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Rest and relaxation

Making time in the day to take a break from activities and help your body to relax is a helpful way in managing your condition. There are lots of different ways to relax and they take practice to do. Here are some ideas you might like to try.

Good resting is about:

  • setting aside regular times and planning your day around them
  • resting in short chunks of time
  • having a place to rest that is warm, quiet and comfortable
  • making the space more personal by using a different cover on your bed or chair
  • switching off your phone and letting people know not to disturb you
  • turning off the computer or other screens
  • finding a comfortable position laying down or propped up by cushions
  • knowing ways of relaxing that work for you

Rest is important, but resting too much, or a lack of meaningful, interesting activity causes lethargy and reduces motivation. People who rest a lot often feel like doing less. This is because your body adjusts to how much you do, a bit like a reverse fitness programme.

If you exercise and practice daily your body will become stronger and better at the activity. If you do less your body will become weaker and less able to do what you want.

Reducing or stopping activity, and spending lots of time at home can be unhelpful and make you feel isolated. It can then become hard to start doing things again.

The best thing to do is to balance activities with rest. This resource looks at some ideas on how to make rest effective so you can do more of the things you want to do.


Being able to relax your breathing is a really useful tool. When we breath in a tense and stressed pattern, we tend to breathe more quickly and can feel tension around the neck, shoulders and upper body.

The best way to deal with this is to recognise when you are breathing more quickly and see if you can change this.

How to relax your breathing

  • Let your shoulders rest so that they are not tense
  • Relax your mouth, so that your teeth are not biting hard together and your tongue is not pressed hard against your teeth
  • Breathing let it be slow, and relaxed, and gentle
  • Imagine the air you are breathing is going gently in, all the way down to your tummy. Then let the air gently out, softly and slowly, so that it would hardly move a candle flame
  • Count your breathing at a comfortable speed. For example in 1, 2, 3 and out 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. See if you can make the breath out slightly longer
  • Try and practice a few minutes a few times each day, especially when you can find a quiet moment and at bedtime. Practice will mean that you can use relaxed breathing at more difficult times

Breathing square to help breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds and hold for 4 seconds

It can be helpful to imagine a box while doing this.

Mindfulness and meditation

Mindfulness is simply noticing what is happening right now, in this moment and paying attention to it.

Mindfulness is becoming aware of your senses and of how your body feels and moves. What can you see, hear, touch, smell and taste? It can help you to slow down and bring a sense of calm.

There are many known benefits to mindful ness including better sleep, decreased anxiety and improved health. There are lots of apps which can help you learn mindfulness some are shown at the end of this resource.

The Laura Mitchell method

When we are tense, tired, stressed, in pain, we automatically tend to get into a curled up type of posture which makes out body feel as though it is protecting itself. This was of relaxation helps us to move out of that position and into a more stretched out position. It can be useful if your joints are sore to relax them to be more comfortable

Practise the following instructions slowly in a quiet, comfortable and supported place:

  • pull your shoulders towards your feet, and then stop
  • elbows out and open, and then stop
  • keeping your wrists supported, stretch out your fingers and thumbs, and then stop
  • let your hips roll outwards, and then stop
  • gently move your knees until they are comfortable
  • push your feet away from your face, and then stop
  • press your body into the support, and then stop
  • press your head into the support, and then stop
  • take 3 deep, easy breaths, in through your nose, sigh out through your mouth
  • with your mouth closed, unclench your teeth, so your jaw drops down slightly
  • let your tongue come away from the roof of your mouth, and feel your throat relax
  • with your eyes closed, feel your eyelids very light on your eyes
  • now imagine that the muscle is smoothing up from your eyebrows, across your scalp and down the back of your
  • once more, take 3 deep easy breaths, in through your nose, sigh out through your mouth

Repeat the above instructions and then check through your body:

  • take note that your arms, hands, hips, knees and feet feel relaxed and resting
  • that your head and body are resting relaxed and heavy on the support
  • that your mouth and face are relaxed, with your eyes closed
  • that your breathing is slow, gentle and relaxed

Rest for as long as you need to, but when you are ready to get up, remember to stretch first, and to get up slowly.

Muscle relaxation

When we feel worried, upset or nervous it is normal for all of our muscles to tense up. This exercise teaches you how to relax different parts of your body.

Hands and arms

Pretend you have a lemon in each hand. Try to squeeze all the juice out, as hard as you can. Feel your hands and arms getting tighter. Hold this squeeze for 10 seconds. Now, relax and let the lemon drop out of your hand. Pay attention to the difference in your hands and arms.

Arms and shoulders

Pretend you are a cat that just woke up from a nap. Stretch your arms forwards in front of you then raise them high above your head. Feel the pull in your shoulders. Stretch high and touch the ceiling. Hold for 10 seconds. Now, relax and let them drop quickly and feel how nice it is to be relaxed.

Shoulders and neck

Pretend you are a turtle. Try and pull your head into your shell. Try to pull your shoulders up to your ears and push your head down into your shoulders. Hold tight for 10 seconds. Now, come out of your shell and relax those shoulders.


Pretend you are squeezing a watermelon in between your shoulder blades. Hang your arms by your side and pull your shoulders together. Hold tight for 10 seconds. Now release and let the watermelon drop to the floor.


Pretend to squeeze through the fence. Now pretend you want to squeeze through a narrow fence. Suck your stomach in, try to squeeze it against your back bone. Get it real small and tight, hold for 10 seconds. Okay, you made it. You got through the fence. Settle back and let your stomach blow out.


Pretend you are trying to bite a giant carrot. It is hard to chew so bite down on it as hard as you can. Hold the bite for 10 seconds. Good, now relax. You have bitten through the carrot. Let your jaw go all loose.

Face and nose

Pretend a fly has landed on your nose, try and get it off without using your hands. Wrinkle up your nose and make as many wrinkles as you can. Scrunch it up really hard and hold it as tight as you can. Notice how your cheeks, mouth and forehead move too. Hold it for 10 seconds.  Now relax your face and let it go smooth again.

Legs and feet

Pretend you are standing barefoot in a big mud puddle. Squish your toes deep into the mud. Try to get them right to the bottom. You will probably need your legs to help push. Hold for 10 seconds. Okay, time to come back out. Relax your feet and legs.


Visualisation is a way of using your imagination to help you relax.

Visualisation helps you focus your mind by using your memories and imagination. The focus allows other worries or busy thoughts to drift away so that your brain can calm down and help you fall asleep.

Start by focusing on your breathing aiming for slow, regular breaths.

Imagine that you are going on a walk to your favourite place (maybe a beach, forest, park or town). As you go notice what you can see along the way, the smells, sounds and warmth of the sunshine. Imagine laying down and listening to the birds or the sea.

Other ideas might be taking an imaginary journey round your old school, or a house you used to live in. You could also make up a place that you ‘visit’ when you are resting. The more you use that image the more quickly you will feel relaxed when you think about it.

You could imagine you are in the basket of a hot air balloon. Imagine that the basket is comfortable and safe. Imagine that any unhelpful thoughts or memories are floating up into the balloon (maybe the bad ones get burnt in the gas burner). Imagine the journey of your balloon in detail, floating under the warm sun or midnight stars, seeing hills and valleys, famous cities, whatever you decide, imagine the sounds, the smells, the feelings and enjoy the journey.

Contact us

If you have any further questions or concerns please contact the Rheumatology Therapy Team on 0114 271 7227.

Further resources



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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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