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Melbourne Psychologist Breathing and Muscle Relaxation Exercises

 

 

Dear Client,

 

You have been directed to this page to download several audio files that are designed to reduce your stress / anxiety / anger levels in challenging situations.

 

Please right-click on each link below and then select "Save Target As ..." to save the file to your hard-drive. These files are in MP3 format so they will work on portable MP3 players, such as iPods, iPhones, etc.

Only practice the exercises in a relaxed sitting position - not while you are driving.

 

 

Audio Files

Abdominal Breathing and Progressive Muscle Relaxation
File List
 
Abdominal Breathing Version 1  Access available to current clients only
Abdominal Breathing Version 2  Access available to current clients only
Progressive Muscle Relaxation  Access available to current clients only
Files : 3

 

 

Abdominal Breathing

 

The purpose of breathing retraining is twofold:

Firstly, when people become angry, frustrated or anxious they tend to hold their breath or take short, shallow breaths. This has the effect of unbalancing the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the brain, which often leads to dizziness and activation of the fight-or-flight response (I would have probably discussed the 'fight-or-flight response' with you in therapy, but please let me know if I haven't).

 

Have you ever noticed in American movies that people breathe into a brown paper bag to relieve a panic attack? This is because when we exhale we are mainly breathing out carbon dioxide, and when we inhale we are mainly breathing in oxygen.

 

When our breathing rate changes abnormally because of stress we actually build up too much oxygen in the brain (hyperventilation), which causes the symptoms of dizziness, vertigo and inability to concentrate. And that's why inhaling a few breaths of carbon dioxide from a brown paper bag helps to balance out the oxygen / carbon dioxide levels, restoring the brain to its normal state.

 

However, we don't need a brown paper bag to restore the balance - we simply need to employ abdominal breathing to slow down and regulate our breathing rate. And by slowly filling the lungs with air we are using 100% of our lung capacity, which helps to maintain a healthy balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the brain.

 

The second purpose of abdominal breathing is to reduce arousal levels. When I refer to 'arousal' I mean the state of alertness that occurs when you feel stressed, nervous or angry. In this state of hyper-arousal it's very difficult to think clearly - often we jump to conclusions that aren't rational, and these irrational thoughts only serve to maintain anxiety or anger.

 

A regular, slow breathing rate is incompatible with anxiety and anger, and you will find that if you can remember to use abdominal breathing in situations that provoke these emotions you can dismiss unhelpful, irrational thinking.

 

Frequency of Practice: Abdominal breathing is only useful when it becomes second-nature. When faced with an anxiety or anger provoking situation you will not remember to use this style of breathing unless you have practiced frequently. However, it's a skill that once learned, you won't forget because you'll use it often.

 

Therefore, when learning this new style of breathing you need to practice consistently every day for at least two weeks, and note your practice in a diary. If you don't practice daily then do not expect any benefit.

 

Sorry for being so direct, but after seeing hundreds of clients for anxiety / anger problems I have observed that those who improve actually do their breathing (and muscle relaxation) practice, and those that don't practice are still suffering anxiety / anger problems a year later.

 

Exercise variations: There are two versions of the abdominal breathing exercise, and most of my clients prefer Version 2. The introduction is exactly the same but each version has a slightly different counting rate to cater for people with different lung capacities or styles of breathing. Just choose whichever version feels right for you, and if both versions make you feel out of breath or uncomfortable then just listen to the first 5 minutes or so (the part that discusses hand placement and correct breathing style) then turn off the audio and breathe for 3 minutes on your own at a slow, steady rate.

 

When to stop practicing: The goal is to become a 'Master of Abdominal Breathing'. Only then will you be able to reduce your anxiety and anger automatically in challenging situations. You will know you have achieved this level of proficiency when you notice your abdomen automatically moving in and out during stressful situations.

 

Note that you don't need to place your hands on your stomach and chest when out in public, only when listening to the audio! This is simply to enable biofeedback that you are doing the exercise correctly.

 

 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

 

After you have mastered abdominal breathing, the second stage of reducing physiological arousal is via progressive muscle relaxation.

