Neurocove Behavioral Health, LLC

 Specialists in psychological assessment, therapy, and counseling for 

anxiety, depression, and trauma throughout Florida. 

progressive muscle relaxation (Pmr) deep breathing for anxiety
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Deep Breathing and Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Anxiety

Let’s talk about my two favorite coping skills for anxiety and stress.

Anxiety is an issue that many people deal with on a daily basis, and it can significantly hurt our well-being, our mental health, and even our physical health.  It’s important to learn how to cope with these problems in our daily life because most people have stressful experiences and situations most days. Learning how to reduce your stress can empower you to do better, be more productive, and spend less time being worried. Two useful techniques for reducing stress and anxiety are deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Let’s examine each of these techniques in detail, provide instructions for each, and see why is it that they work.

Deep Breathing as a coping skill for anxiety.

Deep breathing (also known as belly breathing, abdominal breathing, etc.) is an easy and accessible technique that helps you relax in just a few minutes. To practice deep breathing you need to sit or lie down, put a hand on your belly and another on your chest, and take a slow deep breath. You need to pay attention to how your belly moves under your hand and keep breathing deeply and slowly. A few minutes of this can help you feel much more relaxed.

Deep breathing progressive muscle relaxation Pmr
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How does deep breathing help stress?

It can lower your blood pressure, help you stop thinking negative thoughts, and reduce the anxiety you are feeling. You can do this anywhere, and it only takes a few minutes. It can fit into the busiest routine and provide relaxation.

Are deep breathing exercises good for you?

Yes, because they reduce stress, and stress is one of the most damaging influences on our physical and mental health. It can improve our well-being and get our anxiety under control.

Why does deep breathing work?

When we get stressed, our body activates a part of our nervous system that prepares us to respond to danger. This system elevates our blood pressure, makes our breathing shallow, and has other physical effects that are important in the moment but that can be hurtful if the stress continues or if it is too acute. Additionally, our brain is not good at distinguishing between actual danger and a particularly challenging public speaking event. Both can cause a similar reaction.

Deep breathing signals that the danger is passed and “turns off” or suppresses the response the body is having. Deep breathing can help lower your heart rate, your blood pressure, and induce a state of relaxation that is good for you, reducing any anxiety you might feel in the moment. It’s easy to learn and can be mastered with a bit of time and practice.

When you get started, it is generally easier to do deep breathing when you are alone and in a quiet space. Eventually, you learn to do it whenever and wherever, if you practice the technique. When you learn how to find the right rhythm for yourself, you probably won’t need to put your hand on your chest and belly and instead, it will become a much more natural activity.

deep breathing
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Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) for Anxiety and Stress

What is the progressive muscle relaxation technique?

PMR is another foundational coping strategy for anxiety. PMR is generally considered a quick relaxation technique that involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups as you breathe. To use this technique, you need to breathe in as you tense a muscle group hard but not to the point of discomfort for several seconds. As you breathe out, you completely relax the muscle groups. Then, relax for a few seconds, and repeat the same with the next muscle group.

Which muscle groups can we tense and relax this way? Well, any! For the purposes of PMR, muscle groups are going to be any clusters of muscles that work together. Using muscles as clusters helps as you can work your way through the different parts of your body, for instance, the hands, the wrists, the shoulders, the thighs, different groups of facial muscles (for example, the forehead, the mouth, and the nose), neck muscles, and so on.

As you tense and relax parts of your body, pay attention to how they feel when they are tense and when they are relaxed. You want to keep your breathing slow and regular, similar to deep breathing as discussed earlier.

Why does progressive muscle relaxation work?

It is a technique that can relieve stress and anxiety starting with the body. In a way, it forces your body to be relaxed, and your mental state changes with it. You can’t be tense while your body is relaxed. How progressive muscle relaxation works is that it quickly takes you to a relaxed state, so it becomes easier to manage the thoughts and situations that are stressing you out. PMR forces us to mentally disengage from stressors or anxiety because we’re purposefully paying attention to our muscles and breathing.

When to use progressive muscle relaxation?

At first, it’s good to practice PMR during moments of peace and quiet when you are not disturbed. As you become better, however, this can be done anywhere when you need to relax quickly. PMR is also very useful for falling asleep and can be done while you are in bed trying to relax. In general, these relaxation techniques are very easy to do and with a bit of practice, you can learn to do them pretty much anywhere and at any time. They become tools for you to relax and reduce the negative impact stress can have on your daily life.

Overall, it’s important to have simple tools that help you relax. These require no tools and only a few minutes each, and they are highly accessible. Their effectiveness is proven by years of study. Deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation are excellent techniques that don’t require any money or even that much time or effort to learn and practice.

Photo by Sid Leigh on Unsplash

PMR or Deep Breathing not helping? Do you feel like you would benefit from additional skills and strategies to manage your anxiety, stress, or frustration? Contact us, email, or give us a call to set up an appointment. We’d love to help!



