Get help now Make a donation

Relaxation

Tips and exercises to help you relax.

What can I do to relax?

You can use these exercises when you're feeling stressed, busy or worried:

Some of these exercises might not work for everyone, so don't worry if one technique isn't right for you. You could try a different exercise instead.

How to use relaxation exercises:

  • You can use relaxation techniques regularly, or every once in a while. Do whatever feels right for you.
  • Try and make some time in your day to try these exercises. Don't treat relaxing like a task that needs to be completed. Try to think of it as giving yourself some time and space.
  • Find somewhere quiet and comfortable where you won't be interrupted, if you can.
  • Try to make sure your surroundings are the right temperature. It can be hard to relax if you're too hot or cold.

Relax your body

When you're stressed your muscles can become tight and tense. This exercise helps you notice tension in your body and relax your muscles.

What do I need?

You will need:

  • somewhere comfortable to sit or lie down
  • space where you won't be interrupted.

What do I do?

  1. Lie down or sit with your back straight and your feet on the floor. Close your eyes or focus on a spot in the distance.
  2. Start by clenching your toes as much as you can for a few seconds then releasing them. Notice the difference between the two feelings.
  3. Match this to your breathing. Tense your muscles as you take a deep breath in, and relax as you breathe out.
  4. Move up your body to your thighs, your stomach and all the way to your shoulders and hands, clenching and relaxing each muscle in turn. Take time to notice any parts of your body that feel tense, tight or tired. You can repeat if you still feel tense.
  5. Take a moment to relax, then slowly and gently begin to move. When you feel ready, you can stand up slowly.

The NHS's Every Mind Matters has an audio guide to relaxing your body (YouTube link) if you would like someone to guide you through this exercise.

Variations

Instead of tensing your muscles, try placing something warm on each part of your body in turn.

Draw calming circles

Colour, creativity and movement can help you feel relaxed by:

  • distracting you from worrying thoughts
  • giving you an outlet and focus for your emotions
  • stimulating your senses.

What do I need?

You will need:

  • a table or desk
  • blank paper
  • pencils, pens or crayons
  • sticky tape or masking tape to hold your paper down (optional)

What do I do?

  1. Make sure you are sitting comfortably with your feet firmly on the floor, your back straight and your shoulders relaxed.
  2. Take your paper and pencil, and draw a circle that fills most of the page. It doesn't have to be neat.
  3. Now keep drawing. You could keep going over the circle, or fill it with a pattern, but try not to let your pencil leave the page. Don't worry about creating a finished picture, just keep going.
  4. Take time to focus on what you're drawing. Focusing on these sensations can help you quieten your mind.
  5. Once you have done this for a few minutes, try using a different colour or pattern.

Variations

  • If you're focusing too much on getting the pattern right, try using your other hand.
  • If you find it hard to get started, try using a colouring book.

Take a mindful moment in nature

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment. And spending time in green spaces has been found to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.

Follow these steps for a new way to experience your surroundings. This can also be a chance to get some gentle exercise, if you would like to and feel able to.

What do I need?

Just yourself and a green space. Try a local park, woodland, nature reserve or garden, if you have access to these.

What do I do?

  1. Find a green space. When you get there, stop for a moment and take a deep breath.
  2. Start exploring slowly. Try not to focus on getting somewhere in particular. Really focus on any movement you make. If you're walking, notice which part of your foot touches the ground first, and feel the transfer of weight through your foot.
  3. Notice the ground underneath you. Is it grass or earth? Does the ground feel soft? What colours can you see?
  4. Think about the rest of your body. How are you holding your arms? Does the air on your face feel cold or warm?
  5. Listen to the sounds around you. Can you hear birdsong, or wind rustling through the leaves?

Variations

  • If you can't go to a green space, you can try opening your window and noticing what's around you. Notice any clouds in the sky, or trees and plants you can see. Can you feel rain, wind or sun on your skin?
  • You could try looking after a plant. Spend time focusing on its scent, shape and texture. You could try touching some of the leaves or soil and focusing on how it feels.

Connect with your senses

If are starting to feel stressed, overwhelmed or panicked, connecting with your five senses can help to ground yourself in the present moment.

You can do this exercise anywhere and it doesn't need any special equipment.

What do I need?

Just yourself

What do I do?

  1. Look around you and notice five things you can see. It could be a pen, a mark on the wall, or someone's shoes. You can name these in your head or out loud, or write them down.
  2. Name four things you can touch or feel around you. For example, your hair, your nose, the ground under your feet or the air on your skin.
  3. Name three things you can hear around you. This could be something outside, or your own breathing.
  4. Name two things you can smell around you. It doesn't have to be a strong smell, and you can take a short walk around to find something if you want to.
  5. Name one thing you can taste at the moment.

Variations

If you can't engage all your senses, just do the ones you can. You can also change the numbers if you want to.

This information was published in November 2021. We will revise it in 2024.

References and bibliography available on request.

If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.

Share this information

arrow_upwardBack to Top