Psychological Self-Help

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task. In many of us, the stress reaction is just too strong to be easily
overridden; we may need to withdraw from the stressful situation for a
while (and consider using method #6, desensitization). 
One would think that relaxing would be the safest thing in the
world for a self-helper to do. It probably is, but several therapists have
reported panic attacks in patients when relaxation is tried in therapy
(Lazarus & Mayne, 1990). This negative reaction has been observed
primarily in persons suffering from very high anxiety. For most people,
this shouldn't be a concern. In a class setting, I have found that 5-
10% of the students do not fully participate in a relaxing exercise in
class. Some don't like closing their eyes; others are reluctant to
publicly "make a muscle," "suck in your stomach," "arch your back"
(thus, throwing out your chest), etc. But almost everyone can learn to
relax. Imaging relaxing visual scenes (a warm sunny day on the
beach) works best for some people; repeating calming sayings and
self-instructions works better for others; sitting in a warm bath
reading a magazine works wonderfully for some. Madders (1997),
Cautela & Groden (1993), and Sutcliffe (1995) describe several self-
relaxation methods. 
Additional readings
Davis, M., Eshelman, E. R., & McKay, M. (1995). The relaxation
& stress reduction workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger
Louden, J. (1992). The woman's comfort book. San Francisco:
Jacobson, E. (1964). Self operations control: A manual of
tension control. Philadelphia: J. P. Lippincott Co.
Curtis, J. D. & Detert, R. A. (1981). How to relax: A holistic
approach to stress management. Palo Alto, CA: Mayfield
Publishing Co. 
Rosen, G. M. (1976). Don't be afraid: A program for
overcoming your fears and phobias. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Rosen, G. M. (1977). The relaxation book. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Smith, J. C. (1985). Relaxation Dynamics. Champaign, IL:
Research Press. 
Moods by suggestion: calm scene, relaxation, elation
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