In this episode of 'Life Free of Anxiety Podcast', Erica and Dr. Charles Barr discuss the importance of relaxation in battling anxiety, and the usefulness of the CHAANGE Program. They explore various relaxation techniques including breathing, progressive relaxation, and guided imagery. They also discuss how the program combines these techniques with cognitive therapy to achieve optimum results. Erica and Dr. Barr detail different ways of engaging the mind and body in relaxation exercises and how you can incorporate them into your daily routine. Resources like downloadable relaxation exercises and further information can be found on their respective websites.
00:37 The Importance of Relaxation in Overcoming Anxiety
02:14 The Role of Relaxation in Anxiety Management
03:20 Exploring Different Forms of Relaxation Exercises
04:25 The Power of Breathing in Relaxation
12:08 The Concept of Progressive Muscle Relaxation
16:07 The Role of Guided Imagery in Relaxation
21:22 Other Methods of Relaxation
25:57 The Importance of Regular Relaxation Practice
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S01E11 Take Control of Anxiety Through Relaxation
[00:00:00] Erica: Well, it turns out there is a part two of last week's episode, and we really wanted to hit this home because this is truly the core of our program. As you know, Dr. Barr and myself met because he was my therapist when I really was at a tough point in my life. I needed help with anxiety badly.
He was an answer to prayer, quite honestly. He directed me to the CHAANGE Program. So you're going to get a lot of what we talk about in the CHAANGE Program. We're really going to tap into why it matters so much and how to do it so well.
[00:00:37] Erica: What I'm talking about is relaxation.
Relaxation is going to be the key to overcoming anxiety. A lot of people will tell you, go meditate, go do this. And you hear these little things you should do to get better with anxiety. You kind of end up getting stuck. Okay, I could meditate, but I'm not better now.
Uh, I can meditate tomorrow. I'm still not better.
What's the key? What's the real answer. And that's what the CHAANGE Program has. This episode, just dives really deeply into relaxation.
So I'm going to be super specific because we are specific as anxious people. We are wondering what will make us better. When can we expect that? What can I do to get there? So listen to part two of this episode.
[00:01:21] Erica: And if I intrigued you about the CHAANGE Program, it is relaxation that goes hand in hand with cognitive therapy in 16 weeks, Dr. Barr has walked hundreds through this program successfully, including myself. He did it himself. You can find out more about the program at CHAANGE.com.
And let's get to the show.
[00:01:40] Erica: Welcome to the Life Free of Anxiety Podcast, where each week we'll bring you another discussion to help you on your way to overcoming your fears. I'm Erica and together with Dr. Charles Barr, a licensed clinical psychologist, specializing in anxiety, we'll be your guides on this journey. Because you are not broken, you are not alone.
And you are on your way to living a life free of anxiety.
[00:02:14] Erica: The Life Free of Anxiety Podcast with Erica and Dr. Barr. Today, we are talking about relaxation. Maybe you tuned into our last episode. We broke down relaxation exercise benefits, which are huge. So if you haven't checked that out yet, definitely do so. We talk about the things that it did for us, the unique things that it did for us, the different ways body relaxation exercises have been proven to help you overcome stress and worry. You'll hear just a lot of good information there.
But in today's episode, we're going to talk to you about just breaking down relaxation as it's hard to understand if we just keep throwing it at you. Relaxation exercises! Where you might be wondering, well, what is a relaxation exercise or what makes a good relaxation exercise?
So this episode is about breathing, progressive relaxation, and guided imagery and Dr. Barr's going to break down what you need to know about that. He also has his own relaxation exercise. You can find that at LifeFreeOfAnxiety.com/relax. And that's the one that I used a lot to get better.
[00:03:20] Erica: All right, Dr. Barr and I are breaking down three forms of relaxation exercise.
[00:03:26] Dr. Charles Barr: Well, there are some key things to the exercises. Key things that are effective that we have shown with research are effective and those are the kinds of things that we want people to be doing.
[00:03:40] Erica: I want to say real fast that you have a relaxation exercise and some of the stuff you're going to go over right now is on that relaxation? Well, actually everything is right?
[00:03:51] Dr. Charles Barr: That relaxation exercise that they can download includes all of what we're going to be talking about. This is what we do in this relaxation exercise.
And this is what we're asking them to do.
[00:04:02] Erica: It's not the only one out there. It's not the only relaxation exercise out there. So if you have one that fits this criteria, or partially fits this criteria, it's probably still going to be pretty good. So ours isn't the only one, but it's a very, very good one.
But the idea is just to make sure you're getting relaxed every day.
[00:04:21] Dr. Charles Barr: That's right. That's the important thing is to get the relaxation going.
