This exercise is for anyone who finds that relaxation causes anxiety, and can help you learn to become calm, relaxed, and comfortable with relaxation techniques. Sometimes the act of relaxing can be anxiety-provoking. This relaxation for homework anxiety deals with overcoming anxiety related to relaxation homework.
This script was written by Diana, except for the last part of the script, which was written by Patti Teel, author of the Floppy Sleep Game Book. Her script is called “Heavy and Relaxed,” and is a wonderful sleep relaxation script for children. The script is very helpful for helping adults go to sleep, too. Thank you to Patti Teel for granting permission for me to read the “Heavy and Relaxed” script as part of this exercise. Please visit pattiteel.com for relaxation and sleep tips for children.
This story an application scene for coping with homework anxiety, but the homework here is relaxation exercises, because relaxation causes anxiety for some people. There are two progressive muscle relaxation exercises because each of them represents practicing more than once.
Learn how to overcome when relaxation causes anxiety, so relaxation causes anxiety no longer.
Doing this visualization may be frightening if you are not used to active visualizations or if you have severe anxiety caused by physical sensations or terrifying memories when you are in the middle of practicing (when relaxation causes anxiety). I consider this part of the visualization an imagery exposure therapy exercise. This exercise is designed to help you continue trying even when everything in your being wants to give up practicing and when relaxation causes anxiety. When relaxation causes anxiety it is possible to overcome this feeling and learn to relax.
Know that this visualization has a happy ending, that if you keep on listening every day the visualization will no longer be disquieting, that the teacher is very understanding, and that she wants the dreamy music that she gives you to teach you what relaxation sounds like. You will find that relaxation causes anxiety no more.
First exercise–progressive muscle relaxation
Begin by finding a comfortable position, seated or lying down.
Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, allow your body to begin to relax.
Breathe slowly and naturally.
Raise your shoulders toward your ears. Then, let your shoulders relax…dropping into a comfortable, loose position, and feel yourself sinking into the surface you are on.
Allow your jaw to drop slightly, letting the muscles of your face and jaw become loose and relaxed.
Wiggle your toes once or twice and feel your feet and legs relaxing.
Gently open and close your hands once… and again… and then relax your hands and arms.
Take a deep breath in, feeling the tension in your chest and stomach as you hold that breath…
And allow your chest and stomach to relax as the breath escapes slowly.
Allow the muscles of your back to relax…. from your neck….. to your upper back….. middle back….. lower back….. feeling your whole body relaxing.
Notice any areas of tension in your body, and relax those areas now.
Your body will continue to relax… deeper and deeper…. loose…. heavy…. relaxed.
Relaxation causes anxiety no longer.
The teacher’s exercise:
The teacher: I want you to listen to my voice and how I am using the words, ‘Do breathing exercises every day’. It’s a little different than what you have heard before. Please open a jar of relaxation paint that is cool like Vicks. You can smell the relaxation paint and breathe it in. You can do this while I talk. Then I will tell you some more of the exercise and you can rub the paint on your chest and your stomach.
You will learn my breathing exercise lying down. Later on you will sit up and do breathing exercises, and then you will practice standing up, but for tonight you learn this exercise lying down. You will find that relaxation causes anxiety no more. I want you to learn the difference between not having the relaxation paint and using the relaxation paint and see what that does for you when you use it.
When you breathe both your chest and your stomach should rise and fall. If you lie down and you are breathing correctly for me you will feel your ribs expand and your abdomen lift, but this happens during calming practice. It is too hard to practice when you are in a panic attack. So I will use the fingerpaint to help you relax. When you breathe in and out you will breathe relaxation and it will open up the breathing passages in your nose and throat and you will feel the air being taken into your voice box and your windpipe and your lungs and you will feel a stretching in your rib muscles and your stomach will move.
There is a saying in advanced relaxation homework that I make sure I tell beginners, it goes, “It breathes me, not I breathe, it breathes me.” This phrase is to help us learn not to try too hard to make ourselves breathe. We breathe naturally but the idea is to learn how to breathe slow and calm.
Now please go ahead and use the relaxation fingerpaint. Rub it on your chest like Vicks. It works the same way as Vicks. You also rub the relaxation fingerpaint on your abdomen so those muscles will relax.
The teacher’s exercise:
My exercise has three steps. I made it up so I can teach students that the memories they have and the sensations they have in their bodies that they don’t like don’t have to tell their bodies and their minds what to do anymore. The reason you practice daily the calming exercises is so you can train your body and mind that you can have a different reaction to terrifying memories and intense physical sensations that feel unpleasant.
The first step is that you put the relaxation fingerpaint on your index finger. Now put your finger toward your face and breathe in. Smell the relaxation fingerpaint that is like a hand lotion you like to smell. Then when you breathe out blow out as if you are blowing out a candle.
