Saturday, May 30, 2009

Cranky Analysis: Relaxation

As I mentioned yesterday, the American Psychological Association webpage concerning controlling anger contains six strategies to keep anger at bay. The first is relaxation.


Simple relaxation tools, such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery, can help calm down angry feelings. There are books and courses that can teach you relaxation techniques, and once you learn the techniques, you can call upon them in any situation. If you are involved in a relationship where both partners are hot-tempered, it might be a good idea for both of you to learn these techniques.

Some simple steps you can try:

  • Breathe deeply, from your diaphragm; breathing from your chest won't relax you. Picture your breath coming up from your "gut."
  • Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as "relax," "take it easy." Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.
  • Use imagery; visualize a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination.
  • Nonstrenuous, slow yoga-like exercises can relax your muscles and make you feel much calmer.

Practice these techniques daily. Learn to use them automatically when you're in a tense situation.

I have to admit that, of all the strategies described by the APA, this one struck me as the least usable for me. However, I finally just hooked up our Wii, including Wii Fit, which includes a yoga section, so there might be some synergy here between use of the Wii Fit and this strategy for crankiness control. (Oh, and in the interests of full disclosure, I must confess the Wii was really hooked up by one of our Canadian guests. Another item on the to do list taken care of by them!)

So, two things I'll take from these recommendations: trying the use of a calming word when cranky and using yoga (with Wii Fit) as a means, in general, to build feelings of well-being and reduce stress. When I get cranky, I often jump to extreme words such as "never." I'm thinking a calming word such as "relax," or "take it easy," as suggested above, could be a replacement for that language to help bring me up short to see how I've wired my reaction to be extreme.

Skip, the pups and I are going to Cape Cod today to visit my parents (and eat lobster), so we'll be in the car together for two hours each way. I can believe there will be an opportunity for me to try out the calming word strategy.


barrie said...

I like the idea of narrowing it down to a focus word. I have MS and I am just a really cranky person anyway so you can imagine how much fun it is to be around me ;-)

For me, what has worked has been to take a breath before I react then think "is this actually harmful in anyway? No? Ok, let it go!"

Cranky said...

Barrie - thanks for your note. I think the focus word will be a good strategy as well. I've decided to use "be cool, my babies!" which is a quote from Conan O'Brien.

I'm not much good on the pause before cranking out, though I did try that. Glad it can work for you.