Author Spotlight: Relaxation and Wellness Techniques Audio CD

Author Spotlight: Relaxation and Wellness Techniques Audio CD
Relaxation and Wellness Techniques

Dr. Bonnie Zucker, coauthor of Relaxation and Wellness Techniques, discusses the many health benefits that may be realized from listening to her relaxation audio CD in this exclusive interview.

What benefits can one expect to gain from listening to Relaxation and Wellness Techniques?

The ten tracks on the CD are focused on helping the listener acquire the skills of relaxation, learn how to challenge anxious and negative thinking, change one’s relationship with one’s thoughts, and inspire a “face your fears” mindset. In addition, some tracks promote a meditative state (“Seated Eight Pieces of Brocade” and “Mindfulness”). By listening to the CD with repetition, the listener will be able to integrate and generalize these strategies into daily life and daily experience. At bedtime, listening will help induce a calm state, allowing the individual to ease into sleep. Overall, the goal is to extend and deepen the listener’s capacity for relaxation and calmness. Without focused attention on calming the mind, many individuals get caught up in the cycle of stress and become located in their mind and thoughts. Following the guidance of these tracks interrupts the cycle, and individuals can attain the true experience of calmness and a quiet mind. Finally, the tracks focused on changing thoughts (“Self-Talk,” “Challenging Catastrophic Thoughts,” and “Gaining Control over Thoughts”) will empower listeners to gain confidence and overcome anxiety.

How does the CD enhance your physical state?

When you are oriented in your mind, meaning that your attention is mostly focused on your thoughts (being “in your head”), the interpretations of the events that unfold in your life and your perceptions about yourself and others impact your body; it feels these thoughts. It is opposite of living in the moment. Mindfulness is being fully present and focused on the task at hand, experiencing it directly without distractions from thoughts about the past and future. If you are focused on stressful thoughts without working to calm the body, your body will often express that in physical ways; for example, many people with stress, anxiety, and depression complain of gastrointestinal issues such as stomachaches, poor digestion, and irritable bowel syndrome. When you work on calming the mind and learning how to relieve yourself of ruminations, worries, and negative thoughts, you will often see an improvement in how you feel physically. The information provided on the CD offers many ways to calm the mind; for example, when you are practicing calm breathing, Zen breathing, and doing the visualizations, your focus is only on practicing the technique, and therefore you will have a calm mind and your body will physically feel better. This experience of calming the mind offers tremendous benefit for the body and vice versa.

Different relaxation CDs offer different formats—some primarily consist of relaxing music or guided imagery, while others are more verbally instructive. What style is Relaxation and Wellness Techniques?

One of the best features of this CD is that each track offers something different: Some are instructive on how to practice a technique like calm breathing or progressive muscle relaxation, some are more like typical guided imagery (mindfulness, visualization), and others are designed to teach cognitive-behavioral strategies and tools for changing the way you think. There is beautiful, relaxing music (performed by Bryce Alvord) at the beginning and end of the CD and between each track, which really helps to set the right tone.

How is this CD designed to be used?

Ideally, the user will listen to all ten tracks and pick out the ones that seem most useful for the person’s concerns. For example, someone who is generally stressed might want to listen to “Calm Breathing,” “Zen Breathing,” “Progressive Muscle Relaxation,” “Seated Eight Pieces of Brocade,” “Mindfulness,” and “Visualization.” Someone with the primary symptoms of worrying and anxious thinking might focus on “Self-Talk,” “Challenging Catastrophic Thoughts,” and “Gaining Control over Thoughts.” Daily listening is recommended at first, particularly for change to occur (though I would not recommend listening when driving a car). The CD can be used as between-session practice for someone who is already learning some of these skills in therapy. Additionally, it can be used right before bed to improve sleep.

How can this CD be integrated into a practitioner’s work?

This CD offers a great opportunity for therapists working with individuals or groups. It can be used in session or to supplement therapy with between-session structured practice. Personally, I have played a few tracks for clients in session to observe how easily (or not) they can relax and to give them a flavor of the experience of relaxation and calmness. It would be ideal for a therapy group (for example, a grief group) to listen to a track at the beginning or end of the group to foster better participation and processing. It can also be used before and after yoga or formal meditation.

This CD has many tracks based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). How would this be useful for anxiety and stress?

Given that our work is often with individuals with anxiety disorders and stress, we were excited to include guidance and strategies for overcoming these symptoms. Our CD goes beyond just teaching relaxation and calm breathing; rather, we discuss cognitive distortions—how to identify and replace them, how to challenge worry and catastrophic (“What if . . .”) thinking, and how to practice detached mindfulness (which is part of metacognitive therapy) to change one’s relationships with thoughts and see the thoughts as “just thoughts” to prevent reacting to them. We provide instruction on how to systematically face fears and overcome phobias and how to change the way you talk to yourself, including the messages you give that strengthen anxiety. All of this together can be incredibly useful in the management and successful treatment of anxiety and stress. In addition, many individuals seek therapy for these issues; however, often it is with a therapist who does not do cognitive-behavioral therapy. These CBT techniques can and should be integrated into the therapy as CBT is the most empirically supported treatment for anxiety and depression.

How can the listener best integrate the techniques described into daily life?

Listening to the tracks and taking some notes or making note cards with the key concepts is a great way to reinforce the lessons and skills explained in the CD. Making reminders on your cell phone to practice calm or Zen breathing, taking the time out of your day to practice, and learning how to be more aware in the moment are all ways that the listener can get the most out of the CD. The end goal is to learn these skills and have them generalize to your daily way of being.

For additional information about author Dr. Bonnie Zucker, visit her author page.