Suggest these stress-reducing exercises your clients can practice when they aren’t in session
The American Psychological Association’s 2015 Stress in America study “found that money and work are the top two sources of very or somewhat significant stress (67 percent and 65 percent in 2015, respectively)” with the third runner-up being family responsibilities at 54%.
Everyone gets stressed from time to time and understands how the symptoms of stress affects their health. However, when you treat clients with anxiety disorders, you know how important tips for lowering stress are to their everyday mental health. That’s why it’s important to create an arsenal of stress-reducing exercises you can share with patients for when they aren’t in a session with you.
Share your list of stress-reducing exercises on your blog, newsletter, as a session handout, or as part of your new client welcome letter. Include varying levels of techniques, from mild stress-reducing exercises to the crucial ones your clients can use during an anxiety attack. Here are five that are easy-to-implement and diverse enough for all your clientele.
1. Deep breathing
One of the easiest stress reducing exercises to learn is deep breathing; it’s easy to use in any situation. If your client feels an anxiety attack coming on at school, in the supermarket, or at the doctor’s office, they can do this to ease their anxiety.
Deep breathing involves taking long, full breaths from the abdomen, and not the chest. To practice deep breathing, teach your clients to sit or stand up straight, breathe in deeply through the nose, holding it for a moment, and then exhaling through the mouth. Remember to emphasize how important “belly breathing” is. If you have visual learners, you can share this deep breathing video with them.
2. Listening to music
Music works as a relaxation method. Suggest your anxiety-prone clients create a calming playlist or purchase a stress-reducing CD that they can use to relax in high-anxiety moments. With regular practice, the songs chosen can provide immediate calming relief.
According to Gabe Turow, a visiting scholar at Stanford University, “We may be sitting on one of the most widely available and cost effective therapeutic modalities that ever existed. Systematically, this could be like taking a pill. Listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication, in many circumstances.”
3. Visualization and redirecting thoughts
The practice of redirecting thoughts is a valuable tool to learn, but it’s also something that must be practiced to be useful. Instruct clients to imagine a stop sign in their mind the next time they experience intrusive or anxious thoughts. Then, redirect the process of reflection to something completely different. Your clients could think of happy memories or practice visualization and imagine themselves walking on a beach (or doing anything they find calming).
4. Mindful movement
Running, swimming, dancing, and walking are all stress-reducing exercises, especially when mindfully practiced. Rhythmic exercise works to fully immerse your client in the moment and reduce stress.
Focusing on all the sensations in the limbs, as well as the way breathing changes as necessary to meet the movement, will help ground your client. The movement also expels energy, and available energy can create anxious thoughts.
Also, stress and anxiety heighten the hormone cortisol. Physical activity will decrease excess cortisol, therefore relieving the tensions.
5. Play out the scenarios
Sometimes the unknown is what drives anxiety. Encourage clients to engage in cognitive behavioral therapy techniques as part of their stress reducing exercises. One such technique is imagining the best case scenario, worst case scenario, and also what is most likely to happen.
For example, if your client is afraid to visit their doctor when experiencing abdominal pain, the worst case scenario would be that he’ll get diagnosed with a terminal illness. The best case scenario may be that he gets a clean bill of health, and the most-likely-to-happen scenario is that he has something minimal, like a stomach bug. Considering all options gives control back to your anxious clients.
Running a business can also be stress inducing, but it doesn’t have to be. SimplePractice can streamline the way you do business. We can help you run your entire practice, from creating treatment plans to processing credit card payments. Want to learn more? Try us free for 30 days.