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How to learn to relax

For many of us, making time for relaxation is easier said than done. As we juggle life's demands, it can seem difficult to find opportunities to unwind. 

Sometimes, we may even feel able to fit relaxation into our schedule but aren't quite sure how or where to start. 

In this guide, we provide you with ways to build self-care into your routine, to relax your mind and body. 

What are the benefits of relaxation?

Taking time to unwind can help to prevent and relieve stress, which could otherwise cause us to experience feelings of anxiety and interfere with our daily activities. When we feel calm, we're better able to think clearly, concentrate on things, and carry out everyday tasks. 

Relaxation can also help to lower your heart rate and blood pressure levels, while easing muscle tension and chronic pain.

How do I find time to relax?

  • Minimise disruptions

    In an 'always-on' digital world, it can be tempting to check emails, respond to messages or browse social media during rest periods. If you're finding it difficult to 'switch-off' from everyday distractions, try shutting down your laptop or computer and putting your phone somewhere out of reach, temporarily. 

    However you choose to unwind, it's a good idea to try and reduce common distractions in any way you can. 
  • Schedule some downtime

    The first step to feeling more relaxed is to allow ourselves the opportunity to focus on our wellbeing. It's easy to feel as though we're too busy to relax when we have a number of responsibilities at home or at work – but setting aside time for relaxation is an important and effective way to keep stress at bay. 

    See where you can make room in your schedule to do the things that'll help you to feel at peace within yourself. It needn't be time-consuming – spending as little as 10 minutes each day to focus on your wellbeing can go a long way in promoting feelings of calmness. So block some downtime in your diary on a weekly basis and use alarms or reminders to help keep you on track. 

What can I do to relax?

There are various ways to calm the mind and body – also known as relaxation techniques – which include deep breathing, meditation and visualisation. 

Below are some techniques you can use to feel calmer and more at ease. Take the time to explore them and see what works for you.

  • Practice mindful breathing

    Controlled breathing exercises can go a long way in relieving tension and increasing our sense of wellbeing. Choose a comfortable position and begin to inhale slowly through your nose, counting “one, two, three, four” and exhale through the mouth at the same count of four.

    You may also find it helpful to place your hands gently on your stomach, observing how it expands while breathing in and contracts when breathing out. Repeat this technique a few times until you feel relaxed.

  • Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation

    Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a form of therapy involving the tensing and releasing of a group of muscles. PMR is a simple yet effective technique in helping to relieve tension in the body, which can be practiced while you're seated or lying down.

    Here's how to do it: 

    Breathe in and concentrate on tensing one muscle group for five to ten seconds. Then, breathe out slowly while releasing the tension in that muscle group. 

    You can begin with your feet and toes, then move to your calves, your thighs, your bottom, chest, arms and neck – tightening and relaxing one area of your body at a time. Using this technique, you can quickly and effectively release tension from your body. 

    If you'd like to try something a little more adventurous – whether on your own or with a loved one – you could have a go at practicing yoga. Yoga is a relaxation technique that can help to loosen tight muscles with a focus on physical exercise and deep breathing.

    You should consult your doctor if you have a history of muscles spasms, back problems, or other injuries that may be aggravated by tensing muscles.

  • Flex your creative muscles

    Engaging your creative side can distract your mind from worry or anxiety and help you to feel calm. Grab a pencil, some paper and do a rough sketch of something. It could be a cute animal, an object in your home, or even your hands. Anything at all.

    If you don’t fancy drawing, you could always try baking a cake, playing a new instrument, or putting a puzzle together. Give yourself permission to create something new, purely for your enjoyment and without any pressure.

  • Picture yourself somewhere peaceful

    It may be a little while before we’re able to travel the way we would normally, but you can transport your mind to a place that brings feelings of serenity and calmness in a matter of seconds. Simply close your eyes, choose an environment that feels right for you, and imagine you're there.

    Let your mind wander on the journey and make a note of any visualisations, as well as any thoughts or feelings you experience.

  • Listen to some music

    Hearing a song or melody can have a soothing and calming effect – helping to prevent and relieve stress. Maybe you have a favourite song or album that makes you feel good. Listen to it on your stereo or music app whilst sitting or lying down comfortably. You might be surprised at how quickly it can clear the mind and help you to feel more relaxed.
  • Be patient with yourself

    Learning a relaxation technique takes practice – don't worry about getting it right. Just focus on allowing yourself the space and time to find what works for you. 

    Once you know which methods are most effective, you can use them whenever you start to feel stressed or if your body becomes a little tense. By learning how to relax, you'll find it easier to manage and reduce stress.

Watch our short video on mindfulness to find out how it can help to improve your wellbeing.

More support

  • Our support services

    The Bank Workers Charity exists to support current and former bank employees. Find out more about the services and support we provide.
  • Stress

    In small doses, stress can help you rise to the challenge. But too much of it can hurt you. Use our guide to learn more about stress so you can make a plan for dealing with it.
  • Anxiety

    Anxiety is a normal reaction to fear or danger but in some cases it can be debilitating. Use this guide to learn about anxiety so you can begin to manage it.

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