Basics for Starting Work on using your mind
Pick a place and time during the day when you won’t be disturbed for fifteen minutes- start with five, if necessary, and if the only quiet room in the house is the bathroom, that’ll do! Turn off the phone and make this time your own. Try to practice twice a day and four times a week.
Don’t expect miracles. It takes time to acquire skills. You may need three or four weeks of consistent practice before you really start to notice benefits. Relaxation should be helpful. At worst, you may find these few minutes boring, but if it is an unpleasant experience or makes you feel more nervous or anxious, then try one of the other symptom management techniques described in this chapter.
Muscle relaxation is one of the most commonly used cognitive techniques for symptom management. People like it because it makes sense. Muscular tension and physical stress intensifies pain, shortness of breath, or emotional distress, so releasing tension and stress can lesson those same symptoms. It is easy to learn.
We can remember to use it in difficult situations. We can recognise some immediate positive results, in reduced pain, easier breathing and deeper calm. The results are lasting. It promotes restful sleep. So learning to use your mind to relax your muscles is worth some effort.
Below are the three examples of muscle relaxation with “scripts” to help you with the necessary thought process. Look at the techniques and the scripts, try them, and choose one you like. You might want to rape record a script, which can help you concentrate, without interruption from referring to the book.
You could buy your own relaxation tape or CD to use regularly. There are many available in shops and on the internet. Ask about the return policy in case you find the tape or CD doesn’t suit you.
The first script below helps you become familiar with the difference between how tension feels and how relaxation feels. The second script helps you scan your body, so that you can recognise where you are holding tension, and then release it. The script for the third muscle relaxation technique allows you direct access to your body’s relaxation response.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Edmund Jacobson, an American physiologist from the last century, believed that once you learn to recognise the feeling of tension you are better able to learn to let the tension go.
This first exercise introduces you to the technique for comparing the feelings of tension and relaxation. Pause for about ten seconds whenever there is a series of dots (…). Probably, just reading this script a couple of times and then working from memory will be enough. The exercise guides you through the major muscle groups, asking you first to tense and then to relax them. If you have a pain in a particular area today, tense those muscles only gently or not at all, and focus on relaxing them.
Click the button below to download the script in a pdf format.
Using Your Imagination
You can reduce fear and anxiety and refocus your attention away from the discomfort of your symptoms using your imagination. Techniques include guided imagery and visualisation.
The guided imagery relaxation technique uses your powerful imaginative capacity – as in the example with the lemon above. Allowing yourself to wander in the world your imagination creates from the script is like being guided through a daydream. You can divert your attention from your symptoms and transport yourself to another time and place. You can achieve deep relaxation in your body by picturing yourself in a peaceful environment.
The guided imagery script presented her can help take you on a mental stroll. Again, you can read the script several times so that you know what it says. You could ask a family member or a friend to read you the script slowly, pausing for about ten seconds when there is a series of dots (…). Or you could make a tape of the recording of the script and play it to yourself. This has the advantage that your own voice takes you on your “guided tour”.
Again, make yourself as comfortable as possible, sitting or lying down. Loosen any tight clothing. Uncross your arms, legs and ankles. Allow your body to feel completely supported by the surface on which you are sitting or lying.
Click below to download a Guided Imagery Script entitled A Walk in the Country.
Download our mindfulness and relaxation guide here