Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress

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Episode Description

Stress does not discriminate, and it comes in many shapes and forms. In this episode of "Mind Your Mind," Dr. Megan Spencer talks about ways to identify and listen to the stress in our bodies. Learn relaxation techniques for managing stress over time, self-care routines that decrease negative stress, and things you can do to bring calm into your life.

What to Expect

  • Understand the importance of body awareness in managing stress.
  • Learn breathing and visualization techniques to calm your body and mind.
  • Learn how to accept stress as a part of life.


Resources: Learn More

“Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle” by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski

“Just Sit” by Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz

“A Book that Takes its Time” by Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst

“Deep Listening” by Jillian Pransky

Things to Think About

  • Where do you feel stress in your body?
  • What can you do to take care of yourself?
  • Have you ever tried deep breathing in the midst of a stressful situation?

About the Guest

Megan Spencer 2019 (3)

Dr. Megan Spencer is passionate about providing therapy for children (ages 12+), therapy for adults, and therapy for families. She finds joy in helping people better understand themselves and their psychological functioning; and is excited to work with anyone looking to better understand and/or improve themselves or their children and families. In addition to individual therapy, Dr. Spencer provides diagnostic and psychological evaluations.

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Transcript
Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress

Featuring Dr. Megan Spencer, Psychologist, Dakota Family Services

Tim Unsinn:

Welcome to "Mind Your Mind," a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services, an outpatient behavioral health clinic located in Minot, Bismarck and Fargo, North Dakota. In this podcast, I will talk with our experts about understanding and nurturing our mental health and wellness. I'm your host, Tim Unsinn. Join me each episode as we explore the intricacies of our minds, decrease the stigma of mental illness, learn practical tips for managing our mental health and wellbeing, and recognize when it's time to ask for help. Join me now to Mind Your Mind.

Tim Unsinn:

Welcome to this episode of Mind Your Mind. Our guest is Dr. Megan Spencer. Dr. Spencer is a clinical psychologist and provides diagnostic and psychological evaluations and CBT. Dr. Spencer, great to have you on Mind Your Mind. The topics are relaxation and stress reduction. However, before we get to the topic, let's talk about why you do what you do. Why is your work important to you?

Dr. Megan Spencer:

Thanks for having me. My answer is pretty simple. For me, I do what I do because I love people and I love watching them better understand themselves through their journey of life and understanding.

Tim Unsinn:

Great answer. I like that one! Again, topic is relaxation and stress reduction. As we talk about this, and what better time to talk about it, than post pandemic, where everybody is just wound up tighter than can be. Right. So why is body awareness important for relaxation and stress reduction?

Dr. Megan Spencer:

First of all, I think we all know stress does not discriminate and it comes in many shapes and forms. And so what I always say is that we can know for sure stress will happen. But what is absolutely most important is that we recognize it and have something to do about it. And so, what body awareness really means is, first and foremost, our bodies really do tell us absolutely everything we need to know. We just don't listen very well, or we listen to them a little too late. And so what body awareness really means is, not just only taking that time throughout your day. So starting in the morning, maybe midday right before bed, but doing kind of a body check. And what that means is just sort of taking the moment to sit down and just listen to what your body is telling you, how am I feeling?

Dr. Megan Spencer:

What's my energy level. What's the day feel like for me today? And so what that means is for an example, right? A lot of people tend to carry stress in their shoulders and in their necks. And so sometimes I'll just say at any point, just stop, take a breath, and what's going on? What are your shoulders like? Do you have any pains anywhere? Do you feel like you need to get up and just move cause you're feeling a little antsy, right? And so body awareness is really a simple thing that you can do at any point. And it's really just about stopping and listening and really focusing on what it is that my body is trying to tell me in this moment.

Tim Unsinn:

I would have to think that our production, our happiness of the day would increase immensely if we just took a little time to do that and just kind of get it out of the way, you know, not get it out of the way, but really address it earlier as opposed to later.

Dr. Megan Spencer:

Yes. And addressing it. That's just it, because the other part of that too, is we all really can get caught up in our day. I mean, it happens, right? Some days are just really more hectic, but it's even more important on those more hectic days that you take the time, even if it's a minute or 30 seconds to just stop what you're doing, stop your thoughts and focus on what is happening in your body.

Tim Unsinn:

I was thinking too, if you're identifying what is the cause, the root of that stress you may want to, if it repeats itself over and over, and I get some days are just way crazy busy, just that is it. But maybe there are things within what you do every day on a daily basis that are causing those stresses.

Dr. Megan Spencer:

Yes. And so part of it is to clear your thoughts and think about why in this moment am I feeling this way, right? What is going on? Maybe it just is what it is. And maybe it's just one of those weeks that it's not necessarily something you can do vastly different. It's just accepting that, okay, this week is a hectic week and it is what it is. I'm going to do what I can in the moment. Which most certainly there are a couple of things that you can do just in that moment to try to calm and move on with the day.

Tim Unsinn:

Yeah. Some of those management techniques, if you will. So, what are some of those that we can manage stress in the moment?

Dr. Megan Spencer:

So two things that I really love and they're honestly super simple. So the first, the fancy term, is called diaphragmatic breathing, but really what it is, is deep breathing and it's vastly different than what happens when you're feeling stressed out. Or you kind of start getting worked up a little bit.

Tim Unsinn:

Thanks for clarifying because I was thinking, okay, I do that deep breathing in that, the moment of the stress too. So, okay. Thanks for clarifying.