 

There are many progressive muscle relaxation exercises around which are all pretty much the same, but what's important about this exercise isn't so much the procedure of relaxing each muscle group sequentially, but rather learning to recognise the difference between a state of muscle tension and a state of muscle relaxation.

 

Sequential muscle relaxation is great as a passive relaxation activity, but fairly useless when you're in a job interview or on a first date. In these situations you can't sit there with your eyes closed for 10 minutes relaxing every body part. My progressive muscle relaxation and abdominal breathing exercises are both 'active' relaxation activities, meaning they are designed to teach you skills that you can use in real-life stressful situations.

 

So although listening to the progressive muscle relaxation exercise can help you fall asleep, the real value of the exercise lies in the attention paid to tensing and relaxing each muscle group. This increased awareness will enable you to detect when a muscle becomes tense, and subsequently you can relax it before you start holding the tension for too long. Some clients report that they often hold their shoulders tight for almost an hour before noticing! Restriction of the blood supply through the shoulders and neck can lead to tension headaches and fatigue, so recognising muscle tension is very important.

 

Frequency of practice: As with the abdominal breathing, you need to practice this exercise at least once per day for two weeks, until you have learned to detect tension in your body. You will know you have become proficient in this exercise when you can do a 'body scan' - that is, you can scan your entire body from head to toe in a few seconds, looking for tension and then releasing. This is the level of proficiency I want you to achieve so that when you are put into a challenging situation you can engage both the abdominal breathing and tension release all within a few seconds.

 

If you can master both of these exercises then you will be in a much better position to change the way you react and think about stress provoking situations.

 

 

Summary

 

In therapy we will discuss the general procedure of:

 

i. Identifying situations, circumstances or people that tend to make you feel anxious or angry.

 

ii. Identifying your Early Warning Signs (EWS) that your anxiety or anger response has been triggered (eg., racing heart, clenched fists or teeth, etc.)

 

iii. Once EWS have been detected, engage breathing and body scan / tension release.

 

iv. When you have a clear mind, employ a shift in thinking that we will discuss in therapy (this will be different for everyone). As you may guess, certain thinking styles deepen and prolong anxiety or anger arousal. Therefore, I will analyse how you think about certain situations and help you restructure your thoughts and beliefs so they promote peace, understanding and clarity of mind.

 

If you can following this procedure you will be able to keep a 'cool head' in the most challenging situations, allowing you to cope better with everything that life throws your way.

 

Of course, please let me know if you have any questions.

 

 

Melbourne Psychologist Job Application Assistance

 

Many clients are in the process of applying for jobs, and often need assistance with their job applications (CV and cover letter).

 

In general I notice two common errors in job applications that reduce the likelihood of being offered an interview.

 

Firstly, generic (general) job applications don't work. Many clients report a 100% rejection rate from the 'spray and pray' approach, which means sending out the same CV and cover letter to many different organisations.

 

Each job application needs to be tailor made for every job description. Yes it's painfully tedious and takes a lot of time, but it works! My CV and cover letter templates listed below have a very high success rate, but only if they are configured to respond to the requirements of each job ad. I'll show you exactly how to write these documents successfully.

 

Secondly, poor attention to detail and sloppy grammar will lead to instant rejections. It's essential to have your applications checked by someone with a high level of English, and I'm happy to read over your applications before you send them out.

 

Document Files

CV and cover letter templates
File List
 
CV Template Version 1   (Word version)  Access available to current clients only
CV Template Version 2   (Word version)  Access available to current clients only
Cover Letter Template    (Word version)  Access available to current clients only
Files : 3

 

Remember to always submit your documents as a PDF, not as a Word document (.DOC)! The formatting of a Word document can change depending on the version of Word installed.

 

Good luck!

 

 

 

Saving the Audio Files

Some people don't have a lot of experience with computers, so here's a few tips on how to save the audio files.

 

You will see the links to the audio files on the left. They are underlined in red text.

 

With your mouse, right-click on a link and a small menu will pop up. Choose the appropriate option to save the audio file.

 

For example:

 

Firefox Browser

 

Internet Explorer

 

Then you will be prompted to choose the location on your hard-disk to save the file. Save the file to somewhere that will be easy to find, such as the Desktop (on Windows-based systems).

 

Once the file is saved, double-click the file to hear it play.

 

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