At Serenity Now, CMHC, we provide instruction on a variety of relaxation therapy techniques that clients can use when confronted by unexpected situations that may trigger the urge to relapse. When exposed to something unpleasantly stressful, we automatically engage in an evolutionary adaptation termed the “fight or flight” response, which readies our bodies for the impending predicament by increasing heart rate, aspiration and blood flow to the muscles. Originally, this altered physical state was presumably designed to escape a physical confrontation with a wild animal or even another aggressive individual, providing us with the necessary energy and strength to overcome a potentially deadly situation.
Today, we are constantly under stress—stress from work, family obligations, relationship issues and financial problems. Because we have hundreds of more things to worry about today than in our evolutionary past, our bodies and brains rarely experience extended periods of time which does not force us to go into “fight or flight” mode. Unfortunately, the consequences of a physiological response that was once intended as a temporary necessity to evade harm or even death causes us to experience negative health problems, such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, depressed immune system and, regrettably, addiction to substances and behaviors.
Relaxation Techniques That Work
As just one of Serenity Now’s many treatment methods conducive to overcoming mental illness and addictions, relaxation therapy techniques are easy to learn and can be implemented whenever a client feels the need to emotionally step away from an upsetting situation before their own feelings escalate beyond their ability to control them. People with panic disorder, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD frequently use relaxation techniques to alleviate heart palpitations, calm racing thoughts and access a deep, inner sense of peace and strength that helps them cope with paralyzing feelings of uncertainty and fear.
Addictions are primarily fueled by a client’s crushing desire to escape physical and emotional pain exacerbated by the unfolding of one stressful event after another. Routinely attempting to escape the fear of pain, depression and anxiety results in a client constantly experiencing the unpleasant sensations of “fight or flight” response and turning to drugs, alcohol, sex or the Internet for immediate relief. By learning several relaxation techniques, such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation or deep breathing, clients learn how to cope with fear and indecision in a healthy and productive manner.
Relaxation therapy techniques are easy to learn and can be implemented whenever a patient feels the need to emotionally step away from an upsetting situation before their own feelings escalate beyond their ability to control them.
When we are stressed or frightened, our breathing becomes rapid and shallow in response to our body readying for “battle”. Instead of taking long, oxygen-rich breaths, we “chest breathe,” which constricts lung and chest tissues and reduces oxygen flow throughout the body. However, this type of breathing benefits muscles because it gets blood to the muscles faster by increasing the heart rate.
Alternately, deeply breathing in a slow, rhythmic manner allows expansion of the diaphragm muscle and air pathways in the lungs, two primary actions that evoke the relaxation response by triggering your body’s parasympathetic nervous system. Deep breathing will additionally minimize the release of cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline, two chemicals that are beneficial as short-term attention enhancers but detrimental to overall health when sustained at abnormally high levels
Professional therapists at Serenity Now are trained to instruct clients in the art of deep breathing for relaxation purposes. Although clients often view deep breathing exercises somewhat skeptically when first introduced to them, they inevitably acknowledge the effectiveness of this kind of relaxation technique and find that deep breathing also leads to cognitive benefits such as the ability to think more clearly.
Learning deep breathing techniques also represents a friendly introduction into employing meditation techniques that enhance coping skills and moderate emotions that have become intense and overwhelming. As a form of relaxation therapy drawing on the idea that an almost imperceptible distinction between the mind and body exists, meditation attempts to control and redirect anxious thoughts by concentrating on only one single thought, such as a calm, beautiful lake. Some clients find it more relaxing to concentrate on a single word, or mantra, or not to think of anything at all except empty space.
A currently popular meditation technique is called mindfulness meditation, which involves the client “mindfully” attending to the sensations within the body, like inhaling and exhaling, while focusing on recent experiences without judging or responding to these experiences. Since classic addiction behaviors are characterized by a hypersensitive and maladaptive reactions to people and happenings, clients learning to use mindful meditation benefit from the accepting, balanced perspective provided by this almost Buddhist-like approach to life events. Mindful meditation not only teaches Serenity Now patients how to deal with relapse “triggers” but also helps to amend dysfunctional thought patterns that have caused distortions in perception.
Serenity Now, CMHC also provides several other relaxation therapy techniques for our clients who are interested in learning about them as they continue on their road to recovery at our facility and the fully attainable reality of living a healthier, happier life.