Dr. Megan Spencer:

Yes, it's definitely, there's a difference. And so if you think about more of the different types of breathing and so shallow breathing, which is more through your chest is actually not relaxing and actually can kind of heighten that sort of anxious or tense feeling. And so really, when we talk about deep breathing, it's far more about that gut, right? And being able to physically see your stomach rise and fall, right? And so the point of deep breathing is to get nice, full, deep breaths so that after you do this about five times...so the point kind of is, you breathe through your nose out through your mouth, and you do this five times. And sometimes, you know, if people are trying to learn how to do this, laying down can be a really good thing because you can physically see your stomach rise and fall. Otherwise if you're at the office or at home, just sitting down and putting your hands on your gut, your stomach, and just feeling it rise and fall, will help you to know that you truly are doing that deep breathing. And again, it's, you know, doing that five times in a row has shown to kind of relax that stress level a little bit, bring that tension down.

Tim Unsinn:

Yeah. My arms are not that long. If I put my hands on my stomach and breathe out, I will have to move all the appliances, everything out of the way. That's good though. I like the fact that the deep breathing, it's not a normal breathing. It really causes us to pause and breathe and just let it go ,as opposed to a couple of quick in and outs and then moving on. Well, you're not getting rid of the stress. You're not doing anything; so very good. I like that.

Dr. Megan Spencer:

So another one too then is one that I really do like, and it's visualization. And so that specifically again is really something that you can do anywhere. And it's forcing you to stop in that moment and focus on yourself. And so visualization is something that's about a personal place, or maybe it's a vacation or a place at home or a room, or maybe it's a school, but bringing yourself back to a place that gives you a sense of calm and peace. And so for example, me and my husband, one place that's really special to us is Clearwater Beach, Florida. And so if I am really stressed out or having, you know, just one of those days, I'll give myself 30 seconds or a minute to just stop, close my eyes, and put myself back on the beach, picture everything around me. There's the white sand, the oceans in front of me, the waves are rolling, there's kids and there's people, and I can smell the beautiful sun and the water and putting myself in that place for a couple minutes, really truly does give you that calming effect that in that moment can help destress.

Tim Unsinn:

I love that Lido Key is our place in Florida, where we do the same thing with the lapping water, and I've often recorded that. So I can play it back later just to put me in that moment.

Dr. Megan Spencer:

That is another form of that visualization, but it's hearing it instead of physically seeing yourself there.

Tim Unsinn:

That happy place. All right. So what are some ways to manage stress over time? We talk about, you know, deep breathing, visualization, those things that help us de-stress if you will, but how do we get out of those moments?

Dr. Megan Spencer:

Yes. So stresses can be chronic, right? And so whether it is acute or chronic, it's so important to have a self-care routine. And it's really simple. And so when I talk to people about a self-care routine or, or really taking care of themselves over times, in terms of stress, it can be many different things. It can be maybe once a month, you schedule a get-together with your girlfriends or your guy friends, right. Or maybe it's a couple times a month, you schedule a date night with your spouse or your partner. It can be as simple as, you know, taking classes a couple times a week for yoga. That's 30 minutes and you just get out of the house. Or now that the weather is starting to get more beautiful, allowing yourself to go for a walk for 20 minutes every day. The point of it is, is finding out what you truly enjoy and what not just enjoy, but is relaxing and calming and scheduling that into your life.

Tim Unsinn:

All right. And as you're managing that stress, you may want to look at those, those trigger points.

Dr. Megan Spencer:

So you bring up a very valid point, confronting the source of stress. So if we're going to talk about long-term, that is a super important piece, right. Is confronting what is that chronic or long-term stress that, no matter what I do, I really can't seem to truly help myself. And that's where I think it's important to step back. And try to look at why am I continuing to feel this way no matter what. And yeah, maybe that means a career change. Maybe that means having that really difficult conversation with a family member or even your child. Sometimes we feel really stressed out. And so we might avoid some of those conversations and those situations that we feel we maybe can't handle, but ultimately it's actually making things worse.

Tim Unsinn:

I would, another strong recommendation would be seek out great counsel, a therapist. Those are the greatest tools that you're going to find because it's somebody that's not in the situation in the moment.

Dr. Megan Spencer:

​And that's important, right? If you are realizing that what you are doing isn't enough, it doesn't seem to be helping to the point maybe it did before, or really the way you think it should, absolutely reach out for support and help and support and help can be, yeah, really good friends, really good family members. It can be therapists. It can be, you know, spiritually in that sense or a support group. But yes, that is also very important.

Tim Unsinn:

Dr. Megan, Spencer is our guest on Mind Your Mind. As we wrap up this episode of Mind Your Mind, one final question, I ask all of our guests as we wrap up, and that is what do you do, personally, to mind your mind?

Dr. Megan Spencer:

Outside, the lake! So for me, with the weather getting better, I just, it's a natural perk for me to know that I get to go to the lakes and be outdoors and enjoy the sun and all that that has to offer.

Tim Unsinn:

Thank you so much for your time as always. We appreciate your insights and knowledge and wisdom. So thank you.

Tim Unsinn:

Thank you for joining us for "Mind Your Mind," a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services. You can't have health without behavioral health. Remember to Mind Your Mind. For more information, links to additional resources, contact information, and much more, go to dakotafamilyservices.org.

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