February 2013

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Health Capsule

Relaxation Techniques for Stress?

When we sense danger, our bodies quickly raise our heart rate and focus our attention. Stress is crucial to survival. But over the long term, too much can contribute to health problems, including heart disease, digestive disorders and headaches.

Researchers are exploring whether relaxation techniques can counteract the effects of stress. These techniques often combine breathing and focused attention to calm the mind and body. They are generally safe, but so far there’s only limited evidence that they can help with specific health conditions. NIH supports several studies to learn more about how relaxation techniques can affect our health.

Relaxation techniques include progressive relaxation, biofeedback, guided imagery, self-hypnosis and deep-breathing exercises. They’re best combined with good nutrition, regular exercise and a strong social support system.

You can learn and practice many relaxation techniques on your own. Most require only brief instruction before you can do them.

Talk to your health care provider if you’re thinking about trying a relaxation technique for a particular health condition. Relaxation techniques aren’t a replacement for medical care.