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most people i tell about relaxation aren’t trying to relax, they’re wanting relief from anxiety. i tell them its easier to start something positive then stop something negative. stopping being anxious is hard, better to work on cultivating relaxation. unless someone is attached to their anxiety because it meets some other vital need or they gain great benefit from it most people can get significant to total relief pretty quickly with some pretty basic techniques.

if the techniques are easy and actually pretty well known why don’t people get better on their own? mostly its two main mistakes. one is thinking you can make yourself relax and failing at it, a sort of learned helplessness because the act of making runs counter to relaxation. it is instead a process of allowing, akin to going to sleep. still it is an act of the will and so is known as passive volition.

The second pitfall is what inspired this post. “I tried that relation thing when i was feeling anxious and it didn’t help”. of course it didn’t. when you need it is a terrible time to try to learn it. you practice it when you’re already relaxed, before bed or after meds if you use those or a time when you’re already close. ‘seek the lord when he can be found’.

after that its pretty simple. all relaxation techniques involve slowing and deepening the breathing and relaxing the muscles. i like to breathe in my nose and out my mouth slowly and deeply and pay attention to the feeling of air going by my septum. usually i do progressive relaxation tightening muscle groups one by one starting with the toes and then relaxing. noticing how it feels to feel tense. noticing how it feels to feel relaxed. i learned it in a book when i was 16, been doing it off and on ever since. i credit with saving my sanity and perhaps even my life. best migraine treatment i’ve tried, even the pills that dissolve under your tongue and give you a three day hangover.

for anxiety you add in self talk. think about what you would say to a friend who felt that way. its ok, just breathe, its going to be ok, anxiety is just a feeling and feelings can’t hurt me. and scaling, numbering it between 1 & 10 like the pain scale and working your way down one point at a time. makes it concrete and feel more manageable to name it. especially something so prosaic as a 6. learn to be aware and catch it earlier if possible. learn that you can live with a four. we all get anxious some time. it is a dangerous and uncertain world.

anxiety is like the warning light on your dash board. it tells us something is wrong and we need to be aware and take some action. taking a pill is like putting a piece of black electrical tape over the light. it doesn’t address the issue. if you worry over the bills and drink or take a pill it doesn’t pay the bills.

you have to take some action. setting goals keeps us targeted and allows us to tolerate greater discomfort as we work for better things. visualization can help. i like to imagine tension as a darkness flowing out of me. i like to breathe in flexibility and breathe out tension. sometimes its as simple as working the tension out of my shoulders.

the emotions are not directly controllable so we have to push them indirectly through our thoughts, or our bodies, or our actions. exercise is great as well. it uses the same energy to be anxious that get used up by exercise or hard physical labor.

anger can be managed the same way, stress as well. if you breakdown the symptoms they all look pretty similar.

Categories: feelings, health
  1. September 4, 2011 at 11:58 am

    A great post as always. I need to start using some of these techniques again, a good reminder.

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