Anxious Flyers Can Calm Themselves with ‘Jacobsen’s Relaxation Technique’

by David Lanzas

This is a technique which focusses on the tension-relaxation of muscle groups to calm the body. To perform it properly during a flight, start by adjusting to a comfortable posture in your seat. Take several deep breaths to relax your body. Then start paying attention to your body, starting with your feet and slowly working your way up. While you do it, focus on tensing each muscle group for five seconds and, immediately afterwards, proceed to relax that same group of muscles twice as long as they were tensed, that is, approximately ten seconds and feel that sensation of relaxation in your body. Notice how relaxation feels right after tension. Repeat this step with each muscle group a couple of times and notice how just after tensing, the relaxation becomes deeper.

You can use visualisation strategies to help you relax your muscles. For example, imagine that the muscles of your body are filling with a warm and relaxing light, which is calming them and releasing the tension that we have previously generated. You can also imagine that the air you breathe is filled with calm and that calm is filling your body. Feel how that calm is flowing through all your muscle groups, relaxing them and releasing them from tension.

You can also do these steps with each muscle group individually or do them with your whole body at the same time. Although my recommendation is that you do it with each muscle group individually. This option can help you relax your body on a much deeper level.

Once you’ve completed the entire journey, take a moment to feel the effect of progressive relaxation. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. You will notice that your body feels more relaxed and that the tension has decreased considerably.

Give it a try on your next flight, and have a great one!


Founder of the Lanzas Institute, David Lanzas is a psychologist specialising in anxiety and trauma.
Photo | undrey