Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Alona Angosta

Second Committee Member

Lori Candela

Third Committee Member

Jennifer Kawi

Fourth Committee Member

Sheniz Moonie

Number of Pages



Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the United States. In patients with COPD, distress is significantly prevalent and can have adverse psychological and physiological effects. Considering the increased rate of COPD, a mind-body intervention focusing on the reduction of both psychological and physiological responses such as anxiety, elevated blood pressure (BP), heart rate (HR), dyspnea, and respiratory rate must be integrated into the patient’s plan of care. The relaxation response (RR) is a term coined by Dr. Herbert Benson in the 1970s describing the body’s ability to counter the fight-or-flight response to decrease psychological and physiological responses. Although there are numerous studies on Benson’s RR, to date, no study has examined its effectiveness in the COPD population.

The aims of this study were to: (1) assess if implementing Benson’s RR decreased anxiety, (2) examine if Benson’s RR reduced a patient’s perception of breathlessness, and (3) examine if Benson’s RR improved systolic and diastolic BP, HR, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation. This quasi-experimental study used a pre- and post-test design. The sample (N = 25) consisted of a single group of patients diagnosed in stages 2-4 of COPD obtained through a rolling convenience sample at an outpatient pulmonary rehabilitative clinic in Midwest region of the United States. The theoretical framework used to guide this study was a modified version of the Roy Adaptation Model. Inferential statistics were used to determine the psychological and physiological differences pre- and post-intervention utilizing the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI Form Y–1), Modified Borg Scale (MBS); and BP, HR, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation levels. Participants listened to a pre-recorded audio to guide them through the Benson’s RR technique for 10 minutes.

Results indicated a significant mean change in anxiety (p < .001), perception of breathlessness (p < .001), and a decrease in the respiratory rate (p = .001) after implementing Benson’s RR. Although there was clinical improvement in BP, HR, and oxygen saturation, these findings were not statistically significant (p > .05). The findings of this study contribute to understanding how nursing can assist patients with COPD in adapting to the negative symptoms experienced with the overall goal of improving patients’ psychological and physiological responses to distress.


Anxiety; Benson's Relaxation Response; COPD; Dyspnea; Relaxation Response


Medicine and Health Sciences | Nursing

File Format


File Size

0.799 MB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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Nursing Commons