Relaxation in 20 minutes
If possible, choose a quiet place where you can lie down undisturbed for about 20 minutes. Eventually, you will be able to do all or part of this exercise sitting up wherever you are when you’re feeling stressed.
Relax your body as much as you can, to the point where it starts to feel heavy. If it helps you relax, try to visualize you are somewhere calm like the beach. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Try to imagine that the tension is leaving your body each time you take a breath.
Next, inhale and contract the muscles in your feet at the same time. Hold the contraction briefly, and then relax your feet as you breathe out. While you do this, continue to imagine that the tension is flowing out with each breath. Spend more time breathing out and relaxing than when you breathe in and contract. Focus on how your muscles feel as they contract and relax.
Follow the steps from #2 with other parts of your body. From your feet, move up your body, contracting and relaxing your lower legs, and then your upper legs, butt, abdomen, arms, and hands. End with your face; tense and relax your mouth, jaw, eyes and scalp muscles. If a muscle seems particularly tight, repeat the contraction with it.
Now lie still for five minutes, just relaxed. Continue to breathe slowly and deeply.
When you’re ready to get up, count backward from five to one. You may feel groggy at first, but in a few minutes, you should feel refreshed.
Keep it up
If you make it a habit of doing this exercise, in addition to relaxing you, it can also train your body to recognize when you have muscle tension and reduce it. You can do it daily, along with other stress-reducing techniques such as meditation and visualization. Or take the time to do it whenever you begin to feel stress.
You can even do this technique focusing just on the muscles you use at work or school, such as your neck and shoulders if you’re sitting for extended periods of time.