Ready–in–out. Did you feel the air? You know that you are breathing. This is where we start.
Now for the next two steps we do the counting exercise with the relaxation fingerpaint. This step we are now doing with the short count is the awareness exercise and you do not yet have the fingerpaint but are listening to my voice. I want to know if I can say words that will help you get out of the story about afternoon class. This is actually the second step of my exercise. For it, we make our out-breath longer than our in-breath like this; this is how, and then I will show you the counting: Feel me when I breathe. do you feel how I can breathe slower without trying? Now this is how the exercise goes with the counting and you will follow me as I tell you.
Breathe in for a count of 3. 1–2–3. This is how you should feel the count of 3 when you breathe. Breathe in quickly but gently. Do not take deep gulping breaths of air. Do not try to make your lungs fill with air or strain your abdominal muscles. Do not hold your breath. Your lungs will fill themselves up with air. Breathe in for a count of 3 and then let it out without worry about counting because you are resting.
Now take another breath and hold your breath for the count of 2. Then breathe out and rest.
Now take your third breath and breathe out for a count of 4. Do not blow hard or force your breath out. Let it be a comfortable breath. We can increase the length later.
It goes like this:
Now here is the third step to the teacher’s breathing exercise. Rub the relaxation fingerpaint on your chest and belly. I want to do a test where we increase the length of breathing by one.
Breathe in for a count of 4.
Hold for a count of 3.
Breathe out for a count of 5.
It goes like this:
The relaxation fingerpaint has let you extend your counting and you made it to breathing out for 5.
Take it easy. Relaxation causes anxiety no more. Relaxation causes anxiety no longer. Relaxation causes anxiety no more. Relaxation causes anxiety no longer.
Listen to this visualization with the model on how to practice. This counting exercise is for learning how to relax using breathing. It may make your ribs tired at first. Keep on listening every day and doing the exercises that I am telling you. Soon you will find that relaxation causes anxiety no more. Relaxation causes anxiety no more. Relaxation causes anxiety no longer.
Do not say after 2 days, oh it isn’t working, relaxation causes anxiety. This one takes time for the breathing to calm you and to take away the worry story you had from class. Please do not say, “Oh I’m going to fall asleep and let her count the exercise.” Really get into the exercise and how it makes you feel afterward. I see that you are calmer and not crying and you are following me right now.
The exercise has begun to make you physically calm. Tonight may be like beginner’s luck. Remember how this feels because this new feeling of peace will come again. It is born of much practicing, and the practicing is through listening. You may get to the third or fourth day and find that the exercise does not calm you, but keep listening. Soon you will find that relaxation causes anxiety no more.
For a beginner whose other classes in breathing and relaxation were hard because not enough information was given to her, for whom relaxation causes anxiety, I expect this to happen that the facts and her experience do not match. Even when you feel in your body that my story is someone else’s story that can’t be for you and your mind carries you into stories about your past because of what you feel in your body, keeping on listening to my story will change your experience over time into the true stories told when people recite the facts about breathing and relaxing and you won’t be reliving your past anymore. Relaxation causes anxiety no more. Relaxation causes anxiety no longer.
Look at how the exercise makes you feel, say, over a period of a month for starters. It will take a lot of time to make your body do what you have read in class.
It’s like writing diaries for a while, you write one every day and then after a year you read through them and look at the progress. Relaxing with the easy breathing is just like that. However, if you write one diary and do not write for a year then you won’t see the progress you made. That is the same with doing the easy breathing. Do it every day and then you will start to notice that you feel better and it takes the intensity off of your stress response. Have faith that the story of breathing and the relaxing fingerpaint works for you; it will take a while till you feel it bring you peace. Believe that the story of the relaxation paint and the language guide words for telling stories will work; it will also take time for you to feel it working to make you calm and to enjoy relaxing.
You are at a crossroad, and need to choose so that your past does not continue to tell you what to do. For the happy story to be in your life, decide now that you are believing my story over what you learned in the past. It can only work that way. As a teacher I have come to you, though I am in your imagination. My class is about when I tell you a happy story and you say, “I believe it anyway. I am practicing being happy so I can learn to undo my sad past.”
Know this, that every time you practice relaxing even when it’s scary to you and you don’t feel the calm that it is working. Your body is learning through words and actions how to use the relaxation response when you need it to. This is the story about facing your fears about practicing. All you need to do is put my stories in your player and listen.
Now a song is going to play. It is called Comfortable Mystery. To me it is what relaxation sounds like. When I hear the piano in it, it has a warm kind of sound like the kind you hear in music boxes, makes me think of lullabies. Listen well and sleep well. Let the notes come into your awareness and relax you. Teacher says Good Night and she will see you in the morning. In the morning she will help you think about relaxation paint.
In the daytime listen to the narrators’ exercises. In the nighttime listen for me in your imagination and listen to my two stories. The music is going to help you now, nice, rhythmic, slow, and dreamy.
