Sweet, soft relaxation, and a sense of peace


Blog post:

The build-up and dissipation of chronic stress and tension

By Renata Taylor-Byrne, Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

12th May 2021



The fact that most people are totally unaware of just how tense their body is does not in any way protect them from the negative effects of ongoing stress, strain and physical and mental tension.

There is a solution to this situation, and I want to share it with you.

Automatic bodily tensing responses

Rexatation Book

Because of the way our bodies have evolved and developed, if you’re faced with challenging situations or feel under attack in a scary situation, your body has an effective strategy for dealing with it. We become physically highly alert, attentive, focussed and ready to deal with the new situation. We get rid of other things on our minds and focus on this specific problem, fully concentrating!

Then when we’ve dealt with the challenge, we relax – panic over! Our bodies go from ‘full alert’ to a more relaxed response. Our nervous system changes from “fight or flight” mode, to the “rest and digest” part of our nervous system. We chill out, relax and move on to the next situation.

This is how we’ve developed, and evolved as human beings, and it works well when we have the time and space to recover from daily challenges. We finish work, go home and get a decent night’s sleep so we can wake up the following day with our batteries fully recharged.

The importance of switching off the fight-or-flight response

But – and this is a big but – if we don’t get enough quality recovery time in-between challenging situations – if there are fewer and fewer recovery spaces in-between mental and physical challenges, what happens is that there is a slow, unrelenting  build-up of tension in our bodies.

And this tension can cause quite a few problems: people can start to have difficulty getting to sleep at night, lying awake for hours, experiencing insomnia. Digestion problems can happen, the heart can be affected, panic attacks can occur, anxiety levels can increase. The immune system becomes weakened, making people more susceptible to infections and viruses. People can start to dread situations that in the past they would have had no problem handling.

Unless we realise what is happening – our bodies, specifically our nervous system, is protesting against tension overload – then our physical and mental health can suffer, and our peace of mind will be affected. People can be full of tension when they are lying on the beach.

How to manage your tension, stress and strain

How can you handle this stress build up in your body? You could take the route of experimenting with a less tense, more relaxed way of life and specifically learn ‘scientific relaxation’. Dr Edmund Jacobson, based in Chicago, spent 70 years of his professional life researching how tension affects the body. He created a relaxation technique called “progressive muscle relaxation”, where you practise for 10 to 15 minutes a day, to slowly teach yourself what tension in your muscles feels like.

You slowly learn to feel and notice the different ways that you can be tensing up your muscles, without realising. Then you learn to relax your body quickly. As a result, you develop a feeling of physical and mental control over your body. And the benefits to your body are: improved sleep, reduced anxiety, improved digestion, and phobias disappear. Insomnia is eliminated, and also it’s a great stress reducer for public performance, exams, and it strengthens the immune system and reduces the experience of pain.

The need for alcohol, or other stimulants, which are a short cut to relaxation (but which have a sleep–destroying price tag as well as the financial cost) aren’t needed in the same way. Once you know how to relax, the need for artificial relaxants is greatly reduced.

There are some amazing case studies of clients using and benefitting from this technique, and I describe them in my book: Relax Your Way to a Better Life: Using Dr Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation technique for physical and mental health”).

Problems with orthodox medical solutions

Or you could try a different approach, and try orthodox medicine. But bear in mind that this has its drawbacks: In The Times newspaper of Monday, March 29th (page 19) there was an article with the headline: “Alarm over growing use of drugs to treat insomnia and anxiety”. Apparently patients are being prescribed anti-psychotic drugs to cure insomnia, and these prescriptions have doubled from 1.6 million, to 3.5 million in the ten years up to 2018. Side effects? “Weight gain, intense sleepiness, increased risk of diabetes and blurred vision”. And if the drug is stopped incorrectly, the article states, it can “Induce severe symptoms, including psychotic episodes”.

Alternative and complementary medicine solutions are best

Rexatation BookLearning the skill of proper relaxation, as in Dr Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation technique, benefits the body enormously, and will enhance the quality of your life for many years. And the side effects? A greater sense of connection with your body, an increased confidence in your ability to calm , soothe and relax yourself after stressful experiences, and if you have children, they will greatly benefit from your lack of tension and enhanced well-being, without realising it: If you’re relaxed – they’ll be relaxed!


What did you think of this presentation?  Have you tried out the relaxation system described? Any feedback would be very helpful for readers of this blog post.


Best wishes,


Renata Taylor-Byrne, Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

Author of, Relax Your Way to a Better Life!


Books about emotional life, including anxiety

Dr Jim’s Blog post

23rd April 2020


Books as depositories of valuable knowledge and ideas; and as outlets for speaking to the world…



Jim and the Buddha, 2I love books; and I’ve enjoyed scouring bookshops for new ideas since I was about 14 years old.  It is perhaps one of the greatest deprivations of the Covid-19 lockdown that I cannot get to walk around the philosophy, psychology, health and self-help sections of Waterstones, in Leeds or Manchester; or the Bookcase in Hebden Bridge; or W.H. Smith’s in Halifax; or the Bookcase store in Piece Hall.

