There are literally thousands of guided relaxation exercises available online, and it may take you some time to find one that fits your personal needs and preferences. You can try out a few from this page or explore iTunes, Youtube, Soundcloud, or anywhere music is available. Keep the following pointers in mind as you look for the right exercise for you:
1. Find a guided relaxation exercise that you’re willing to do on a regular basis. Find a voice that you like (man vs. woman, accent vs. no accent). Pay attention to the music or lack of music. It may take 30 minutes or more to find an exercise that works for you–be patient, and keep looking.
2. Keep your expectations realistic. Practicing the skill of relaxation in an intentional way can be a challenge. There may be moments of discomfort. You may doubt the benefits in the short term. Just like any other new skill we learn, relaxation can be awkward at first. Over time, with consistent practice, your skill will improve.
3. Initially, practice for no more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Remember, consistency is the most important factor. If you need to modify your goals, reduce the time of the exercise rather than frequency. Two minutes, five times per week, is better than 10 minutes once per week.
4. Different exercises focus on different aspects of de-escalation. Try out a variety to see which works best for you. Explore on your own using the categories below.
a. Guided visualization or Guided Imagery–These exercises create relaxing mental escapes that we can retreat to whenever we need a break from reality (or just from our stressful thoughts)
b. Mindfulness–These exercises focus on controlling attention, nonjudgmentally, in the present moment. Headspace is a great comprehensive app for mindfulness.
c. Autogenic Relaxation–These exercises focus on the transition to a sense of warm, heavy calmness throughout your body.
d. Progressive Muscle Relaxation–This is a slightly more active exercise focused on practicing tensing and relaxing major muscle groups.
e. Controlled Breathing or Diaphragmatic Breathing–These exercises simply focus on the breath, helping to increase awareness and support healthy regulation of our breathing patterns.
f. Loving-kindness–These exercises focus on building a sense of compassion and connection