Easy, Effective Stress Reduction
by Roberta Alves
Do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and stressed? Do you ever lie awake in bed at night without being able to fall asleep? Do you wish you could find an easy and natural way to help yourself relax?
Learning to use effective relaxation techniques can greatly reduce your level of stress and in turn boost your mental and physical well-being. As a psychotherapist, I am constantly trying to find effective and easy to use techniques for my clients to ease their stress. I have found through my research and by witnessing my clients trying various relaxation techniques that Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) produces excellent results and is highly effective in the reduction of stress and anxiety.
Have you ever had a headache that just won’t go away or an aching pain in your neck or back? This pain can be a result of stress or anxiety that you are experiencing in your life because one of the ways your body responds to that stress is with muscle tension.
PMR was developed by Dr. Edmund Jacobson in the 1920s and is a proven method to relieve tension and reduce stress. Studies have shown that PMR produces excellent results in the treatment of anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, depression, irritable bowel, neck and back pain, and high blood pressure. PMR is a very simple process that consists of successively tensing and relaxing multiple muscle groups in the body.
To begin PMR, find a quiet location and assume a comfortable position; either lie down or sit. Many people find that also closing their eyes helps increase a state of relaxation during the process. Tense each muscle group firmly for 10 seconds and then release suddenly. Give yourself 15 seconds to relax and take a deep breath to notice how the area feels relaxed now in contrast to how it felt when you were tensing it. During this time of relaxation you may state to yourself, “I am letting go” or “I feel the tension flow away.” Once that is complete, move on to the next muscle group and continue until you have completed a tense and release cycle with each muscle group of your body. During the process try to remain in the present moment and focus on the muscle area you are working; if your mind wanders, bring it back to that muscle group.
An example of the sequence of muscle groups you could work starting from the top and going down your body would include: forehead, eyes, nose, jaw, neck, shoulders, chest, biceps and triceps, fists and fingers, abdomen, buttocks, upper thighs and calves, ankles, and toes. At the end of the process perform a mental scan of your body becoming aware of any residual tension in a specific area, and then repeat the exercise two or three times for that particular muscle group.
To obtain the best results from PMR, practicing 20 minutes per day is essential. Practicing at regular times, such as before you go to bed or when you awaken, helps create a routine, making it easier to maintain. Adopting a regular routine of PMR will have you feeling less anxiety and stress, allowing you to experience more calm and relaxation in your everyday life.
Roberta Alves is a psychotherapist, certified Anxiety Specialist, and founder of the Essence of Healing Counseling Services located at 2501 East Commercial Boulevard, Suite #211, Fort Lauderdale. Call for a free 15 minute consultation, 954-901-9403, and visit EssenceOfHealingCounseling.com. See ad page 38.