[00:04:24] Erica: Okay.
[00:04:25] Erica: So we've got breathing for the first one. Tell us about the breathing key.
[00:04:29] Dr. Charles Barr: Well, breathing is very important and almost any exercise that you're going to find that is good is going to talk to you about breathing and using your diaphragm.
We want you to be using diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing as sometimes it's called. And we call it belly breathing because when you use this, your belly is moving in and out. So we get taught all the time in sports and then when we come up through junior high and high school to suck in your gut and hold your stomach in.
And that is the very muscle that they're saying, "tighten that muscle up, so it doesn't move like that." And that is our breathing muscle. That's the space that the diaphragm uses. When it's functioning properly and it's relaxed, it makes your belly pooch out a little bit. And so that's a difficult one for a lot of people to get is that diaphragmatic breathing.
And yet that is very, very important.
So one of the things you can do to see whether you are doing that correctly or not is you can lie down, put one hand on your chest and put the other hand on your stomach. And then taking a great big breath where everything moves. Fill your lungs as full as you can, and then let that out.
And then after that, only the hand that's on your stomach should be moving. If you're doing diqphragmatic breathing correctly. So that you take your chest muscles out of the breath and use your diaphragm. And that's very difficult for some folks because they haven't used their diaphragm very much, because they've been holding that muscle tight.
And because it's tight, the diaphragm gets weak. It doesn't get exercised. And so they may have to work into that diaphragmatic breathing.
[00:06:18] Erica: Yeah, it doesn't come naturally for me. So I'm one of those people, cause I was always trying to hold in my abs and I also tended to run on the anxious side.
So, it's something I have to be pretty conscious of, but when I fall into my relaxation state, I do notice that my stomach rises on its own. And it's not such a thoughtful experience.
[00:06:38] Dr. Charles Barr: Well, that's right. I mean, you have a newborn, well, he's not quite newborn now, but when he was newborn...
[00:06:44] Erica: yeah.
[00:06:45] Dr. Charles Barr: So, so when he was newborn, And you go in and make sure he's still breathing. All you see is his little tummy coming up.
[00:06:52] Erica: On the monitor. We see that.
[00:06:54] Dr. Charles Barr: Right. And so that's the diaphragm at work. That's the breathing muscles, his chest isn't moving.
[00:07:03] Erica: Yeah. He is just like living life. " I'm not thinking about how I breathe. I'm just breathing. There's no stress in my life."
[00:07:09] Dr. Charles Barr: That's exactly right.
[00:07:11] Erica: Yeah.
[00:07:12] Dr. Charles Barr: When we go back to homeostasis where everything is operating the way it was designed to operate, that's the way it goes. So now the other thing, and when you're practicing diaphragmatic breathing, it's very important that you let yourself breathe out completely.
We want you to take that breath and make sure your lungs empty.
[00:07:31] Erica: Okay.
[00:07:32] Dr. Charles Barr: So push a little bit and then when you get it all out, Just let it stay there. Just let it linger for, you know, maybe five seconds or something and let your diaphragm go soft. If you can let your diaphragm go soft.
That's a very important thing to, to allow because there's some kind of physiological trigger that your diaphragm going soft has that triggers the rest of your body to just let go. Everything's fine.
[00:08:02] Erica: And by soft. Do you mean, you mean, like, it's just kind of like, you're not doing anything. It's just, it's just like soft.
Like it's just, I'm trying to...
[00:08:13] Dr. Charles Barr: It's just there and sometimes you can actually feel it. Let go. And it's soft. Go with it.
[00:08:22] Erica: Kind of doing that now. Okay. Nice.
[00:08:24] Dr. Charles Barr: Okay. Now the other thing, one of in breathing that I have that I use, I call it a breathing key. The reason I like this is because the, when we young, that is our body's natural relaxation response, but that's not under our conscious control.
Now that's contagious, you know, if you're in a room full of people and somebody yawns pretty soon, you'll see that. And then maybe you'll yawn and somebody else will yawn and yeah. You know, it it's, it's like it triggers everyone and. We want to be able to put that under, under your conscious control. And we want the very way we do that then is through classical conditioning.
So taking the deep breath, holding it for the count of three and then slowly letting that out, mimics a yawn. And so that's why I use the breathing key and why I like it, because then when you pair the breathing key with that relaxed feeling, After while all you have to do is do the breathing key and your body goes, Oh, I know what that means.
[00:09:35] Erica: Hmm.
Can you explain Pavlov's dog? Pavlov's dogs? Cause that's kind of where this idea comes from. Right?
