Apart from effective pharmacological treatment and psychotherapy, there are many other simple remedies that anyone can follow or practise. These include relaxation techniques, which require little effort and may be used at any time. Relaxation techniques induce a natural, physiological response to stress, a reaction which may also occur when one is not aware that it is happening. Relaxation is defined as a psychophysical state in which an individual feels relieved from tension. To reach a state of relaxation means acquiring the capacity to control one’s level of physiological activation so as to generate a state conducive to freedom from tension.

When stress and anxiety condition the normal functioning of the organism, relaxation can be a useful method for re-establishing one’s personal equilibrium. In Eastern countries relaxation techniques have been used for many centuries and those who practise yoga consider it a fundamental aspect of their discipline. In the West, little interest was shown in these techniques until just a few decades ago, when the human organism began to be seen as a complex system influenced by the interaction of the mind and the body. A fundamental contribution towards the study of relaxation and its therapeutic practice was made by professor J. H. Schultz, who developed the method of Autogenous Training. With this method a light trance is self-induced through the technique of autosuggestion, leading to a state of physical and mental relaxation.

Following Schultz’s studies, many psychologists and physicians began to use relaxation techniques in addition to therapies of the more conventional type. Thanks to a growing interest in this area of study, we now know that different techniques can be adapted to different personality types (see Psychotherapies). The techniques described in this section should not be considered as an alternative to psychotherapy itself but rather as a supplementary practice or more simply as relaxation exercises that can be used at home when we have some free time. Anyone can practise these exercises and benefit from them. They involve no contraindications or hazards of any kind.

Before starting the exercises, a preparatory phase is necessary to predispose the mind and body for the subsequent phase of relaxation:

It is best to wear loose, comfortable clothes and takes off your shoes before beginning;

Sit in an armchair or on a divan or low seat, or lie down on a bed, making sure that no parts of the body are strained or under tension;

Whether sitting or lying down, let your body assume the most comfortable position;

The important thing is to feel comfortable;

It may be useful to spend a few moments just letting yourself relax naturally on the soft surface of the seat or armchair;

If you are sitting, rest your arms on your legs or on the arm-rests of the chair;

If you are lying down, rest your arms beside your body.

The techniques will be more effective if you practise them with your eyes shut.

>>> (Exercise: controlled respiration)

Psychology and psychotherapy
Rilassamento fisico e mentale
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