The One Word That Calms Me

Lately I’ve been struggling with stress and high anxiety, so I’m trying different ways to quiet my worrying mind. My favorite technique is deep breathing, which seems to calm me right away.

I was wondering if there’s a way to make deep breathing even more effective for me. Turns out there is! It’s called cue-controlled relaxation. I read about it in an article at Psychology Today .

At first, I was skeptical. How is one word going to help me? But I’ve been practicing this for a week now, and I can honestly say I notice a difference. When I think of the word (mine is “ocean”), it reminds me to take a deep breath. A sense of calm washes over me.

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Here’s how to practice cue-controlled relaxation:

  1. Choose a word. Something that makes you feel at ease. Like “calm,” “relax,” or “peace.” The word I’ve chosen is “ocean.”
  2. Choose a relaxation technique, such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. Since my favorite is deep breathing, I’ll explain it with that. Take a deep breath in for a count of five, hold for two, exhale for a count of five. Here’s what’s different — as you breathe out, say your cue word. I close my eyes and say “ocean” as I exhale. Feel everything relax… your muscles, jaw, neck, shoulders, hands. Let the tension go. This takes practice! Try it for three to five minutes, until you feel completely relaxed. Do this two to three times per day.
  3. Shorten the time of practice. Gradually reduce, shortening the time by a minute. Eventually, just saying or thinking the word will help relax your mind and body.

To add to this technique, I also use imagery. When I exhale and say the word “ocean,” I think of my favorite, soul-soothing beach on Maui. I notice the warm, tropical air enveloping me like a blanket. I see the sparkling turquoise water and the islands of Lanai and Molokai in the distance. I feel the golden sand squish between my toes. I smell coconut suntan lotion and ocean air. It’s like I’m transported there, even for just a few seconds.

What’s your word?

5 thoughts on “The One Word That Calms Me

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