Week two of the Pain Coping Skills research study.
Following up on the Progressive Relaxation guided technique of week one, in week two we learned a simple and useful technique called Mini-Practices.
For relaxation to benefit you the most, you need to learn how to relax and calm yourself upon your command. This skill can be very helpful when you are feeling increased tension or pain, but are unable to go to a secluded area to do progressive relaxation.
To Do a Mini-Practice:
- Stop yourself in whatever you are doing
- Take a deep breath
- Say the word “relax” to yourself
- Slowly exhale
- As you exhale focus on the sensations of relaxation
- Allow your jaws to relax, allow sensations of heaviness to flow downward from your shoulders throughout your body
- After 30 seconds go back to what you were doing – regardless of how well you have succeeded in relaxing
Reminders to do Mini-Practices
Your goal is to do about 5 mini-practices the first day and then gradually build up to about 20 mini-practices a day over the next few weeks. You can remind yourself to do a mini-practice in many different ways. Some people do a mini-practice every time they feel annoyed or tense. Other people do one every time they stop at a stop light or pick up the telephone. You can remind yourself to do a mini-practice by placing adhesive “dots” around the house (by the door, near your mirror) or on personal belongings (such as a watch, or pocketbook). Every time you see a “dot” you will be reminded to do a mini-practice.
It doesn’t matter how you choose to remind yourself to relax, what is important is that you practice frequently. Little by little you can develop a habit of keeping yourself relaxed throughout the day.
Learning to relax really is a skill. We live in a constant state of flight or fight. Learning to shut that down, even if it is only for 30 second increments is a powerful tool.
After practicing this technique for a week I can say it is something we should all learn and add to our coping skills toolbox. I have not counted to confirm that I am up to 20 mini-practices a day, but the cumulative affect of the number I am doing is very positive. I have a greater feeling of control over my emotions and enjoy the short sensations of relaxation. They are kind of addicting! I find myself doing one each time I wash my hands – and I am compulsive hand washer.
Try it for yourself. It is such a simple and useful technique there really is no reason not to try it. The researcher did mention that some people have an aversion to the word “relax” (feels too harsh), and if this is the case with you, it is perfectly acceptable to find your own word – chill, easy, breath, etc.
Be sure to get yourself a pack of the adhesive dots. They are a fun and useful way to remind yourself to relax.