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  • Tamar Balkin

It’s Time To Relax…

The summer is here in Sydney, we are all about to have a few public holidays and perhaps a week or more out of the office. It would be particularly nice if we could just flick a switch and automatically switch off from work. My readers in the northern hemisphere, I encourage you to please read on, as being able to easily unwind is just as relevant to you. My very first psychology supervisor taught that me there are three main ways people can relax: focusing on muscles; using imagery; and concentrating on breathing. In my experience those who find exercise a good way to switch off will also find progressive muscle relaxation techniques suit them. If you are more attuned to imagery, you may find reading novels and listening to guided imagery, relaxing. Finally, for those who can concentrate on their breathing, similar techniques like meditation, and aspects of mindfulness can also be beneficial. So what exactly are these three approaches? Progressive muscle relaxation was developed by the physician Edmund Jacobson in the early 1920s. Jacobson argued that since muscle tension accompanies anxiety, one can reduce anxiety by learning how to relax the muscular tension. Recent research has demonstrated many long-term benefits of progressive muscle relaxation, including decreased blood pressure, and heart rate, and even headaches. While guided imagery has been component of helping in ancient medicine, religions and cultures, it was first presented in an academic context in 1982, by Drs. Bresler and Rossman to 1,400 with a focus on practical applications in the health context. There is now also a vast body of research demonstrating its benefits for a multitude of health concerns including stress reduction, and pain management . Finally, diaphragmatic breathing, belly or deep breathing is marked by expansion of the abdomen rather than the chest when breathing. Daily practice in inhaling and exhaling deeper, and more slowly can have immediate benefits, in areas like hypertension, and aggressive behaviour to name a few. A recent literature review of the academic databases (MEDLINE, Scopus, Science Direct) found there were actually 10 forms of relaxation that are easy to learn and practice, which have with beneficial results in individuals who are well or unwell. These are: progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training, relaxation response, biofeedback, emotional freedom technique, guided imagery, diaphragmatic breathing, transcendental meditation, cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction and emotional freedom technique. (Click here for more information. Naturally people do not fit neatly into a relaxation type, and the categories are more like a Venn diagram with elements of overlap. It is however extremely helpful to have an inkling as to which relaxation style may suit you best. As a brief introduction to progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and breathing please find three 20 minute recording’s on my resources page. I invite you over the next few weeks to have a listen and email me your thoughts. Finally, thank you for taking the time to read my blog, come to my events, and participate in my coaching in 2018. Wishing you seasons greetings a relaxing and rejuvenating break and all the best for 2019. I am spending January with the family and will have intermittent access to emails during this time.

______________ References and further reading: Jacobsen Phillips, E. (2015) Psychological characteristics of elite mixed martial artists: a coach’s perspective. A PsyD Clinical Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University San Diego LaVogue, C.B. (2016) School-based treatment of headache in adolescents: an evaluation of a brief cognitive behavioral package. A dissertation submitted to the Kent State University College of Education, Health, and Human Services in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Nelson, C.R (2016) Exercise versus relaxation: compared effectiveness for college students’ well-being. A Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Faculty of Saint Louis University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy Varvogli, L. & Darviri, C. (2011) Stress Management Techniques: evidence-based procedures that reduce stress and promote health. Health Science Journal, 5, 2, 74-89

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