Web-Based Relaxation Intervention for Stress During Social Isolation: Randomized Controlled Trial

JMIR Ment Health - Journal Article

Background: Relaxation practices might be helpful exercises for coping with anxiety and stressful sensations. They may be of particular utility when used in web-based interventions during periods of social isolation. Objective: This randomized study aimed to test whether web-based relaxation practices like natural sounds, deep respiration, and body scans can promote relaxation and a positive emotional state, and reduce psychomotor activation and preoccupation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: Participants were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions. Each condition was characterized by a single online session of a guided square breathing exercise, a guided body scan exercise, or natural sounds. The participants listened to one of the fully automated audio clips for 7 minutes and pre-post completed self-assessed scales on perceived relaxation, psychomotor activation, level of preoccupation associated with COVID-19, and emotional state. At the end of the session, qualitative reports on subjective experience were also collected. Results: Overall, 294 participants completed 75% of the survey and 240 completed the entire survey as well as one of three randomly assigned interventions. Perceived relaxation, psychomotor activation/stress, and preoccupation related to COVID-19 showed a positive improvement after participants listened to the audio clips. The same pattern was observed for the valence and perceived dominance of the emotional state. The square breathing and body scan exercises yielded superior results compared to natural sounds in lowering perceived stress. Conclusions: This study provides a novel insight that can guide the development of future low-cost web-based interventions to reduce preoccupation and stress in the general population.

  • Volume: 7
  • Issue: 12
  • Pages: e22757
  • Date: 2020
  • Series title:
  • Journal abbreviation:JMIR Ment Health
  • DOI: 10.2196/22757
Silvia Francesca Maria Pizzoli, Chiara Marzorati, Davide Mazzoni, Gabriella Pravettoni
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