Cognitive Behavior Therapy Dialectical Behavior Therapy Psychoeducation

Relaxation Skills: 5 Tips for Improving Self-Care

Self-care has become a big buzz word over the past decade. You need to schedule time for yourself in order to survive the hectic work days and family responsibilities. Even so practicing self-care is easier said than done for most people. These five relaxation skills can help make self-care part of your daily habits.

Improve attention/concentration

This is especially important in a world where there is so much that can easily distract us. The act of multi-tasking has become a norm with technology always at our fingertips. Even as I write this post I have three unread text messages and two separate notifications on my phone. My email is only a click away and there is always the temptation of Facebook. It is easy to be distracted when there is so much demanding our attention.

Due to Operant Conditioning we have become trained to immediately respond to the various noises in our surroundings. We are rewarded with a feeling of satisfaction when we are notified about a new link or post. The habit of immediately attending to our environment makes it harder to maintain attention on the task before us.

These distractions can also impede on our time for rest. Attention and concentration includes the ability to filter out the distractions in order to focus on the task at hand, self-care included.

Action steps: Turn off notifications on your phone and/or other technologies as a way to limit distractions. Practice focusing on one task at a time using Mindfulness skills.

Learn to say no

Sometimes easier said than done, learning to say no is also a necessity. For those who are natural helpers, saying yes is habitual. Someone is in need and we are able to lend a helping hand. Our time for self-care becomes overcrowded with helping others. I am not suggesting you refuse to help someone in need, rather be willing to set boundaries.

Boundaries allow us to function at our best. When we are at our best we are better equipped to serve others. Also recall that God instructs us to give with joyful hearts. (2 Corinthians 9:7). It is difficult to give of ourselves joyfully when we are burnt out and tired.

Action steps: Set aside a period of time each day that is reserved for rest. Unless there is an emergency, you can inform your friends, family, or co-worker that you would be happy to help out at a different time.

Anxiety Management

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:7

Racing thoughts always make it difficult to relax. Our fears and anxiety can keep us up at night and calming these fears is no easy task. The field of psychology offers many strategies for combatting anxiety. Cognitive-Behavior Therapy will focus on challenging anxiety-inducing thoughts and identifying counter statements. Dialectical Behavior Therapy will provide skills for emotion regulation and teaches the purpose of emotions. Experiential Therapies will focus on helping you express the anxiety in a therapeutic manner.

The tools for anxiety management are readily available, however learning about the skills won’t make a difference unless they are being implemented.

Action steps: Identify and practice one skill for anxiety management.

Deep breathing

Deep breathing is the foundation for all relaxation skills and is also a recommended tool for anxiety management. Proper breathing comes from the diaphragm. In contrast when we are in a state of distress we will breath from our chest. Chest breathing results in more shallow breaths that do not fully fill up the lungs, restricting the oxygen flow in our body. Deep breathing helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for stimulating our bodies rest state.

Deep breathing can also be paired with soothing sounds or visual imagery exercises to enhance the feeling of relaxation.

Action steps: Take five minutes out of every day to focus on your breath.  Place your hands on your stomach and watch the rise and follow of your diaphragm. Try pairing the following audio with a relaxing background noise.

Mindful Breathing Script Taken from and written by Dr. Shilagh Mirgain

Physical Activity

Daily exercise is good practice for improving sleep quality. It is also known to combat depression by activating the reward center of the brain. The stimulation can be good for our mood and help us feel energized and ready to conquer the day. In contrast a lack of physically activity can result in feelings of lethargy and low motivation.

Self-care is more than relaxation. It is engaging in activities that bring us pleasure and can increase levels of motivation. It is never too late to learn a new skill from ice skating to golf. The important part is to find an activity that you enjoy.

Actions steps: Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park farther away from your destination. Step away from work to do some stretches. Try doing 10 burpees a day. Find an active hobby, such as hiking, dancing, or skateboarding.

Additional Resources

Rest, Relaxation, and Exercise from Mental Health America

How to Fit Relaxation into a Busy Schedule from Goodnet

Anxiety Management Strategies from Beyond Blue

Five Surprising Ways Exercise Changes Your Brain from Greater Good Magazine

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