Proven for you: Relief, the psychological first aid service

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«Hello, it’s me»: Adele sang it, talking to the ex. We could sing it, imagining it to be ours anxiety. Do you also happen to open your eyes and already have the agenda in front of you that screams revenge? Or take a shower with your partner in the background listing all your outstanding bills to pay? Or to go to work, and then to the gym, and then to the aperitif, but to always have that asshole in your head who has ghosted you? Here, welcome to the club.

If anxiety knocks again every five minutes and you feel overwhelmed, what to do? To scream? Smash everything? They might be solutions, but they wouldn’t solve much. You could do as I did instead: go to the psychological first aid.

There are several online – with the outbreak of the pandemic, they were needed like air – but I went in attendance from Relief, in Milan, Isola area. A recently born reality, founded by Dr. Alessandro Calderoni, psychologist and psychotherapist, but which has already proved to be a useful and winning service, also chosen by companies such as Better This, as a support to the emotional well-being for its employees.

I am welcomed in a modern and colorful clinical lounge, more similar to a room than to the aseptic hall of hospital emergency rooms, by the doctor Flavia Achermann, one of 13 psychologists who are part of the staff, all specially trained and supervised with regular technical-clinical teams.

I had an appointment, but being an emergency room, anyone who feels the need can go to the office and wait for the psychologist on shift to give him a real psychological triage. «Usually those who come here are experiencing periods characterized by strong anxiety or stress – Achermann explains to me – or there are those who have an obsessive thought that makes it impossible for them to concentrate, or those who are a little tired, even physically, due to the environmental conditions … In short, there are some dysfunctional moments in our daily life, which bring us down. Here we teach how to manage them, by means of simple techniques and exercises, which can then be repeated every day ».

Half an hour for transform your emotional state or even just for increase your well-being: “It can also be all right: these techniques are also good just to release tensions and unwind the mind.”

And how do you do it, in what way, I ask, curious? It is at that moment that Flavia shows me the arsenal available: mental and physical exercises, biofeedback, videogames, virtual reality, rapid hypnosis to make you breathe a sigh of relief and help you get better in a short time.

«Let’s start with the techniques of diaphragmatic breathing. Anxiety is often accompanied by labored breathing or, on the contrary, apneas. Regularizing the breath calms the mind, stimulates the vagus nerve, normalizes the heartbeat. To understand if we are working well on the breath we have instruments that teach correct breathing with a meditation in voice and music ». I try it and it reveals that I am already very good at regularizing the breath, thanks to yoga.

Then Flavia lets me try Biofeedback, a kind of oximeter (but it is not), which is applied to the index and which, through skin conductance, detects heartbeat and body temperature, giving ocular proof of how it is possible to change both only through the power of thought.

The Biograph (this is the name of the gadget on the finger) he notes that my temperature is around 34 degrees (I was not going to die, I swear), so Flavia invites me to think of something beautiful, comfortable, welcoming. Instantly my breathing slows down, the heartbeat increases, but above all my body temperature has increased: «What a good girl! Increasing it by 1 degree in such a few minutes is not for everyone ».

The more you relax, in fact, the more the conductance decreases, and the temperature and heart variability increase. It means that the software rewards the moments when the patient does what he is expected to do, and then his brain learns that this is fine because the reward positively reinforces the repetition of the desired behavior. In my mind I thank the day I started practicing yoga, because the incredible benefits for my mind and body were already evident, but so I had the tangible and ocular proof..


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