And they could help you feel more relaxed all-round.
Don’t wait until sitting in the dentist’s chair to fight back against anxiety – and don’t wait until midway through an attack. These tried and tested relaxation exercises can help you feel grounded and centred every day and better able to cope whenever stress rears its head.
Practising for just a few minutes every day not only helps you feel better equipped to deal with stressful situations, it’s also a wonderful way of taking time out of a busy day to show yourself some love.
The benefits may feel negligible at first. But like any skill, relaxation gets easier with practice. With a little perseverance, you’ll be able to rid your body and mind of tension without effort.
Try these exercises out for 5-10 minutes every day. At first, you should start with progressive muscle relaxation, moving on to diaphragmatic breathing once you feel relaxed. As you get better, you can begin practising both at the same time and will soon find it much easier to relax in stressful situations.
Make yourself comfortable and let’s get started!
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) has been used since the 1930s to alleviate stress and anxiety. The technique involves systematically tensing and relaxing the body’s major muscles. It can also help with day-to-day anxiety by helping you to recognise and relax tension points.
For this exercise, we’ll start at the head, working down to the feet. The technique is the same for each muscle group – you’ll tense and then relax, noticing the change as you do so.
- Get comfortable. Relax, breathing slowly and evenly through your nose. Allow your tongue to rest in its natural place just behind your upper front teeth.
- Start by tensing the muscles in your forehead. Hold the tension for 10-15 seconds and then slowly let go. Notice how different your muscles feel when relaxed. Is there any more tension locked in there? If so, let it go! Now repeat the tension-release exercise on the muscles in your jaw.
- Raise and tense your shoulders. Hold the tension for a count of 15 seconds. Now release while counting to 30.
- Now we’re going to work on your hands and arms. Ball both hands tightly into fists and draw them slowly across your chest. Stay tense for 15 seconds and then relax, paying attention to the sensations.
- Repeat the exercise, moving down your body from buttocks to thighs, calves and finally your feet.
In the next exercise, we will feel the role our diaphragm – the large muscle located below the lungs – plays in breathing.
The diaphragmatic breathing technique is proven to lower stress levels by gently reducing your heart rate and blood pressure. The exercise also strengthens the diaphragm and helps the body maintain its core strength.
Because diaphragmatic breathing feels like breathing using the belly instead of the chest, it’s often called belly breathing. Bear this in mind as you practice.
You can try this while lying or sitting – but take care not to fall asleep!
- Make yourself comfortable. Now place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, just below your ribs. Notice the rise and fall of this hand as the diaphragm does its work.
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. The hand on your chest should stay still while the one on your belly rises and falls with your breathing.
- Breathe like this for 5-10 minutes.
Tips for Success
Relaxing is supposed to be easy and enjoyable. But sometimes, finding time to practice can make the whole thing feel like more of a chore than it should. So here are some of our top tips for stress success.
Practising for at least 20 minutes every day is ideal. However, if you struggle to find the time, five minutes of practice is better than none at all. Studies into relaxation have shown techniques are more effective when given high priority.
Set Aside Distractions
When was the last time you enjoyed some well-deserved ‘you time’? Your relaxation practice should be just that, so turn off your phone, hang a Do Not Disturb sign on the door to keep distractions to a minimum and give yourself permission to chill.
There’s no right or wrong way to relax, so don’t worry if you feel you’re not quite getting it right – especially on your first attempts. Thinking about whether you’re doing it right or if you could be doing better will only add to your stress.
Still Feeling Nervous?
If you still feel anxious after trying these exercises, why not reach out to a Phobia-Certified dentist. Head to our Dentist Finder to find one in your area.