I Taught Myself How To Relax

From the time I was in grade school I had problems with anxiety. I recall an overnight visit to a friend's house when I was in 4th grade and we were living in the New Orleans metropolitan area. I became anxious and shaky -- couldn't calm down -- so my friend's mother showed me the book "God's Psychiatry", which focused on using the 23rd Psalm as a help for anxiety.
It didn't totally relieve my fear and insecurity, but it helped.
I muddled along for the next several years, sometimes barely able to function. The anxiety -- most of it general or free-floating -- was better at time but it always came back again. I was seeing a psychiatrist, but other than giving me meds that made me really sleepy, he didn't know what to do.
I was about 14 when a novel (sci-fi) that I was reading discussed ways to relax as part of the story. I 'lifted' the ideas from the story and applied them to my own situation, then began to learn them haphazardly. I soon became fairly good at progressive relaxation, mantra meditation, and certain more physical methods of relaxation and distraction. Without these techniques, I would have slept little in junior high and high school.
I loved school itself, but I found it difficult to relate to other students and to make friends. Using relation techniques, I was able to get the nightly sleep I needed to cope with the stress. Today I still use progressive relaxation whenever I feel too keyed up to rest. It's very easy -- I start at my feet, and squeeze tightly, relax, squeeze tightly, relax. I think about how heavy my feet feel. Then I move to my ankles and calves and repeat the process. I gradually relax the rest of my body, each time thinking how heavy and warm each part is. Finally I reach my head and neck, which are areas where I concentrate a lot of stress. I give extra attention to these areas. By the time I finish, my mind is clearer and I am usually relaxed enough to fall asleep.
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Nov 14, 2010