Second exercise–Passive Progressive Relaxation with music for Calming a distraught student like calming a small child
Now for this passive muscle relaxation exercise with music, rest, and know that some relaxation paint is inside you. When I have finished reading this exercise you will be resting and falling asleep. The visualization has been a hard one for you, and I want you to rest.
I open a jar of the relaxation paint and as I read a review story to you, you can paint on each part of your body. The paint and relaxation will be inside of you and you will think happy thoughts again.
You cannot will yourself to relax. It will happen to you like getting into a good story does when someone reads it to you. Here is an extra brush, and you can feel me touch each of your fingers with it…your right thumb, your right index finger, your right middle finger, your right ring finger, and your right little finger. Feel how the brush is soft without trying to think about how soft the brush is. Now I touch the brush to your left hand… your left thumb, your left index finger, your left middle finger, your left ring finger, and your left little finger. Then I do this whole sequence again by touching each finger with the brush now with some paint in it.
I see you smile and with your smile you tell me as you are feeling the paint on your fingers that you remember the finger exercises from the language lesson. Yes, this new story with the paint and the music that I’m about to tell you is a reminder of the language lesson of the two little stories about the paint. Both languages and relaxation can be fun.
This is who I am, the teacher who likes to tell stories about relaxation paint.
I will continue reading a children’s script while you fall asleep, about good things about your physical self. It reviews the names of the parts of the body and how they can be heavy and relaxed.
“Heavy and Relaxed” from the Floppy Sleep Game Book, by Patti Teel. Permission granted by Patti Teel.
Lie down on your back. Wiggle or move your body to make it comfortable. Now be still and close your eyes. Allow your feet to fall slightly apart and turn your palms upward.
Feel your right hand. It is heavy and relaxed. Relax your thumb, first finger, second finger, third finger, fourth finger, the palm and the back of your hand. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, relax your whole right hand. ( With younger children add, Good-night hand.)
Feel your right arm. It is heavy and relaxed. Relax your wrist, lower arm, elbow, upper arm and shoulder. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, relax your whole right arm. (With younger children add, Good-night arm.)
Feel your left hand. It is heavy and relaxed. Relax your thumb, first finger, second finger, third finger, fourth finger, the palm and the back of your hand. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, relax your whole left hand. (With younger children add, Good-night hand.)
Feel your left arm. It is heavy and relaxed. Relax your wrist, lower arm, elbow, upper arm and shoulder. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, relax your whole left arm. (With younger children add, Good-night arm.)
Feel your right foot. It is heavy and relaxed. Relax the big toe, second toe, third toe, fourth toe, fifth toe, bottom of your foot, top of the foot and heel. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, relax your whole right foot. (With younger children add, Good-night foot.)
Feel your right leg. It is heavy and relaxed. Relax your ankle, calf, shin, knee, thigh, and hip. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, relax your whole right leg. (With younger children add, Good-night leg.)
Feel your left foot. It is heavy and relaxed. Relax the big toe, second toe, third toe, fourth toe, fifth toe, bottom of your foot, top of the foot and heel. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, relax your whole left foot. (With younger children add, Good-night foot.)
Feel your left leg. It is heavy and relaxed. Relax your ankle, calf, shin, knee, thigh, and hip. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, relax your whole left leg. (With younger children add, Good-night leg.)
Take another breath in and as you breathe out, relax your right buttock and your left buttock. Feel your lower back. It is heavy and relaxed. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, relax your whole lower back. (With younger children add, Good-night back.)
Feel your shoulders. They are heavy and relaxed. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, relax your shoulders. (With younger children add, Good-night shoulders.)
Feel your neck. It is heavy and relaxed. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, relax your neck. (With younger children add, Good-night neck.)
Feel your head. It is heavy and relaxed. Relax the back of your head, the top of your head, your forehead, right eyebrow, left eyebrow, right eye, left eye, right ear, left ear, right cheek, left cheek, right nostril, left nostril, upper lip, lower lip, and chin. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, relax your whole head. (With younger children add, Good-night head.)
Feel the front of your body. It is heavy and relaxed. Relax your throat, right collar bone, left collar bone, right side of chest, left side of chest, the belly, the right groin, left groin. Breathe in and as you breathe out, relax the front of your whole body. (With younger children add, Good-night body.)
Feel your arms and legs. I feel my arms and legs and they are heavy and relaxed. Relax your whole right leg, your whole left leg, your whole right arm, your whole left arm. Breathe in and as you breathe out, relax your arms and legs completely. (With younger children add, Good-night arms and legs.)
Relaxation causes anxiety no more. Relaxation causes anxiety no longer. Relaxation causes anxiety no more. Relaxation causes anxiety no longer.
“Heavy and Relaxed” script from the Floppy Sleep Game Book, used with permission, by Patti Teel