Psychological Self-Help

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encounter groups, workshops or courses on interpersonal
communication or specific concerns, self-help classes, etc. 
Many support groups are focused on specific health problems:
cancer, heart disease, leukemia, loss of a child, mentally and
physically handicapped children, etc. See the health Web sites
given later in this chapter. 
Warnings: A few self-help groups, similar to religious cults, become dominated by a
highly controlling leader who demands loyalty to him/her or to the group. Be leery of any
group that attempts to control your life. Likewise, avoid groups which offer mystical
experiences, such as talking with the dead or curing physical diseases, or which
specialize in uncovering repressed memories, such as childhood sexual abuse or past
lives.
Relaxation training 
One obvious way to counter stress and anxiety is to learn to do the
opposite, to relax. 2,500 years ago, Chinese philosophers, who
believed suffering was a part of existence, suggested a way to avoid
frustration: give up your wants and ambitions! They made a good
point but Westerners find it hard and undesirable to be goalless.
Besides the Buddhist's way, there are many other ways to relax: (a)
progressive (Jacobson, 1964) or deep-muscle relaxation, (b)
stretching or breathing exercises, (c) cue-controlled relaxation (pairing
relaxation with a word like "relax" and using the word as a command
when needed), (d) suggested relaxation of the body ("you are getting
relaxed, your arms are getting warm and heavy..."), (e) suggested
relaxation fantasies ("you are on a warm, sunny beach..."), (f)
cognitive and sensory tasks ("listen to this story...think about your
vacation...concentrate on..."), (g) meditation or Benson's method of
relaxing, and (h) biofeedback. Methods of relaxing are described in
chapter 12. Of course, there is also exercising, having sex, sleeping,
reading, watching TV, socializing, and diverting attention to pleasant
tasks. 
Since we each respond to stress in a different way--some worry,
some get mad, some get stomach or headaches, etc.--we each need
to find our own way to relax. Ask yourself if your anxiety is more
physical or mental. When you are anxious, if it is mostly physical, your
heart will speed up, you'll feel tense, perspire, freeze up, hands or
knees will shake, hands are cold and damp, stomach will get upset,
and you need to go to the bathroom. If your anxiety is mostly mental,
your mind can't concentrate, you have scary thoughts, worry a lot but
can't make decisions, and become obsessed with the problem you
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