I also miss the whole floor of good quality, and interesting secondhand books in Oxfam in Bradford!



A story of browsing

Yesterday I was browsing my own (and Renata’s) bookshelves in our attic office when my mind alighted upon one of our own books – Holistic Counselling in Practice: An Introduction to Emotive-Cognitive embodied Narrative Therapy.[1]

Book-cover-frontBut, actually, it was the original version I had in my hands; the one with the bnlue cover, and the coloured illustrations – and my eyes were drawn to three illustrations, on pages vi and vii of the Foreword.

– The first illustration shows the interaction of a mother and baby, giving rise to the socialized mind of the child.

(See below).

– The second is a blue boxed callout, which says: “We are bodies as well as minds; primarily social animals; with the potential to develop virtues and vices”.

(Not shown on this page).


– And the third was also a callout, like this:

“The thoughts and beliefs of the (counselling) client cannot exist independently of their diet, exercise, self-talk, relaxation, stress level, social and economic circumstances, etc.”


With the benefit of the passage of time, I can see that sleep and relaxation should have featured prominently in that second callout.

Anyway, the surprising thing was that I had to skim all the way through to page 123 before I could find our Holistic SOR model, which is what distinguishes us from the CBT, psychodynamic and humanistic traditions.  This is it:


This model shows that diet and food supplements; meditation; exercise regime; plus sleep and relaxation histories; are among the many factors which determine how the body-brain-mind will respond to an incoming stimulus, or, if you like: how we will respond to our ongoing experiences.

The importance of high quality, original research

I recall that, as I was beginning to draft that book, I realized that we needed to be quite specific about the kinds of foods, and exercise systems, that would most benefit a person who is suffering from anger management issues, or anxiety/panic, or depression.  And I knew I could not afford the time to study nutrition and exercise at that time; so I spoke to Renata (my wonderful wife and life and business partner) and she agreed to do what turned out to be months of research of the scientific studies which have looked at the links between diet and exercise, on the one hand, and the experience of anger, anxiety and/or depression, on the other.

Renata’s research of those subjects appeared as Appendices E and F of the Holistic Counselling book; and later we created a more expanded book – Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person – in which Renata did weeks of research on the science of sleep, and how it relates to emotional states; and that went into the Lifestyle Counselling book.

Recently, we’ve gone back to all of that research, and subsequent refinements, to produce a new book.

This time we’ve tackled a topic which is very relevant to the Covid-19 pandemic: how to control your anxiety.  Here are the details of the book:

Front cover 2Cutting through the Worry Knot!

How to Reduce and Control Your Anxiety Level: Using a whole body-brain-mind approach

And without using drugs, alcohol or escapism!

By Dr Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne

Anxiety is not a disease; not a mental illness. Anxiety is part of our normal, innate, mental signalling system which tells us what is happening to us, and what to do about it.  That is to say, it is part of our emotional wiring. Our emotional intelligence.

Trying to get rid of anxiety with drugs is like hanging two overcoats and a duvet over your burglar alarm when it goes off.  The burglar alarm is designed to give you helpful information, which you can then use to guide your action. Should you check to see if a burglar has got into your house? Or call the police? Or realize that you’d mismanaged your alarm system, and that you should therefore switch it off?

Once you understand anxiety correctly, it becomes as useful as a burglar alarm; and you can learn how to manage it correctly.

When you buy a burglar alarm, it comes with a little Instruction Book about how to set it; calibrate it; monitor it; reset it; and switch it on and off.

You should have got just such an Instruction Book about your anxiety alarm, from your parents, when you were very young – and some people did.  But if your alarm goes off at all times of day and night, in unhelpful ways, then I guess you were one of the unlucky ones who did not get your Instruction Book.  This book contains your Instruction Book, plus lots of other backup information, which will help to make you the master of your anxiety, instead of its quaking slave.

Don’t let your anxiety “burglar alarm” reduce your life to misery. Learn how to use it properly!

For more information about this book on anxiety:


Paperback copy:


Kindle eBook copy:


We love books: Reading them; writing them; and talking about them.  We hope you enjoy what we have to say about what we have learned, and how we have applied our learning.

Best wishes for a happy reading aspect to your growing life!

Jim and the Buddha, 2Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

Joint Director of the ABC Bookstore Online UK

Joint Director of the Institute for E-CENT Counselling

Dr Jim’s Counselling and Psychotherapy Division



[1] Byrne, J.W. (2019) Holistic Counselling in Practice: An introduction to the theory and practice of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy. Updated edition (2).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Publications.


Byrne, J.W. (2018) Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching of the Whole Person: Or how to integrate nutritional insights, physical exercise and sleep coaching into talk therapy.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Publications.


Taylor-Byrne, R.E. and Byrne, J.W. (2017) How to control your anger, anxiety and depression, using nutrition and physical activity.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Publications.


Byrne, J.W. and Taylor-Byrne, R.E. (2020) Cutting through the Worry Knot! How to Reduce and Control Your Anxiety Level: Using a whole body-brain-mind approach. Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Publications.