Stop sign in foreground; plains and railroad in background

Mini relaxation exercises are focused breathing techniques which help reduce anxiety and tension immediately.

You can do them with your eyes open or closed (but make sure that your eyes are open when you are driving!). You can do them any place, at any time; no one will know that you are doing them.

Start with Belly Breathing (Diaphragmatic Breathing):

  • Breathe in through your nose and out through your nose or mouth
  • You should feel your stomach rising about an inch as you breathe in, and falling about an inch as you breathe out
  • If this is difficult for you, try laying on your back or stomach—you will be more aware of your breath
  • Remember, it is impossible to practice belly breathing if you are holding your stomach in. Be sure to relax your stomach muscles

When to Use Mini Relaxation Techniques

  • While being stuck in traffic or at a red light
  • When put on hold" during an important phone call
  • While waiting in your doctor's waiting room
  • When someone says something which bothers you
  • When you feel overwhelmed by what you need to accomplish in the near future
  • While standing in line
  • When you are in pain

 Four Mini Relaxation Exercises:

Option One: Count Backward from 10

  • Count very slowly to yourself from ten down to zero, one number for each out breath. (For instance, with the first diaphragmatic breath, you say "ten" to yourself,; with the next breath, you say "nine", etc.) 
  • If you start feeling light-headed or dizzy, slow down the counting
  • When you get to "zero", see how you are feeling
  • If you are feeling better, great! If not, try doing it again

Option Two: Inhale, Count to Four; Exhale, Count Back to One

  • As you inhale, count very slowly up to four; as you exhale, count slowly back down to one
  • Do this several times (for instance, as you inhale, you say to yourself "one, two, three, four," as you exhale, you say to yourself "four, three, two, one.")

Option Three: Inhale, Count to Three; Exhale, Count to Three

  • After each inhalation, pause and count 1,2,3 (breath is held in)
  • After you exhale, pause and count 1,2,3
  • Do this for several breaths

Option Four: Inhale “I Am;“ Exhale “At Peace ” 

  • On the IN breath, you think “I am”
  • On the OUT breath, you think, "at peace”

This article originally appeared on MGHBeFit.com, an employee wellness program sponsored by MGH Nutrition and Food Services.