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Relaxation Methods can help with Depression and Anxiety

I work with many of my clients who are depressed or anxious to substitute relaxation sensations for stress sensations…which can help set more favorable conditions for positive thinking. When people feel depressed, energy often declines and ordinary life stressors can seem impossible to manage. Simply putting yourself in a more relaxed state can reduce tension…an important proactive step to fighting depression.
A very simple, popular method I like to work on with clients is breathing for relaxation. Using your diaphragm, slowly breathe in, hold your breath for a moment or two, slowly breath out, wait a few seconds…and then breath in once more. Repeat this cycle for two minues at least twice per day.
Clients often like to use imagery relaxation methods to counter depression or anxiety. Try to think of a sensory image which you associate with relaxation. This could be a day at the beach, or taking a nap in a hammock on a lovely day. Conjure and focus intently on this image and hold it, if possible, for two minutes. If other (negative) thoughts seem to intrude, try hard to return to this pleasant/relaxing image. If you can’t think of your own pleasant image, try some of these:
–A white, puffy cloud moving through the sky
–A large tree swaying slowly in the breeze
–A warm ray of sunshine on your face on a summer day
If this type of imagery helps you to relax, try to structure it into your daily schedule. Doing this exercise a few times per day can help you to substitute relaxation for tension.
Edmund Jacobson’s (1929) muscular relaxation method has been around for a very long time and has helped many of my clients. It is based upon systematically tensing and relaxing the major muscle groups in your body. To use this method, simply sit down in a comfortable chair…or you can lie down if you prefer. Squeeze a muscle group for five seconds, hold the tension for five more seconds and then release the tension over the next five seconds. This can progressively lead to a sense of relaxation.
Set aside time to relax each day. Some people prefer to relax right before bed to help fall asleep. Others relax first thing in the morning to start the day refreshed and revitalized. Consider if there are times in the day when yourstress level is high or your energy is low. These can be ideal times to schedule in a brief relaxation session.
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