Besides doing an assessment based on the presenting problem in my initial appointments with new clients, I’ve begun to assess for how does this person or couple relax. So I ask “What do you do to relax?” And I hear common answers like “Exercise” or “Watch movies or shows” or “Play video games.” I hate to break this to you, but none of those things actually help you RELAX.
Exercise gives you a temporary rush of endorphins (i.e. make you feel good and that probably has a secondary sexual benefit when it comes to your self-esteem and body image) but it can also make you feel fatigued - or as a client recently described it, “spent.” And watching movies and shows or playing video games distracts us, takes our mind off other things, and is a bit like numbing ourselves. When I describe that relaxed is a state of feeling calm (vs. tense), alert (vs. distracted or numb), and awake and energized (vs. tired), many of my clients sheepishly admit “Yeah, I don’t really have that feeling regularly.” Some clients are even courageous enough to confess “I don’t really know what that feeling is.” Boy am I glad my clients are this honest; it tells me precisely where we need to focus our efforts.