Relaxation, Stress & Pain

Relaxation techniques for low levels of stress

  • Deep breathing
  • Closing one’s eyes
  • Counting to five
  • Putting one’s head down
    • This may be all that is needed

Relaxation techniques for moderate levels of stress

  • Listening to calming music
  • Progressive muscle relaxation exercise
  • Breathing
  • Break time
    • Idea: is ultimately for the child to manage their own stress in a socially appropriate way before losing emotional control
    • Use rewards to reinforce whenever such behaviour is attempted

Relaxation techniques for high levels of stress – Physically active relaxation

  • Swinging, running, jumping, going for a silent walk (this is generally not the time to talk – accusing words, raised voice, discussions, explanations – even in a calm voice – usually do not work; if directions are used, keep short and to the point.)
  • Consider “walk and not talk” with the child
    • This method involves the child talking freely
    • The adult accompanying says little or nothing
    • If talk is necessary, the adult uses brief encouragement or reflecting back statements:
      • I can see that you are upset
      • That must have been “incredibly annoying/difficult” etc.,
    • Consider talking about the situation (to learn lessons) after the student is completely calm, but note the following:
      • After a person has a blow-up, they typically go through a period where their stress level falls, and their mood falls along with the stress. This is when a person usually becomes remorseful too about their behaviour – consider too how this corrodes esteem.

Practice relaxation when the child is not stressed. Make this fun – consider doing it together, and use rewards. Talk about how you use them yourself in high-stress situations.

  • It is difficult to use relaxation techniques when needed in high-stress situations, hence why practice to make progress is encouraged.

Relaxation involves teaching the child about how to discriminate between tense muscles and relaxed muscles.

In the context of pain, it may also involve the child attempt to notice other things (beyond the pain, albeit difficult).

He explained that they are also thought to help release natural pain-relieving chemicals into the brain.

Others found it helped to visualise a relaxing experience such as walking along a beach or sitting by a waterfall. Some people listened to relaxation tracks to help them with the visualisation, which they found helpful. Although one woman pointed out that to get the most benefit you had to use them regularly.

A few people found visualisation difficult but had found that a technique called ‘progressive muscle relaxation’ helped. Others had not found specific relaxation methods helpful and preferred to relax by listening to music, watching the television or reading a book. These were also good methods of distraction.


Being able to distract the mind away from the pain by immersing themselves in another activiity was a valuable self-management skill for some people who had taken up a new hobby such as woodwork or sewing which they found a good distraction. Others found it helpful to concentrate on a piece of work or solving a problem. Day to day activity such as spending time with the family,

Many people pointed out that although it is good to hear what works for others, not all techniques of distraction and relaxation suit everybody and it is important for each person to find out for themselves what is most helpful.

Distraction means shifting or moving your attention away. It does not mean that the pain is no longer there. It just means that you use your brain to focus your attention onto something else. You can put your pain in the background and focus instead on playing games, counting, using breathing techniques and many other activities. One of the things that you can do to limit the amount of time you spend worrying about or being afraid of pain, is to use distraction.


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