Relaxation exercises and techniques can be very helpful in the treatment of bipolar and anxiety disorders.

Breathing Exercise

This relaxation technique can be very a potent weapon against anxiety or panic attacks. it can also be used during a manic phase of Bipolar disorder. Doing this exercise before laying down to go to sleep may help with insomnia in some people.

When experiencing a panic attack it is best if possible, to close your mouth and breathe through your nose to avoid hyperventilation.

It is also advisable any time you practice breathing exercises to either sit or lie down to prevent passing out, or falling due to dizziness.

many people find it useful to do these exercises before they begin visualization, or meditation to help them relax. Also, many people find positive self talk useful in conjunction with these exercises. Such as calmly saying short phrases like " Let it go" or "It's all ok " silently to yourself while exhaling.

The idea is to get yourself to relax as much as possible. TRYING to relax or judge your performance may be counterproductive, so clear your mind of everything except your positive self talk or counting between breaths.

Note the amount of tension you are feeling, and let it go as much as possible while exhaling slowly through your nose or mouth. (again if you are having a panic attack, it is best to keep your mouth closed.)

Then breathe slowly and deeply into your abdomen. (you will know you are doing this correctly if you place your hand on your abdomen and feel it rising as you breathe in.)

Hold the breath for a count of 2-5 seconds (whatever you are more comfortable with.. the longer you hold the more you will relax when you exhale.. but to prevent passing out you should not hold it any longer than 5 seconds)

Exhale again, slowly for anywhere between 5 and 10 seconds.

Repeat breathing this way until your anxiety subsides, or you feel properly relaxed.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

If you have anxiety disorder it is advisable to do this exercise every day. When you start out , it is best to do this for around 20 minutes. As you gain skill in relaxation technique the amount of time you need will diminish.

Find a quiet place to practice in. If you feel the need to play music, choose relaxing instrumental music. If you play music that has lyrics, it may distract you, or work to govern your mood.

Try to do this at the same time every day. If you suffer from insomnia, you may find it helpful to do this before bed.

Make sure you are neither hungry or overfull. Also make sure you are in a comfortable position, wearing comfortable clothing, and you take off your shoes, jewelry, glasses, contacts, ect.

Make a decision to not worry about anything during this time. Make peace of mind for this amount of time a priority every day.

As with the breathing exercise, is is not necessary to judge your performance or TRY to relax. This is your time every day to just "let go".

Once you are comfortable and relaxed, (you may want to do the breathing exercise first) start by curling and tensing your toes. Tense them hard enough to feel it, but not hard enough that you feel strained. Hold the tension for about ten seconds, concentrating on how it feels and then let it go. Stop for a moment to notice the difference between how they felt when they were tensed and how they feel relaxed.

Next, curl and tense your feet. concentrate on how they feel, hold the tension for about 10 seconds and release. notice the difference.

Next tense your calves.... continue this process of tensing and releasing the muscles all the way up your body...thighs, buttocks, abdomen, back,(by gently arching it) fists,lower arms,upper arms, shoulders,neck,(by gently lifting your head, holding it up and then gently laying it back down)and face (scrunch it up ... nobody is looking) :)

Repeat this process beginning with your face, and progressing back down to your toes.

Now would be a good time to also repeat the breathing exercise.


After completing the breathing and progressive muscle relaxation exercises, you may want to do some visualization. This is sort of like meditation.

Design a peaceful scene for yourself. It may be helpful to write it out on a piece of paper and study it before you begin. Your scene can be anywhere you choose. At home in front of a cozy fire, or at the ocean. It's up to you. The only thing you need to worry about, is that there is enough detail involved in your scene to absorb your full attention.

Here is an example:

I am laying on a soft grassy spot along the bank of a rushing river in the woods. It is a warm summer evening at dusk. There is a purple ribbon of color just above a mountain as the sun finishes setting behind it. I can hear the water rushing beside me , and feel a slight mist of water spraying over me in contrast to the warm breeze that is blowing the fragrance of water, pine and wild flowers over me as well. I can hear birds chirping in the tall pine trees, and the wood crackling in the camp fire that is burning not too far away. As I watch the smoke rising from the campfire into the navy blue sky, I begin to see stars appearing overhead.

You may wish to record your peaceful scene onto a tape so that you can visualize it without effort. After you become comfortable with returning to your scene, you can practice going there to do your progressive muscle relaxation or breathing exercises.

Again , doing this every day will be helpful with reducing stress and helping you relax. Doing these relaxation exercises before bedtime, may help reduce the symptoms of insomnia.

Helpful Video

I realize that not everyone is able to keep focus during visualization, and that the thought of tying to create something in the imagination can put stress on some people.

This video I found on YouTube is a good relaxation aid for anyone that faces these problems. You can find more videos like this in the Hypnosis Therapy section of this website.

Please note that if you are using this video to help you sleep, you should stop before the end where the narrator asks you to feel fully awake and refreshed.