Physical Relaxation Techniques

Deep Breathing, PMR, and Centering

Explore how relaxation techniques can reduce stress.

© iStockphoto/arsenik

Imagine that you're having a particularly stressful day, and everything seems to be going wrong.

You have a number of important deadlines due, several members of your team have called in sick, and you've just found out that you have to make a presentation to the board – tomorrow.

When you have to deal with situations like these, your heart may race, your breathing may become fast and shallow, and you could even feel that you can't cope with the task at hand. These feelings are the result of your body going through sudden changes as it prepares to deal with a perceived threat – this is the famous "fight-or-flight" response.

All of us experience this occasionally, and, for some, it can be a regular occurrence. While a small amount of pressure can help you focus and improve your performance, too much short-term stress hinders your ability to work well. This is why it's useful to know some techniques that can help you relax.

You can use these techniques whenever you're feeling stressed or tense. For example, you can use them to relax before a presentation or performance; you can use them to clear your mind, so that you can solve problems creatively; or you can use them to compose yourself before a job interview. Using these techniques regularly can help you to maintain a relaxed and calm state of mind.

In this article, we'll look at deep breathing, progressive muscular relaxation, and centering – three physical techniques that can help you reduce muscle tension and manage the effects of your body's fight-or-flight response. This is particularly important if you need to think clearly and perform well when you're under pressure.

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