I've worked in the area of counseling and psychotherapy for over 30 years. During this time I've written and collected a variety of handouts for clients that covers numerous topics. I have a document that lists the topics and titles of the handouts, an index. I have posted all the handouts on Google drive. I give my clients the link so they can access any and all of my handouts. Please let me know if there are problems with these links.
OUTLINE OF TOPICS:
DEEP BREATHING FOR RELAXATION & STRESS MANAGEMENT
BY Dr. Reneé Roberts
Many people have never been taught how to relax and unwind. Much of our modern life is stressful. Sometimes we become overwhelmed with events and demands on us. Often we develop stomach prob-lems, high blood pressure, headaches, etc. Techniques which help us handle anxiety and stress can be learned. The primary technique that works for most people is deep breathing, also called “diaphragmatic breathing.” Caution: If you have asthma, smoke heavily, or have breathing problems you may find it difficult to use this technique, or should not try it. Sometimes deep breathing can trigger an asthma attack. If you breathe deeply too quickly, you can hyperventilate; so be sure to do this exercise slowly.
Suggestions to make it easier to relax:
- Close your eyes to reduce distractions
- Get in a comfortable position, in a comfortable recliner, or putting your feet up
- Turn down the lights
- Put a “do not disturb” sign on the door
- Play soft music (without words)
- Light a candle
- Cuddle up in a warm, soft blanket
- Kick off your shoes and loosen tight clothing (if alone!)
- Turn off the phone
Take a deep breath, filling your lungs totally, bringing the air all the way down to be bottom of your lungs. Immediately exhale through your mouth, blowing out the air. Some people like to exhale quickly, others prefer a slow, deep sigh. Pause, with your lungs empty, to at least a slow count of five (5). This is when your body is most relaxed. (With practice you can build up to a slow count of ten (10) or more.) Then take another deep inhale, exhale through your mouth, pause when your lungs are empty; and continue this for 5 or 10 repetitions. Sometimes I take a shallow breath after the pause, before the next deep inhale. Do not pause when your lungs are full, that is when you are most tense.
People often find it easier to relax by adding suggestions. With each exhale, repeat a word or phrase to yourself that is relaxing, e.g.:
- Going Down
- Letting Go
These key words can then become attached to the relaxation response, so that soon they will have an association with the relaxed state, and can assist you in relaxing, no matter where you are. As you do the deep inhale and the deep, sighing exhale, say to yourself:
Inhale fresh, cool cleansing air;
Exhale any stress, tension or worry.
Inhale peace, comfort, relaxation;
Exhale any pain or discomfort.
Inhale warmth, love and compassion;
Exhale any bitterness, anger or hatred.
Inhale love and peace;
Exhale any negativity.
You can change the wording around in various ways, too. Be creative with what you tell yourself.
Some people find it helpful to use mental imagery or imagination. After taking 10 Deep Breaths, you can add mental imagery to imagine (remember, or pretend) a place that you associate with relaxation and peace. Imagine being alone, no other human beings around. Visualize a safe place. Most people find nature relaxing. Some sample suggestions:
- Walking or sitting on a white sand beach, on a warm summer afternoon, or at dusk.
- Picnicking in the Spring, in a meadow of wildflowers, on the side of a snow-capped mountain.
- Sitting (fishing?) on the shore of a lake or riverbank on a crisp Fall day.
- Sunbathing on the deck of a wood-masted, sailing boat on a warm Summer day.
- Reclining on a bear-skin rug in front of a fire, in a fireplace
- cabin on a snowy Winter day (yes, I said alone!).
- Sitting on the back-porch swing of an old farm house, with a big glass of fresh lemonade, on a warm Summer’s day.
- Sitting on over-stuffed pillows in the window seat of an old Victorian home, in the Spring, with a soft, gentle breeze stirring the white, shear curtains.
- Soaring high over the land in a glider, no sound, floating free.
Be sure that you imagine, in great detail, using all the senses, what that experience would be like. Use sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste, e.g.
- Feel the soft, cool breeze as it stirs the hair on your forehead.
- Hear the songbirds singing high over head.
- Listen to the wind rustling the leaves of the trees.
- Feel the warm sand as you walk.
- Notice the vivid blue sky over head, with a couple of puffy white clouds lazily drifting by.
- See the bubbles in the foam of the ocean spray as they dance around your ankles.
- Taste & inhale the sweet fragrance of the hot chocolate in the steaming mug that warms your hands.
- Hearing the song of the creek as the water laughs and dances over the rocks, hurling tiny droplets of spray up into the air.
- Feeling the gentle rocking, the rising and falling, of the boat; smelling the salt air and the wood of the deck.
After the 10 Deep Breaths, relaxing suggestions, and mental imagery, then you are ready to actually use this relaxed state for more than just relaxation. Now you can give yourself affirmations (always phrased in a positive manner) concerning things you’d like to change about yourself, e.g.
- I belong here.
- I was born perfect.
- I have a lot to give.
- I am a good person.
- Today is a good day.
- I have a right to be here.
- I have the ability to love.
- I have a lot of inner strength.
- I have a right to my own opinions.
- I can achieve many of my dreams.
- I have a right to say, “No” to requests.
- People like me, admire me, respect me.
- It is possible to chose to be happy today.
- I don’t need everyone to approve of me to be okay.
- I like myself (keep saying this to yourself, over and over).
- I have a lot of inner resources that I’ve never discovered yet.
- There’s nothing that can happen today that God and I together can’t handle.
Practice this relaxation twice daily, for 15 minutes at a time.