Other Stress Busters

Breath Training

It may be hard to believe, but you are only a few breaths away from feeling better! 

People for centuries have been aware of how our breathing patterns effect our bodies and our mod.

An average rate of respiration is about 13 breaths per minute. When we become stressed, our breathing rate increases to around 18 breaths per minute. Within seconds, our body becomes energized and we begin to feel tense and anxious.

Why does that happen?

Our bodies are designed to prepare for danger in a variety of ways:

This happens so that we are ready to fight for our lives or flee; we have the strength and energy to do so.  Fortunately, life threatening situations are a rarity for most people.  But we continually are faced with aggravating or stressful situations that trigger strong emotional and physical reactions.

Taking Back Control!

A simple antidote for these anxious emotional states, is to consciously change how you are breathing. Follow these simple instructions:

Most people find a positive shift towards relaxation within 2 minutes!

How Does It Work?

This counting method encourages you to slightly extend your exhalation. This raises your blood levels of carbon dioxide and quickly calms the body down.  In addition, the counting and shift of focus helps to disrupt the typical mental commentary or images that tend to, “awfulize” their situation. We may use phrases things like:

“This always happens to me!”

“I never get break!”

“This is so unfair!”

Along with these words, we reinforce their power by replaying the annoyances repeatedly.  In our mind’s eye, these difficult events happen not once, but many times as we replay and obsess over them.

As our body relaxes into the breathing, our thoughts and emotions shift dramatically. As normal blood flow patterns return in the brain, we are then able to think more creatively and realistically about the situation.

The Relaxation Response

Herbert Benson wrote a book entitled, “The Relaxation Response.”  He proposes a very simple and secular meditative technique.  He proposes using the silent mantra, “I am calm” in sync with one’s exhalation and being totally present to one’s slow and rhythmic breathing.   And when we find our thoughts wandering from our breath, gently pulling our attention back to the breath and remarking silently to ourselves, “Oh well!”

Meditation and Yoga

These are strategies that have been around for thousands of years. They are enduring because they work quickly and effectively to change how we think and feel. Meditation is simply a form of focused awareness. Focusing on the breath is a common strategy for entering into meditation.

There are many forms and styles of meditation. Some will use a mantra or phrase to say silently in synch with their breath patterns.  All have been found to be effective in lowering your levels of stress and improving physical and mental well being. Many research studies have documented the medical and emotional benefits of meditation.

Yoga is a form of moving meditation that involve specialize postures and methods of stretching systematically. While I had recommended it to clients for years, I finally decided to investigate it myself.  The calming effects were immediately noticeable and profound!!  While some use meditation and yoga as part of a religious practice, many use it simply to relax or as a compliment to their own religious practice.

Christian Forms of Meditation

Often people associate meditation with eastern traditions and practices.  Some may feel uncomfortable with using eastern techniques because of their historical associations with Buddhism, Hindu, or Islamic roots.  But Christians have utilized a variety of methods as far back as the fourth century!  Early monks practiced what is called, “The Jesus Prayer.”  Some of them are a variation of a new testament story about the publican praying in the synagogue. (“Lord, have mercy”) There are many variations of this practice which some Christian writers have described as a form of “praying without ceasing.”

A more complex form of this can be said silently in synch with your breathing:


“Lord Jesus Christ


“Son of God”


“Have Mercy On Me”


“A Sinner.”

 An abbreviated form of the Jesus Prayer can be done in this way:




“Lord Jesus Christ”

Although less widely used now, Catholics have historically utilized  the rosary to repeat prayers while mentally focusing on religious scenes from scripture or catholic tradition.   Circular stained glass church windows are actually meditational mandalas that encourage the viewer to stop and focus intently on the image.

Locally, there is a moving form of meditation found at Trinity Cathedral. There Christians use a “labyrinth” path to walk which symbolizes the person’s journey through life. 

Islamic Traditions

The Sufi tradition uses a variety of sitting and moving meditations.  The term, “whirling dervishes” refers to Sufis practitioners who twirled and chanted into ecstatic states of consciousness.  These practices are utilized even today.

How Do These Work? 

All these techniques are designed to bring the mind into a relaxed and attentive focus. The repetition of a mantra, chant, or rosary has been found to increase levels of alpha and theta waves in the brain.  These shift our brain into a “lower gear” and allow us to explore a different way of being in the world.  And at those times we can rest, recharge, and obtain a new perspective on the constant inner drama of our thoughts.

These techniques have been practiced by humans for centuries because they produce positive and consistent results.

Local Meditation and Yoga Training

There are many places to sample meditation and yoga experiences here in the Sacramento metro area.  While I have some familiarity with a few of them on the list, it is important to note that they do not constitute a formal referral and there is no endorsement of their practices.  The reader is encouraged to inquire from each trainer about their form of meditation and/or yoga practice. Many health clubs offer meditation or Hatha Yoga classes as a simple form of relaxation training.  If you have any further questions, I’d invite you to talk with me in session or email me at: clinician@hushmail.com

For a partial list of locations please click here