[00:09:49] Dr. Charles Barr: Pavlov was a Russian physicist, uh, back in the 1800s and, um, He designed an experiment where he would feed dogs and ring a bell at the same time that he gave the food. Now dogs don't salivate, the bales dogs do salivate to food, right?
And so he would measure the amount of salivation that the dogs had when food was presented. And he did this repeatedly and after time, all he had to do was ring the bell and the dogs would start salivating. So one of the things that we say is things that pair together, fire together. So, so then what he did was he kept pairing food and the bell, so those things paired together and then they started firing together.
So all he had to do is present the bell and the salivation fired. Okay. So that's what we're wanting to do with the breathing, wanting people to use the breathing key and to get their body really relaxed. And, uh, in our exercise, they'll be using the breathing key all the way through so that they're pairing the breathing key with that really relaxed feeling. Pair the breathing key with really relaxed feeling. So that classical conditioning will take place, but that takes practice.
You know, it, you can't just do it once or twice. You have to do it over and over.
[00:11:18] Erica: Yeah.
[00:11:19] Dr. Charles Barr: But then when you present the breathing key, the body goes, we know, and that's a really powerful mechanism. The classical conditioning happens once you've done that. And then you really need the relaxation to kick in.
It's there for you. And, uh, it's there under your conscious control, but in a classically conditioned way.
[00:11:46] Erica: So you're not going to get hungry for dog food. You're going to. I can actually get calm. We don't want you to think we're connecting the two in that way. It's just going to be.
This is for relaxation.
Yes. It just works. You know...
[00:12:01] Dr. Charles Barr: You won't be craving dog.
[00:12:05] Erica: So we're just saying, we're going to relax you.
[00:12:08] Dr. Charles Barr: Yeah, that's right. Okay. Now the second, um, part of the exercise that is very important is progressive muscle relaxation. People do that in different ways. Lots of people do it. It's effective, whichever way, if you have another relaxation exercise and they go a different way, that's perfectly okay.
But you'll get used to one way or the other. I go from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Um, other people will go from your toes up to your head. So, uh, whether you go from top down or. Or bottom up, it doesn't matter particularly, but you're going to want to choose which way you want to go and which way is more comfortable for you.
So I start at the top of your head and I go to the tips of your toes. So I have you identified different muscle groups, and I start with the muscles in your head muscles, in your forehead, muscles, around your eyes, even in your eyebrows, the muscle groups that you don't really pay attention to a lot.
And yet each of these muscle groups have the potential of carrying the tension. Lots of people carry their tension in their foreheads and they might tend to get headaches, tension, headaches. A lot of people carry it in their jaw. So we, we have you identified different muscle groups. And then, the way I do it is I have you send a message to those muscle groups to relax.
And to let go and get rid of all the tension. And I pair that then with the breathing key so that you're letting go of that same time you're breathing the air out.
[00:13:51] Erica: I'm just feeling like I'm going through it right now. Cause this is a lot of what's on your audio and this talk about your conditioning.
I'm actually feeling relaxed. Just hearing you say these words, cause I've heard you say it so many times in a row when I'm trying to relax. That's how much I've done this.
[00:14:09] Dr. Charles Barr: Uh, some people will have you actually can keep those muscle groups and that can be very effective. Uh, I used it for a long time.
Having people actually tense their muscles and hold it for the count of three and then let it go because it helps them identify the muscle group that we're talking about. So if you're, let's say you're, we're talking about the muscles in your head, we would have you, um, make the most horrible face you can make. You know, squint really hard and tense up all your muscles in really ugliest way.
And, and, um, That's okay. But you, you can identify with the muscle groups are that way, but then I found a significant number of people who could tense very well, but then had trouble letting go of the tension. So that's why in my relaxation exercise, I just invite folks to send a message and, and try to become aware of those muscle groups.
Now when I ask people to then let go of the tension, um, the image that I have is that of a ragdoll. I want people to just, uh, go limp,, just become floppy. Um, So, so that they really let go of all of the tension and let their bones carry them.
[00:15:34] Erica: It's a good feeling. Who doesn't want to just kind of collapse and let everything just relaxed in your body?
I mean, that, it feels good.
[00:15:44] Dr. Charles Barr: Yeah. So, so if they can picture that rag doll image, that that's a nice image, I think. Yeah. So you can do progressive muscle relaxation and that's a standalone event, because you can get your body very, very relaxed by going from the top of your head down to the tips of your toes or vice versa.
And you can be extremely relaxed, right?
[00:16:07] Dr. Charles Barr: The third process that is important for any good relaxation, another method that we use, and that is on my relaxation audio. Is called guided imagery. And what we're doing by there with that is we want people to really get their imagination involved. If you can imagine yourself being someplace, it's almost as good as being there.
