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Updated by Amy Armstrong on Oct 30, 2019
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Stress Management and Relaxation Resources

Take some time to slow down and recover from everyday stress between vacations.

10 Tips to Calm Down and Relax in Less Than a Minute Flat

Sometimes our days get so crazy we forget to take a minute to breathe! But we must--it’s the only way to decompress before getting too carried away. Fortunately, there are many ways both physically and spiritually that we can do this. All of these methods for calming down can be done in under a minute.

Reduce Anxiety Quickly with Square Breathing

Cognitive behavioral therapy has hundreds of research articles in support
of it as the most effective treatment for numerous psychological problems.
It is helpful for everything from depression to relationship problems. One
thing the research has shown time and again, is that cognitive behavioral
therapy is especially effective at treating anxiety disorders. There are
numerous CBT interventions to target anxiety, including systematic
exposure, cognitive restructuring, and mindfulness training. The following
technique is a form of relaxation training that can be used in conjunction
with one of the aforementioned interventions, or all on its own. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people reduce the intensity of
negative emotions. However, we cannot change our emotions by focusing on
them directly. Otherwise it would work when people told us to 'calm down.'
What we can change however, is our thoughts, behaviors, and to some extent,
our physiology. Because all of these components affect one another, CBT
helps us to change emotions by changing the things that feed the emotions.

One emotion that CBT has been proven to be helpful for time and again, is
anxiety. As human beings, we all experience anxiety from time to time. It's
natural. It's normal. And if we didn't, we'd probably get into a lot of
trouble. Unfortunately, sometimes anxiety can become too intense and get in
the way of our effectiveness (think going blank during a final exam).
Cognitive behavioral therapy has numerous treatments for anxiety, and most
of them are among the most effective psychological treatments studied by
scientists. One that is easy to learn is square breathing, also known as
relaxation breathing.

A note of caution: If you have any medical condition that might be
adversely affected by slowing down your breathing or holding your breath,
please consult with your doctor first. This can include cardiovascular
problems, epilepsy, and asthma.

Steps for Square Breathing:

STEP 1: Find a quiet place in which you can sit for ten to fifteen minutes
without being distracted.

STEP 2: Take note of your normal breathing pattern, and count how many
seconds each inhale and exhale take. 

STEP 3: Once you have a baseline measurement, increase the length of the
inhalation and exhalation by one second, in essence slowing down each
in-breath and out-breath. Once you have acclimated to the new, slower rate,
increase the inhalation and exhalation by another second. If you feel
uncomfortable or out of breath, it probably means you're slowing down too
fast. Continue gradually slowing down your breath until you are breathing
as slowly as you can without ANY difficulty. 

STEP 4: Once you are comfortable with a slower breath, experiment by
pausing after each exhalation and each inhalation. These pauses can be
short, lasting one or two seconds, or long, lasting up to ten seconds.
However long the pauses last, just note you will probably have to adjust
your rate of inhalation and exhalation to continue breathing comfortably,
without feeling the need to gasp for air. The technique is called square
breathing because originally the in-breath, out-breath, and both pauses
were designed to be the same length, in the same way each side of a square
is the same length. However, it doesn't really matter the ratio, as long as
fewer breaths are taken each minute. 

STEP 5: Set an alarm and continue this for ten to fifteen minutes.
Afterward, you will most likely experience an increase in relaxation, and a
significant decrease in anxiety. AMAZING.

This works in the same way that the half-smile technique works: Normally
when we are anxious, the result in our body is that our breathing rate
increases, and we take shorter, shallower breaths. When we are relaxed, the
opposite happens. By slowing down the breath, we trick our brain into
thinking we are relaxed, and all of the relaxation neuro-chemicals are

Research has shown engaging in this technique has immediate effects in the
brain. More importantly, studies have proven that engaging in square
breathing twice daily lowers overall levels of anxiety long-term in people
who are prone to excessive worry. 

Try it out to see how it works. If it's helpful, the next time you're
freaking out in a doctor's waiting room, or biting your nails before a job
interview, pull out your square breathing and take things down a few

For more information on this and other cognitive behavioral approaches to
anxiety and depression, visit Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Los Angeles


All material provided on this website is for informational purposes only. 
Direct consultation of a qualified provider should be sought for any
specific questions or problems.  Use of this website in no way constitutes
professional service or advice. 


Imagery: Basic Relaxation Script | Psych Central

Hi and welcome. I'm here to offer you a simple way to use your mind and your imagination to create for yourself a state of mind that's peaceful, pleasant, relaxing, restful, and refreshing. Really, what I'm going to invite you to do is to have a daydream. Daydream yourself to a place that's very beautiful to you, very peaceful, and very safe. Begin by paying attention to your breathing, and let yourself take a few nice, deep, full breaths. Let yourself breathe into your abdomen, bringing your breath all the way down into your belly, and allowing your out-breath to be a real letting-go kind of a breath. As if with that breath, you can begin to release any tension, or discomfort, or distraction that you don't need to hold on to. You're just using that breath to begin shifting your attention from the outer world to your inner world and to take a five-minute break and go to a place that's peaceful and beautiful. And induce a state of peacefulness and relaxation centered within you. Let

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