Did you know there are over 600 muscles in the human body? Although their natural state is to be at rest, people are so stressed and tense much of the time that the situation actually becomes the opposite: we train our bodies for tension.

People with stress and anxiety are so used to being tense throughout the day that they don’t even recognize what being relaxed feels like anymore. It’s a little bit like good posture; it feels weird to sit properly if we normally slouch because we are asking our body to do something it doesn’t normally do.

A great way to take time out, be in the present moment, and release tension in your body (and mind) is a technique called progressive muscle relaxation (PMR).

In PMR, you tense a group of muscles as you breathe in, and you relax them as you breathe out. You work on your muscle groups in a certain order. PMR can take 15 – 30 minutes to complete but the benefits are worth the time invested.


Benefits

PMR yields a variety of benefits, including the development of a feeling of well-being, lowered blood pressure, decreased muscle tension, thereby reducing the body’s need for oxygen and reducing fatigue, stress and anxiety.

Through regular PMR practice you learn:

  • not only what relaxation feels like, but also to recognize when you are starting to get tense during the day.
  • to distinguish between the feelings of a tensed muscle and a completely relaxed muscle. Then, you can begin to “cue” this relaxed state at the first sign of the muscle tension that accompanies your feelings of anxiety and stress.

How

As you perform PMR:

  • Keep your eyes closed.
  • Keep your mind focused on the word “relax”, throughout.
  • Use the 7/11 breathing technique and tense the muscles on the in-breath and release them on the out-breath. Anxiety and panic specialist Dr. Patricia Farrell suggests we breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.
  • Keep concentrating on the word “relax”.

Find a safe comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed for 10-15 minutes. Perhaps put on some relaxing music. Close your eyes and start PMR with:

The muscles in your hands and forearms:
You tense these muscles by clenching your fists as tightly as you can.
Start now and count steadily to ten, notice the tension.
Relax your fists.
Notice the difference between tension and relaxation in your hands and forearms.
Keep focusing on the word “relax”.

The muscles in your upper arms:
You tense these muscles by bending your arms at the elbows and trying to touch your wrists to your shoulders.
Start now and count steadily to ten, notice the tension.
Relax your arms.
Notice the difference between tension and relaxation in your upper arms.
Keep focusing on the word “relax”.

The muscles in the back of your arms:
You tense these muscles by straightening your arms as hard as you can.
Start now and count steadily to ten, notice the tension.
Relax your arms.
Notice the difference between tension and relaxation in the back of your arms.
Keep focusing on the word “relax”.

The muscles in your shoulders:
You tense these muscles by shrugging your shoulders tightly into your neck.
Start now and count steadily to ten, notice the tension.
Relax your shoulders.
Notice the difference between tension and relaxation in your shoulders.
Keep focusing on the word “relax”.

The muscles in your neck:
You tense these muscles by pressing your head back as far as you can.
Start now and count steadily to ten, notice the tension.
Relax your neck.
Notice the difference between tension and relaxation in your neck.
Keep focusing on the word “relax”.

The muscles in your forehead:
You tense these muscles by raising your eyebrows as though enquiring.
Start now and count steadily to ten, notice the tension.
Relax your eyebrows.
Notice the difference between tension and relaxation in your fore-head.
Keep focusing on the word “relax”.

The muscles in your brows and eyelids:
You tense these muscles by frowning and squeezing your eyes tightly shut.
Start now and count steadily to ten, notice the tension.
Relax your brows and eyelids.
Notice the difference between tension and relaxation in your brows and eyelids.
Keep focusing on the word “relax”.

The muscles in your jaw:
You tense these muscles by clenching your teeth as hard as you can.
Start now and count steadily to ten, notice the tension.
Relax your jaw.
Notice the difference between tension and relaxation in your jaw.
Keep focusing on the word “relax”.

The muscles in your tongue and throat:
You tense these muscles by pushing your tongue against the roof of your mouth.
Start now and count steadily to ten, notice the tension.
Relax your tongue.
Notice the difference between tension and relaxation in your tongue and throat.
Keep focusing on the word “relax”.

The muscles in your lips and face:
You tense these muscles by pressing your lips together tightly.
Start now and count steadily to ten, notice the tension.
Relax your lips.
Notice the difference between tension and relaxation in your lips and face.
Keep focusing on the word “relax”.

The muscles in your chest:
You tense these muscles by taking a deep breath and holding it
Start now and count steadily to ten, notice the tension.
Relax your chest by breathing out.
Notice the difference between tension and relaxation in your chest.
Keep focusing on the word “relax”.

The muscles in your stomach:
You tense these muscles by making your stomach muscles hard as though expecting a punch.
Start now and count steadily to ten, notice the tension.
Relax your stomach.
Notice the difference between tension and relaxation in your stomach
Keep focusing on the word “relax”.

The muscles in your hips and lower back:
You tense these muscles by arching your back and clenching your buttocks.
Start now and count steadily to ten, notice the tension.
Relax your hips and lower back..
Notice the difference between tension and relaxation in your hips and lower back.
Keep focusing on the word “relax”.

The muscles in your legs and feet:
You tense these muscles by straightening your legs and pointing your toes down.
Start now and count steadily to ten, notice the tension.
Relax your legs and feet.
Notice the difference between tension and relaxation in your legs and feet.
Keep focusing on the word “relax”.

Now let the feeling of relaxation spread throughout the whole of your body and enjoy being completely relaxed for 10-15 minutes. Keep focusing on the word relax and enjoy that feeling of deep relaxation.


Practice, practice, practice

You should practice PMR at least twice a day until you know it off by heart and are able to relax any set of muscles at any time.

Remember to practise progressive muscle relaxation often, whether you are feeling anxious or not. This will make the exercise even more effective when you really do need to relax! Though it may feel a bit tedious at first, ultimately you will gain a skill that will probably become a very important part of managing your anxiety in your daily life.


Need help in mastering your anxiety and stress?

If you are suffering with anxiety, stress, chronic stress and want to be free of them and to start enjoying life fully again, call me on 021 056 8389 or email tony@tycoaching.nz with your name & number, or use the Book Now button below.

Go well

Tony

REMEMBER – “When you change your mind you change your life.”


 

Tony helps people of all ages live their lives free of unnecessary stress, anxiety and depression, and be happier, healthier and more fulfilled.

De-stress using Progressive Muscle Relaxation
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