And so we want to take advantage of your imagination. We want you to engage your imagination. So when, when I'm talking about guided imagery. I will be describing the place and the event and what you're doing and what's happening around. And I want you to feel things. I want you to get all of your senses involved.
I want you to see things. I want you to hear things. I want you to smell things. I might even have you taste things like at, at, uh, in my beach scene, when I have you at the beach, you know, you can with your lips and feel mean taste the saltiness from the spray, that kind of thing, so that you get all of your senses involved and you really try to immerse yourself in that experience.
Yeah, that can be very effective.
[00:17:31] Erica: Something I learned, um, was that you could kind of mix in anything. So if you're doing a guided relaxation of the beach, you might've had a great massage recently that you can still kind of feel like what it felt like when they rubbed your shoulders as her way. I mean, maybe something was like extremely relaxing about that massage for me, I had, um, a massage.
One time, but at the end they brought out this like warm vanilla scrub and they scrubbed my feet and the sensation with the smell was so powerful and strong that I still read. I still recall it when I'm doing relaxation sometimes. So my feet are getting so relaxed, but I'm also maybe still at the beach.
And I mean, I just, you can, you can have it go any way you want. It's your, it's your imagination. You know, there's no proper way to do it, but anything you can ever recall that felt great. Or, um, the sky's the limit, basically.
[00:18:33] Dr. Charles Barr: That's right. You know, you're not constrained to what's on the audio and constrained to what, what I'm trying to present to you.
Some people, you know, if you watch some of the commercials for some of these resorts, you can actually get a massage on the beach. Oh my gosh. I'm curious how would that feel?
[00:18:56] Erica: That's next on my bucket list.
[00:18:59] Dr. Charles Barr: I have not had that experience, but I think that would be marvelous. Yeah.
[00:19:03] Erica: They need to bring the sugar scrub the vanilla sugar scrub..
[00:19:06] Dr. Charles Barr: Well, now, here's part of the thing, you know, some people don't have a very active imagination. They don't picture things that same way. If you have a really good imagination and you can see that in your imagination, that works wonderfully, but for some people they have trouble doing that.
That's part of why the, the banter, if I can put it that way, but, but the continuous voicing of what is happening there can be very effective for those folks because that immediate stimulus of what they're hearing can carry them through the experience, even if they can't necessarily picture it. And so that can be very helpful for them and we want them to be able to have a good experience now, and it can be any other scene.
Um, I have chosen the beach and I have chosen the mountains by a lake and a stream. But it can be by a brook. It can be in a pine forest. It can be in front of a fireplace can be a bubble bath. It can be anywhere that you might find really relaxing, that is relaxing and comforting to you. That's the key is find something that's relaxing and comforting.
And so if you're a good visual visualizer, you can take yourself wherever it is. You can take yourself back to the massage, you know, a particularly good massage.
[00:20:33] Erica: It might be just to your bedroom, maybe your bed and feeling safe there is where you find that that's easiest for you to imagine when you're not home or, um, that's okay too.
[00:20:46] Dr. Charles Barr: That's right. That can be in your bedroom. It can be in your living room, snuggled up on the sofa in front of a fireplace. If you happen to have one and, um, can, can just be a very lovely scene. Yeah. So now, um, what are some other methods? Cause these are the three that I use. So I use a breathing progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery.
[00:21:12] Erica: Ooh, good job! You just recapped. Yes. Okay. So you use those three, but there's some other ones that you don't do.
[00:21:22] Dr. Charles Barr: There are.. They're not involved in what we're doing, but there are other methods where people can relax. There is a hypnosis. People can use acupressure or acupuncture that can be used to help get you relaxed.
You mentioned massage. A massage can be a very, very relaxing experience. There's meditation. Some people can use yoga. Yoga is often used just as an exercise in our country. But a lot of times, depending on your studio that you go to yoga is good because it also teaches uh, certain techniques and breathing.
And so if you're going to yoga and your yoga teacher is teaching you different kinds of breath work, uh, please pay attention. That can be very important to you because that breathing is very important. Um, things like Tai Chi. Uh, there's also biofeedback and, uh, that can even, you can get involved in the arts.
Music can be very relaxing or painting. If you're, if you're an artist, you can get lost in that and be very relaxed. And, uh, even things like aroma therapy. Now I'm not a big aroma therapy person but some people find that extremely helpful. I can't even tell you. What the different aromas are supposed to do for you.
