What's the best way to relax?

I often get asked about the ‘best way to relax’. This is especially true when it comes to the relaxation training/mindfulness aspects of CBTi.

There isn’t a really specific answer to that. There are as many ways as there are people! The bottom line is that whatever you choose to learn, remember that these should be viewed ‘life-wide’ strategies for reducing your arousal levels in general and aren’t intended (especially in the beginning) to be ‘hammer on a nail’ strategies for dealing with sleeping trouble.

What do I mean by that? Don’t use relaxation ‘techniques’ only as ways to try to get sleep.

‘I’ll use this X strategy to try to get to sleep’ ‘If I can’t sleep, I’ll try that trick’.

If you use them that way while you are trying to learn the benefits of the approach, they will fall into the ‘trying to sleep’ category of things that raise sleep anxiety. And that means they are not likely to work.

And that will just increase your anxiety and frustration.

Use these kinds of strategies throughout your life, practice them, reduce your overall arousal, find ones you like and if you still need them THEN try one if you’re having an off night.

The time to try them this way is when you no longer are visiting websites and groups trying to ‘find ways to sleep’.

So – what should you try? Each of the following approaches have equivalent and modest effect sizes in the research (meaning they all work reasonably well and about the same as one another) – when used as broad approaches to lowering overall anxiety and arousal (not as ‘things to try at night’).

  • progressive relaxation
  • biofeedback
  • breathwork training
  • imagery/visualisation training

If you try one, drop me a note and let me know how it worked for you!

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