How to relax: Let me Count the Ways (part 2)

Gerald Tarlow, Ph.D. Health Guide
  •      In my last post I talked about some of the popular techniques that are used to help people relax who have anxiety disorders.  Today, I would like to add a few more possible techniques to choose from.


         Self-hypnosis can be used to get you in a very relaxed state.  During self-hypnosis people often feel very passive, experience a reduction in muscle activity and energy.  Very often in this state you will experience a narrowing of attention and may be able to drown out any background noises.  There are many standard self-induction exercises that are available.


         Autogenic training is a relaxation technique that was developed in the 1930's by psychiatrist Johannes Schultz.  Autogenic training emphasizes repeating phrases about limb heaviness and phrases for calming the mind.  An example of an autogenic training exercise would be to repeat the phrase "my right arm is heavy.  My left arm is heavy.  Both of my arms are heavy." 

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         Biofeedback can also be used as a relaxation technique.  Biofeedback involves being hooked up to a machine that measure what is currently happening in your body.  For example, fingertip skin temperature can be used as a measure of general tension in the body.  In biofeedback you can observe what is happening in your body and then try to make positive changes.  Biofeedback tends to be very useful for individuals looking for a scientific confirmation that the techniques they are using are actually working.


         I have often told the patients I work with that it doesn't matter what technique they use.  It only matters if the technique they choose works for them.  If someone could convince me that got relaxed by standing on their head for 15 minutes per day, I would have no problem telling them to continue using the technique.  Many people can achieve relaxation by listening to music or sitting in a specific place.  It is a good idea to learn several different relaxation techniques.  Therefore, if one technique doesn't help on a given day you can try an alternative technique. 


         The techniques I have reviewed are best used to combat the physical symptoms of anxiety.  In future posts I will review some of the cognitive techniques that can be used to combat thoughts that create anxiety.

Published On: July 27, 2008