Get calm - Use Step Down Tension Relief (SDTR) breathing to calm the body & quiet the mind

By: Tom Cloyd - 3 min. read (Published: 2013; reviewed: 2024-03-01:0239 Pacific Time (USA))

A simple, effective way to release stress, virtually any time you want to, this modest procedure works because it (a) uses a process already present in your body; (b) goes forward in small, easy, comfortable steps; and (c) is accomplished over a brief but sustained period of time, giving your mind time to benefit from the simplicity of the exercise. Once you learn this little procedure, your greatest challenge will likely be to remember to use it when you need it!


NOTE: Before deciding to try this or any other procedure on this site, be sure to read our Disclaimer.

When to use this simple exercise

  • Any time you know you’re feeling too much stress and you want to “dump” some of it.
  • Any time you want to feel better in general.
  • Any time you feel an urge to manage uncomfortable feelings by using a substance or behavior inappropriately .
  • Right before you intend to sleep. This is a fine way to end the day and to enter into sleep. With minimal practice, it can become an unconscious habit for you, when you lie down to sleep. But you may need to set up a reminder to USE the procedure, initially.

Shift your focus from mind to body

Since releasing muscle tension, a condition of the body involving excess muscle tightness, will eliminates mental “stress”, a condition involving excess negative feelings in the mind, it is possible to calm the mind by calming our body.1

So, begin by ignoring your stress - by just putting your thoughts off to one side. Then pay attention to your body only. This shift of focus is critical. Give it careful attention. Go slowly. Take time to become completely focused, as you work through the following steps.

The four essential steps

Each step accomplishes something critical. Don’t skip any of them:

  1. Observe breathing. Pause just to watch your breathing for 3 to 5 “inhale-exhale” cycles. Notice how easy and effortless it is. You don’t need to do anything. It just happens. When you exhale, notice that you relax muscles in your chest and abdomen. You’re going to “hitch a ride” on that natural moment of relaxation.

  2. Notice & release muscle tension. As you continue to breath, in and out, begin to notice the rest of your body. Start first with your neck and shoulders. Release just a little of the muscle tension there, as you naturally exhale. It”s important that you release only a little. This makes the process very easy, so that you”re sure to be successful.

  3. Use self-coaching. Throughout this process, talk to yourself internally, coaching yourself with statements like “just let it go, stay with it, let yourself calm”, etc.

  4. Persist: stay with the process. Continue breathing, releasing just a little muscle tension each time you exhale. Let your awareness move down into the rest of your body as well, and release small amounts of tension everywhere you find it, when you naturally exhale. Put aside any thoughts that intrude into your mind. They’re not important right now, and you can go back to them later.

Stay with this exercise for a few minutes. Keep your focus on your body, and continue to release tension in small steps, regardless of what happens in your mind. Take your time, allow yourself to settle into the process, and let calmness come to you. Note that at some point you may notice your mind go blank. This is a sign that your thinking has stopped. We want this to happen, as it allows for rest and healing.

Relaxation, which happens when we “dump off” tension in the body, simply feels good. Because of this good feeling, your brain will want to do the process again. After a little practice, you are likely to find that upon simply starting the exercise your brain will move quickly to a calm state. It”s easy, when you know how!

Regular practice will tend to make this procedure easy and effective for you. In some situations, you may only have time to focus on a few breaths and use them to release tension. This is still a useful practice. Before long you may catch yourself doing the procedure without consciously intending to–a sure indications that your brain has learned this process at a deep level.

Ultimately, it is possible to become deeply relaxed with just one breath, although it may take you a while to develop this skill. Use SDTR Breathing whenever you need it

You now know a simple, easy, and powerful tool for “dumping off” tension and stress as it accumulates. Stress is NOT good for you. It is distracting, it can make you sick, and it feels bad. As soon as you notice it, move away from it using SDTR breathing!

  1. I first developed this many years ago, and initially thought it was surprising that something so simple could work so well. I have had many of my clients with severe trauma disorders disbelieve me when I told them of this fact, and several went out of their way to prove me wrong. Every single one of them failed, and each was amazed to discover I was speaking the truth. The catch, of course, is that this is palliative care only. It resolves immediate symptoms, but they will return unless their true cause is addressed effectively. ^


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