Melo-Dias, Carlos; Alves Apóstolo, João Luís; Batista Cardoso, Daniela Filipa Effectiveness of progressive muscle relaxation training for adults diagnosed with schizophrenia: a systematic review protocol, JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports: October 2014 – Volume 12 – Issue 10 – p 85-97 doi: 10.11124/jbisrir-2014-1639

Westerdahl, Elisabeth PhD; Urell, Charlotte PhD; Jonsson, Marcus MSc; Bryngelsson, Ing-Liss MSc; Hedenström, Hans PhD; Emtner, Margareta PhD Deep Breathing Exercises Performed 2 Months Following Cardiac Surgery: A RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL, Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention: January/February 2014 – Volume 34 – Issue 1 – p 34-42 doi: 10.1097/HCR.0000000000000020

Zaccaro, A., Piarulli, A., Laurino, M., Garbella, E., Menicucci, D., Neri, B., & Gemignani, A. (2018). How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing. Frontiers in human neuroscience12, 353.



Dr. Benson Munyan is a Clinical Psychologist licensed in both Florida and Arizona. He is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Central Florida's College of Medicine and the Director of Neurocove Behavioral Health, LLC. He specializes in the assessment and treatment of anxiety, depression, and trauma-related disorders. Dr. Munyan earned his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Central Florida. He currently holds clinical privileges at both Neurocove Behavioral Health and the Orlando Veteran’s Affairs Healthcare System. He has also previously published clinical research and articles in peer-reviewed journals including PLoS One and Clinical Case Studies.
Benson Munyan, Ph.D.
Jessica Candelo LMHC Orlando Therapist

Jessica Candelo, LMHC

Licensed Mental Health Counselor


My name is Jessica Candelo, LMHC, but you can call me Jess, if you’d like. I am a Marine Corps veteran and a mom which both play into my experiences and understanding of life. I have experience working with individuals facing anxiety, depression, stress, trauma, insomnia, parenting stress, military related stressors and/or traumas, and addictions. I focus on providing a safe and comfortable environment, paired with evidence-based therapies to suit the needs of my clients and meet their personal goals of recovery and growth. It’s not easy and sometimes we just want to throw in the towel, but that does not have to be the final answer. Together we can work through what you’re experiencing and move toward a place of healing.


I believe that cultivating a healthy and strong therapeutic relationship is very important in the overall process of change. Our first session is geared towards getting to know each other as well as identifying and establishing the needs and focus of the treatment plan moving forward. It is my goal to ensure you feel safe, heard, and understood throughout each session so that a collaborative and well-established treatment plan is enacted.


I try to provide a genuine, light-hearted, and humanistic environment to every session. To be honest, I try to make sure every session feels like a normal conversation by utilizing everyday language and rhetoric; I might even through in some humor where appropriate because laughter can often feel like a breath of fresh air. Overall, I want you to feel like you can voice your needs and concerns without fear of judgement all while finding suitable, potential solutions. Life is hard to navigate at times but I’m here to help.


  • Trauma-Focused
  • Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Behavior Modification 
  • Humanistic Therapy
  • Person-Centered Therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing Mindfulness-Based (MBCT)
  • Cognitive Processing (CPT)
  • Cognitive Behavioral (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Rachel Creamer, Ph.D.



My name is Dr. Rachel Creamer. I specialize in providing evidenced-based care to those struggling with anxiety, depression, substance use, and trauma. Seeking therapy takes tremendous courage. You are taking the first step toward positive change. We will work together to help you reach a fulfilling and values-driven life. 


The goal of our first session is to better understand what brings you to therapy and to get to know you better. In the first session we will also talk about your goals for treatment and ways to accomplish these goals. We will also focus on learning skills to help you start making positive changes today. 


Therapy can bring about great positive change. Fostering a safe and compassionate space for clients is the foundation for allowing growth in therapy. Therapy is collaborative. While I am the expert on evidence-based treatment, you are the expert on you. We will work together on reaching your treatment goals and creating a more gratifying life. 


  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Exposure Therapy
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Couples Therapy (Gottman method)
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI)
Nicholas James Psychologist Orlando Florida

Nicholas James, Ph.D.



My name is Nicholas James, Ph.D. I have experience working with individuals facing anxiety, depression, stress, trauma, insomnia, and caregiver strain. I focus on matching evidence-based therapies to the needs of my clients to meet their personal goals of recovery and growth.


I believe that change occurs through personal reflection, cultivating strengths and resources, and incorporating growth into everyday life. It is my goal that each session is collaborative and integrates needs, beliefs, and your background into a person-centered treatment plan.


I try to bring a genuine, humanistic atmosphere to every session. My therapeutic approach is centered in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and incorporates additional evidence-based practices to address unique needs that arise during therapy.


  • Trauma Focused
  • Exposure Response Prevention (ERP)
  • Acceptance & Commitment (ACT)
  • Behavior Modification
  • Humanistic
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI) 
  • Mindfulness-Based (MBCT)
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Benson Munyan Psychologist Orlando Florida

Benson Munyan, PhD, ABPP



My name is Dr. Benson Munyan. I am a board-certified clinical psychologist. I specialize in working with those experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and trauma. If you are reading this, there’s a good chance you’re looking for something. Whatever the origin of your story, you are here. There is no time like the present to change our tomorrow.


From our very first session, skills are introduced, demonstrated, and assigned as practice assignments between meetings. I collaboratively set each session agenda with my clients, ensuring we have time for following up since the last session, troubleshooting any problems with skills or homework, and working on new problems or material.


Let’s be honest. Sometimes, life is hard. And sometimes, it downright sucks. There, I said it. I believe we should be able to use everyday language in therapy, and that participating in therapy as our most genuine selves empowers us to better understand the challenges we’re facing as well as potential solutions.


  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
  • Trauma-Focused Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
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