workers, family, etc., what you are doing, if there is any chance they
will walk into the room.
STEP FOUR: Relaxing on command
Most people can relax easily in comfortable, familiar, quiet
surroundings. But, that isn't where we have the stress. It is harder to
relax when called on to speak to a group or when taking a test. What
can you do then? One possibility: pair a silently spoken word, like
"relax," with actually relaxing. Do this thousands of times, as in the
relaxation exercises above or by mentally thinking "relax" as you
exhale. In this way the internal command--"relax"--becomes not only
a self-instruction but also a conditioned stimulus, an automatic
prompter of a relaxation response (like a cigarette, see chapter 4). So,
when you get uptight, you can silently say "relax" and feel better. It is
no cure all but it helps.
STEP FIVE: Relaxation--a routine or as needed
Many people would say that relaxation should be practiced
faithfully twice a day, seven days a week. That is certainly necessary if
you hope to establish a more relaxed level of physiological functioning
on a continuous basis. Other people use a relaxation technique
anytime they have a few minutes to rest. Still others use relaxation
only when tension is getting excessive and/or they need to slow down,
such as at bed time. Any of these uses are fine; however, they all
require practice in advance, i.e. you can't wait until a crisis hits and
then decide you want instant relaxation.
It may take 4 or 5 hours to learn the method, practice it, make the
recording, or whatever is involved. Thereafter, the technique may be
used 15 to 30 minutes a day or only occasionally.
Common problems with the method
Many can't find the time to relax twice a day, especially the people
who need it the most. Although 10 to 15% of students are reluctant to
try a relaxation technique in class, almost everyone can become
deeply relaxed with practice. A few people fall asleep while relaxing. If
you do, you may need to set an alarm.
Effectiveness, advantages and dangers
All the above methods, if used faithfully, seem to be effective
during the relaxation session. Some research has suggested that
meditation works a little better than the other methods, at least for
reducing general anxiety (Eppley, Abrams, & Shear, 1989). How much
the relaxation continues beyond the session is questionable, however,
regardless of the method used. Seeking calm in a storm is a difficult