& The Relaxation Response
Techniques from Mind Tools
Multitasking has become a part of our everyday
lives. At any given time, most of us are
actively working on, or overseeing, a handful
of projects and problems all at once, making
it nearly impossible to slow down and relax.
Years ago, when I first embarked on a journalism
career and subsequently found myself in
a bustling newsroom working amongst some
of the most experienced writers for a very
large, reputable newspaper, I was overwhelmed.
As the youngest and one of only two females,
I found that the only way I could earn the
respect of those around me was to show up
first, leave last and give 110% all day
long, even when my work days lasted 16 hours!
Talk about being on the fast track –
the fast track to burnout, that is!
Needless to say, it took just a few short
months to realize that the pace I had set
for myself was unrealistic. Sure, I was
playing in the big leagues and making a
great name for myself, but if I wound up
too tired to perform, which was inevitable,
I would surely make costly mistakes and
quickly place myself out of work.
Considering this one weekend, I turned
to the local library (I am embarrassed to
say that this was before the days of the
World Wide Web) to find sources on relaxation.
I knew I had to work in some relaxation
if I wanted to continue meeting tight deadlines
each day with copy that was strong and print-worthy.
So, I spent hours at the library that day
and left with seven books. To this day,
I continue to rely on the information I
found in one book, and would like to share
this with you.
It was a book called “The
Relaxation Response,” by Dr. Herbert
Benson, that changed my life and taught
me the importance of relaxing each day,
and even showed me exactly how to do it.
Based on studies at Boston’s Beth
Israel Hospital and Harvard Medical School,
Dr. Benson’s quick and easy relaxation
techniques have immense physical benefits,
from lowering blood pressure to a reduction
in heart disease. The book explains how
anyone can benefit from learning and perfecting
relaxation techniques. In doing so, Dr.
Benson created a book that is relied on
by healthcare professionals and authorities
to treat the negative effects of stress.
By learning to invoke the relaxation response
once or twice a day for just ten minutes
at a sitting, one can effectively lower
blood pressure and gain tranquility in their
emotional life, making them more successful
both in the workplace and at home.
Try the following 6-step relaxation response
the next time you feel anxiety or stress:
- Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes.
- Deeply relax all of your muscles, beginning
at your feet and progressing up to your
face. Keep your muscles relaxed.
- Breathe through your nose. Become aware
of your breathing. As you breathe out
(exhale), say the word, “ONE”,
silently to yourself. For example: breathe
IN…OUT, “ONE”, -IN…OUT,
“ONE”, etc. Breathe easily
- Continue for 10 to 20 minutes (depending
on your schedule). You may open your eyes
to check the time, but do not use an alarm.
When you finish, sit quietly for several
minutes, at first with your eyes closed,
then with your eyes opened. Do not stand
up for a few minutes.
- Do not worry about if you are successful
in achieving a deep state of relaxation.
When distracted, simply return to repeating
Besides relying on this technique a few
times each day, I regularly use it to get
to sleep at night, especially after a long,
hard day or before a tough next day. It’s
simple, I can fit it in to my workdays when
needed, is fast, reliable and most importantly,