Kristen Bellows, BSW

Kristen currently lives in Toronto, Ontario with her partner and 2 cats. She has a Bachelor of Social Work from Ryerson University and engages in anti-oppressive work.

ID 100155465 150x150 Why Create a Relaxation Plan? Coping with Overwhelming EmotionsA relaxation plan is a technique from Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). I address this post to not only your children but also you to, the parent. We can all benefit from a relaxation plan! The plan is what it sounds like, a plan to relax you or your child when experiencing overwhelming emotions which could lead to negative coping (ie: cutting or substance use). The goal behind creating a relaxation plan is as a first line of defense against and in dealing with overwhelming emotions.

The most important thing to remember when creating a relaxation plan is that it needs to include techniques you or your child are willing to do.

I have a relaxation plan which consists of 10 techniques. Do not worry if you or your child cannot come up with 10 relaxation techniques but I would say have no less 4 or 5 relaxation techniques. The more techniques on the relaxation plan the more likely you or your child will be successful in one of them although having to many could also increase the feeling of being overwhelmed so I would recommend not going above 10.

Here’s my relaxation plan as an example.

Kristen’s Relaxation Plan

  1. Burn scented candles
  2. Wear comfy clothes
  3. Massage myself
  4. Play with my cats
  5. Listening to soothing music
  6. Have a warm bath
  7. Hug someone I care about
  8. Listening to a recording of a relaxation exercise
  9. Listen to rushing water
  10. Read

Write the relaxation plan on an index card or a larger piece of paper and keep it with you or with your child for those moments of need.

You or your child may find that a few techniques from the relaxation plan are used more than others which would signify that they are the most successful! Personally, I  use scented candles, warm baths and reading the most.

Creating a relaxation plan is a step forward in being able to cope with negative and overwhelming emotions by allowing your body to slow down and focus. Having many different types of techniques can ensure that something will help in each unique situation. Of course, if you or your child are unable to engage in the relaxation plan in a moment of need that is ok. If  the techniques chosen are not working out then make a new one!

How a relaxation plan differs from the DBT Distraction Plan is by bring you or your child back “down”. Negative emotions can have a person feeling very out of control and “up”. Knowing how to relax yourself can allow you to properly distract yourself from stressors and is better for your body as it decreases stress hormones. You are able to better cope when you are relaxed.

Learning how to relax yourself does take practice and love, support and understanding on the journey is most crucial.


The Relaxation Plan model I used came from:  The Dialectical Behavioural Therapy Skills Workbook (reviewand purchase)


Websites to help create a relaxation plan:

Mayo Clinic- Stress Management

Help Guide- Relaxation Techniques


(Photo credit: Feelart,

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