Cause I'm not practiced in that, but, uh, I know that that's there. So yeah, so those are some other options. If people are using some of those and they found them effective. Fantastic. Um, We want you to relax. That's the issue.
[00:23:04] Erica: And these are all great, but the thing is, is that we want you to know that you need to, um, kind of like if you go to a yoga class for instance, and that's all you did all week, it's probably not going to be enough to train your body, to be in a constant state of relaxation, because you're only going to have that hour and you might feel good for maybe a couple hours after, but the reason why we break down all of these breathing exercises with you is to get you kind of involved in doing something that is constantly telling your body, relax, relax, relax.
And if you can only make it to your day, even, even if you went once a day, you probably, I don't think that would be enough to really keep the idea going all day for your body to stay in relaxation mode.
[00:23:51] Dr. Charles Barr: That could be difficult. There are some good ways out there. We have found these three to be particularly effective in helping to put the relaxation response in each individual's hands.
So you can learn a way to relax. You can learn a way to be in control. That's the important thing. And that's where we want people to be able to go is to have the control. Oh, wait a minute. Didn't you start out with control. That, that is the very thing that we anxiety people want is control. Oh yeah. Well, I'm wanting you to be able to be in control, relaxation.
[00:24:33] Erica: Yes. For you control freaks out there. We're giving you something here. Which I am such, or I was such a control freak, and I love this. I love that even now, I mean, I still do relaxation exercise. I'm not done. I bring them up all the time in my life and, um, and it's control for me and it can be because I'm angry about something that I'm gonna, you know, do a exercise or.
Or I'm overthinking something. Um, but yeah, it's something I can always reach for it for the rest of my life. And, Oh, I'm great. I'm so grateful.
[00:25:10] Dr. Charles Barr: Well, I still use the relaxation. I don't necessarily listen to it very often. I maybe will listen to my own self or to another relaxation. Um, maybe once a month or something like that, because I enjoy having that passive hearing somebody else, take me through an exercise and that's always productive for me. And so I use relaxation all the time. Our lives are stressful. We get way too busy and way too stressed and relaxation needs to be a way of life. That's what we're trying to do. And so I practice it all the time. I don't practice it in large chunks of time like I used to to get good at it, but I practice it all the time. It's just. A constant skill that will be used forever.
[00:25:57] Erica: Hopefully it goes back to what you said. Really stuck with me the anxiety you're having is caused by stress. So, you know, if it is anger in your life, if it is your boss, if it is all kinds of different things that you can't necessarily identify, things from childhood and whatnot, I can go on and on, but all of it is stress. So either way, these relaxation exercises kind of bulldoze all of that and say, all right, well, let's try a different way. Let's relax.
And that's, that's freeing, I think. I mean, it might not be the most exciting thing to always have to do.
You might not always feel like it, but it's a gift. It really is.
[00:26:38] Dr. Charles Barr: It is. And, and I think people will find that it's not something that you have to do that is onerous at all, because it has such good results. I feel so good afterwards. It's like, ah, do I have to do that again? And then you do it and you kind of go, why was I fighting it?
[00:26:53] Erica: I know! Yeah. Oh, this is kind of nice. Exactly. But we hope that we broke everything down for you guys. We didn't certainly didn't cover every single thing there is to know, but, hopefully you have a good idea in concept now of why this is so important to your life. And if you have any questions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or shoot us a message on Facebook and Instagram at @lifefreeofanxiety.
[00:27:22] Dr. Charles Barr: That's right. Good. Okay. All right. Well great. And we'll see you next time.
[00:27:26] Erica: We'll see you next time.
[00:27:27] Erica: Okay. Well, I hope that broke down relaxation for you. Some, um, super important, hard to know how much to do it, how often, what it should go hand in hand with, um, CHAANGE Program figures, all of that out for you. You don't have to think about it. You don't have to try so hard. That's what I loved about doing the program.
I felt like I kicked back and trusted the process. And saw amazing results, but I didn't have to try to figure it all out myself. It was already done for me. So if you're interested in looking into this program, that's CHAANGE.Com. Um, always a great day to sign up and change your life.
Truly. CHAANGE.Com. Cause this is a lot of really good stuff you've never heard before.
I can almost guarantee it. Okay. I'll talk to you then.
Thanks so much for tuning in today. I hope that something in today's conversation provided you with a feeling of hope, determination, or purpose. I know what you're going through, and that's why I want to give you some of the tools that helped me in my anxiety journey to get a free copy of free from fears head to freefromfearsbook.com to find out more about the CHAANGE Anxiety Treatment Program.
Find us at CHAANGE.com Thanks again for listening. And remember you are not broken You are not alone and you are on your way to living a life free of anxiety. See you next week.