.


The induction begins with Progressive Relaxation.  This form of relaxation involves firstactivating the sympathetic nervous system by tightening various muscle groupsand then activating the parasympathetic nervous system by consciously relaxingthem and paying attention to the difference.


Following this is a technique known as Deep MuscleRelaxation.  This involves focusingyour attention on various muscle groups and learning to relax them without thestep of first making them tense.


Following this is an Imagery induction, wherein you imagineyourself in a peaceful scene and allow yourself to become more relaxed as youfocus on the soothing details of the scene you imagine.



Getting the most from your relaxation



First, you should have privacy for relaxation.  This means practice your relaxation ata time and place where you are unlikely to be interrupted.  Consider taking the telephone off thehook and turning off electronic devices that also may interrupt.  People who are interrupted duringrelaxation report that the irritation they experience is usually greater thanwhat the interruption warrants, which makes them feel unusual for severalminutes.


Second, be comfortable.   Take off shoes, jewelry, neckties, and so forth.  Recline in a comfortable position, suchas in a comfortable chair, on a couch, or in bed.  Make sure the temperature of the room is set so that youwill not be too hot or too cold.


Third, in the Imagery section, have a peaceful scene in mindbefore you begin.  It may be someplace you have been before, or it may be entirely a creation of yourimagination.  Try to imagine asmany details as you can, including all the senses.  For example, if your scene is on a beach, you may imagingthe texture of the sand, the heat of the sun on your skin, the smell of salt inthe air.


Also, in the Imagery section, the procedure works best ifyou do not imagine the presence of other people in the scene with you.


Fourth, give yourself enough time.  While the whole relaxation procedure lasts about 15 minutes,try to make sure you are not bound to this time frame.  If you are thinking about the manytasks you must complete after your session, you will not become very relaxed.


Finally, practice. Learning to relax is a skill like any other.  The more you practice, the better you will get at it,








Marshall H. Lewis,  M.A.

Licensed Master Level Psychologist