My mind loves worst-case scenarios. And probably, so does yours. Our brains are hard-wired to protect us — which means they are hard-wired to look out for danger and worst-case scenarios. And because of this, anxiety can easily spiral out of control.
After years of living in my anxious brain, I searched far and wide for a solution. People would always tell me to “just relax,” but I never found it to be that easy. Finally, after getting my Ph.D. in clinical psychology and working as a therapist, I finally found a way to control my spiraling brain and tense body. And it was easier than I thought.
Over time, I learned to take control back using one word. Here’s how it works.
The One-word Technique: Cue-controlled Relaxation
Cue-controlled relaxation is a science-backed method that pairs one word with a relaxation technique. Over time and with practice, just saying that one word causes deep relaxation. Think about that. Only one word is standing between you and the relaxation you crave. With one word you can be worry-free and at-ease. Here is how it works.
First, Pick Your Word Pick a word like “relax,” “calm,” or any other word that you associate with deep relaxation. I personally use the word “settle.”
Second, Practice Relaxation Pick a relaxation technique that you can pair with your word. Paced breathing is a great starter exercise. Breathe in for a count of four and out for a count of six. As you breathe out, say your cue word. As you breathe out, feel your muscles relax. Let everything go — especially common areas of tension, like the jaw, eyes, shoulders, or hands. Practice this for 3–5 minutes, or until you feel completely relaxed.
Continue to practice daily. Aim to practice 2–3 times per day. Practice over and over again.
Third, Shorten The Time You Practice Once you’ve practiced daily and effectively paired your cue word with a relaxed state, you’re ready to gradually reduce the time it takes to relax with your cue word. Shorten your breathing exercise to 2 minutes, 1 minute, then 30 seconds. Shorten the time until just saying the word relaxes your mind and body.
Last Step: Enjoy Deep Relaxation
Once you practice these easy steps, you are ready to use one word to achieve a state of deep relaxation. One word to reduce stress. One word to quiet your worrying mind. Sit back while you use one word to take back control in your life.
Now when someone tells you to “just relax,” you actually can.