Caring for Yourself

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Learning relaxation techniques has many benefits, such as:

​◦ Increased energy

​◦ Lowered stress hormone levels and blood pressure

​◦ Increased motivation

◦ Restoration of sleep

​◦ Improved productivity


  • Involves a mentally active process that leaves the body relaxed
  • Is done in an awake state
  • Goal is to be physically relaxed and mentally alert
  • Not laying on the sofa/bed, sleeping or not doing anything

General instructions


◦ Before/after work

◦ During breaks

​◦ Avoid practising after big, heavy meals





◦ Quiet place at home/work (e.g., break room)

◦ Minimise distractions such as TV or radio






◦ Seated or lying flat on your back

◦ Eyes closed or gazing gently at a distance in front of you

◦ Feet flat on the floor or crossed at the ankles

◦ Hands resting comfortably on your lap

Do not force yourself to think “I must relax”.

Practise often; first under non-distracting conditions.

Types of relaxation techniques

1. Short relaxation

◦ Deep breathing

◦ Counting your breath

◦ Five Minute vacation

​2. Extended relaxation

◦ Progressive muscle relaxation

◦ Fantasy Relaxation


Short relaxation can be practised in any situation (either at work or at home; while travelling).

Deep breathing

  1. ​Sit comfortably in the chair
  2. Place 1 hand over your belly button and 1 hand on your chest. The hand on your stomach should rise as you breathe in
  3. Take a breath in to the count of 5, through your nose
  4. As you breathe in, imagine the air flowing into your stomach and filling it up, as if your stomach is like a balloon. Allow your abdomen to rise up away from your spine

​5. Hold the breath for 2 counts

6. Release the breath for 5 counts, through your nose

7. When you breathe out, imagine air flowing out of your stomach like a balloon emptying itself. Allow your abdomen to fall back towards your spine

8. Continue for at least 5 minutes

Counting your breath

  1. Sit comfortably in the chair
  2. Close your eyes or keep your eyes half-closed and gaze gently at the ground in front of you
  3. Take a few deep breaths. Notice your breath and let your breath come naturally without trying to influence it. Some people notice it as movement in their chest or stomach. Pay attention to the part that is most obvious
  4. Breathe in and out slowly
  5. Count “one” as you breathe out

​6. The next time you breathe out, count “two”, and so on up to “five”

7. Then begin a new cycle, counting “one” on the next exhalation

8. Try to concentrate gently on your breathing

9. If your mind wanders away from counting your breath, just re-focus on your breathing and start counting from one again

Five-minute vacation

​1. Start with deep breathing

2. With your eyes closed, imagine your ideal place to relax

3. Try and use your 5 senses to experience this mini vacation in your mind

For example: Visualise yourself lying on a white sandy beach, with clear blue skies and gently lapping waves. Imagine your body sinking into the chair and feel the warmth of the sand on your feet. Let go of any tension and continue to breathe with the rhythm of the rolling waves.

Extended relaxation

More suitable to be practised at the end of the day with more time set aside for relaxing. Best to be practised at home or in a quiet place.

What is progressive muscle relaxation?

  • Helpful for relieving physical tension
  • Physical tension is commonly associated with stress, anxiety and fear
  • May not even notice our muscles becoming tense sometimes
  • Note: Take caution if you have any injuries or a history of physical problems that may cause muscle pain

Progressive muscle relaxation steps

  1. Take three slow, deep breaths. With each breath, imagine the tension draining out of your body
  2. Start by clenching your fists. Hold for about 5 seconds, before releasing and feeling the tension drain out of your body. Relax for about 10 seconds
  3. Tighten your biceps by drawing your forearms up toward your shoulders and make a muscle with both arms. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax for about 10 seconds
  4. Tighten your triceps by holding out your arms in front of you and locking your elbows. Hold, then relax
  5. Tense the muscles in your forehead by raising your eyebrows as high as you can. Hold, then relax
  6. Tense the muscles around your eyes by clenching your eyelids shut. Hold, then relax
  7. Open your mouth as wide as you can, as you might when you’re yawning
  8. Tighten the muscles in the back of your neck by pulling your head back, as if you were going to touch your head to your back

9. Tighten your shoulders as you bring your shoulders up towards your ears

10. Tighten the muscles of your chest by taking in a deep breath. Hold, then relax

11. Tighten your stomach muscles by sucking your stomach in

12. (Don’t do this if you have back pain.) Tighten your lower back by arching it up

13. Tighten your buttocks by pulling them together. Hold, then relax

14. Squeeze the muscles in your thighs

15. Tighten your calf muscles by pulling your toes towards you. Tighten your feet by curling them downwards. Hold, then relax

16. Mentally scan your body for any left over tension. If any muscle group remains tense, repeat the exercise for those muscle groups


  • Focus is on a pleasant image
  • Decide where you want to go in your image before starting
  • Whatever you choose, try to make it peaceful and calming
  • Consider asking someone to read the following slides slowly to you, or to find a similar video on Youtube

Visualisation steps

  1. Find a comfortable position
  2. Begin by paying attention to your breathing, and let yourself take a few deep breaths
  3. For the next few moments, focus on calming your mind by focusing on your breathing. Allow your breathing to center and relax you. Breathe in and out
  4. Relax your body by releasing any areas of tension. Continue to breathe slowly and gently
  5. Now begin to create a picture in your mind of a place where you can completely relax. Imagine what this place needs to be like in order for you to feel calm and relaxed
  6. Where is this peaceful place? You might envision somewhere outdoors or indoors. A small place or large place. Who is in this place? Are you alone, or with someone else? Animals? Birds?
  7. Focus on the sights of your place - colours, shapes, objects, plants, water, etc - all of the beautiful things that make your place enjoyable
  8. Now imagine any tastes and smells your place has to offer
  9. Imagine the sensations of touch, including the temperature, any breeze that may be present, the surface you are on. Imagine the details of this calming place in your mind

10. To add further detail to this relaxing scene, imagine yourself there. What would you be doing in this calming place? Perhaps you are just sitting, enjoying this place, relaxing. Maybe you imagine walking around or doing any other variety of activities

11. Imagine a feeling of calm and peace in this place where you have no worries, cares, or concerns. A place where you can simply rejuvenate, relax, and enjoy just being

12. Enjoy your peaceful place for a few moments more. Memorize the sights, sounds, and sensations around you. Know that you can return to this place in your mind whenever you need a break, before returning to your regular roles

13. When you are ready to return to your day, file away the imaginary place in your mind, waiting for you the next time you need it

14. Prepare to leave by counting backwards. At 3, become aware of your surroundings (location, people, noises). At 2, move your feet, legs, hands, rotate your head. At 1, open your eyes feeling re-energized, refreshed and relaxed.

REMEMBER: We cannot avoid stress but we can all develop healthier ways of responding to it!

Up next: Good Sleep Hygiene and You

Ref: L20