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Why Don’t You Relax....?

by Rob Kall, M.Ed. and Rhonda Greenberg, Psy.D.

"All (wo)mankind's troubles are caused by one single thing, which is their inability to sit quietly in a room." Blaise Pascal

Laura spent last Sunday in bed, reading and relaxing in her pajamas-- a deliciously peaceful, quiet rest day. The children were out with friends and her husband was busy around the house.

Don’t we all long for a day like this? No responsibilities, not trying to get every chore done that should have been done last month, no immediate work pressures? Just a lazy day relaxing body and mind.

But Laura was uneasy, troubled with nagging thoughts that she wasn’t doing the right thing. Was this delicious relaxation where she was deservedly letting go after a a busy week, or a case of depressed inertia-- a recurrence of her depression.

Actually, this is the first time in her adult life that she wasn’t feeling depressed and hopeless about her life. Since her depression has lifted, she’s feeling empowered, her self esteem has dramatically improved, and she is experiencing a new, higher energy level.

But she worried that maybe this day of ease, of letting go and relaxing was more a return to her depressed former self.

This fear of letting go because it will turn into something unwanted is not uncommon.

Hard driving sales reps or executives are often afraid to let go and relax because they’ll lose their sharp edge, their motivation or the energy and enthusiasm they put into their work. ...Some people have trouble just sitting quietly, being with themselves. We see this in our practice and in training groups.


Some people, when they let go of their tensed muscles or their racing mind, find themselves confronting thoughts or feelings which are very uncomfortable. Sometimes, particularly when there are past traumatic, long lost memories, it is best to seek professional guidance when learning to relax. In this situation, relaxing can actually be very upsetting. A professional can help you gradually let go and begin to deal effectively with the old, long blocked memories.

All of these "reactions" to what are normally healthy self health techniques can usually be handled effectively by people trained to teach how to use them. Sometimes it takes exploring some issues psychotherapeutically or it may be helpful to switch to a different slant on the approach. Some techniques most people enjoy include eyes-closed mental imagery for relaxation, comfortably paced -breathing, where the shoulders drop away from the ears with each exhale, muscle, temperature, or EEG brainwave biofeedback, or personalized positive experience guided imagery. For people who have difficulty staying still, a walking or moving relaxation, or SMR training (muscle quieting) can be valuable. Through experience, practice and/or training people can learn to tailor a unique program which combines several different relaxation and coping techniques. You can use different elements to take you deeper into quiet places. It’s fun to match up optimal relaxation techniques for different life situations.

 If there’s a mind/body optimal living topic you’d like covered, write to us care of the Newspaper.

Rhonda E. Greenberg Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and personal coach and

Rob Kall, M.Ed., is a counselor, Biofeedback trainer and personal coach at

The Center for Optimal Living, 211 No. Sycamore Street, Newtown, PA 18940

smile @cis.compuserve.com http://www.futurehealth.org/CFOL.htm