Your day is not going as planned. That project is due and you’re behind schedule. The house is a mess and you just can’t seem to get it all done. Your department has just instituted a new policy change and it directly affects you. And now you feel like a ship’s deckhand has been practicing his knot-tying skills on your shoulder muscles. I think I just heard your audible sigh. Don’t give up. There’s hope for that tension headache.
Melt away your tensions with this technique
It’s a technique called Progressive Muscle Relaxation or PMR for short. PMR is a tension reducing technique that involves alternately tensing and relaxing specific muscle groups. It works wonders for reducing overall body tension. Because your daily stresses typically result in tight, sore muscles it’s necessary that you learn how to release that stored-up tension so you can relax and feel better. And it only takes about 5 minutes.
Let’s get you started.
Here’s how to do it:
- Get comfortable. Find a quiet place free of potential distractions. Turn your phone off/silent. If you’re like me and will be tempted to respond to that text the moment it comes in, you might want to leave your phone in the other room while you practice this technique. Lie down or sit in a comfortable chair.
- Begin by tensing. I know… the goal is relaxing, but bear with me. You’ll be glad you did. First, tense all the muscles in your face and scalp. You can do this in stages, holding each area in tension for five seconds before relaxing. Begin by wrinkling your forehead and trying to make your eyebrows go as high as possible. Hold 5 seconds then relax. Close your eyes as tightly as you can, tighten your jaws, even move your ears up and down if you can. As you inhale, keep your facial muscles tightened as you count up to 5 seconds.
- Exhale and relax completely. Completely let go of the tension in your face. Allow the tension to completely drain out of those muscles as you deeply relax. Feel the tension leave your body. You may repeat this a few times as you begin to get the hang of it.
- Progress from muscle group to muscle group. This time tense your neck and shoulders. Draw your shoulders up to your ears as you do this and focus on tensing the muscles in the neck and shoulder region. As before, hold this for the count of 5 as you inhale. Now exhale and relax your neck and shoulders completely.
- Continue down your body. Repeat this procedure with each muscle group, alternately tensing and completely relaxing.
- First your left arm, working your way down to the forearms and hands.
- Then your right arm, working your way down to the forearms and hands.
- Clench your fists tightly for 5 seconds. Relax.
- First your left leg, working your way down to the calf and foot.
- Then your right leg, working your way down to the calf and foot.
- Bend your ankles toward your body as far as you can and hold for 5 seconds.Relax
- Curl your toes as tightly as you can for 5 seconds. Relax.
You’re done. If you still sense any tension in particular muscle groups, tighten and relax those muscles three or four times. Remember this feeling of being totally relaxed. Some people notice little change the first time. With practice, your ability to reach a totally relaxed state can be achieved in a short period of time and maintained. You can do this multiple times a day when you feel the tension accumulating. Don’t give up! Keep practicing.
What stress relief techniques work for you?
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