Do you experience body pain when you’re stressed? Negative feelings such as anxiety, anger, and dissatisfaction can cause muscle tension. Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that can help release that tension. You can do it by yourself, with someone, or with an instructor. Read on to learn how you can perform progressive muscle relaxation in five easy steps.
Step 1: Choose A Method
To help evoke relaxation and reduce stress, there are different methods you can choose from:
- Breath Focus – taking long, slow, deep breaths (belly or abdominal breathing) while pulling away from distracting thoughts and sensations.
- Guided Imagery – picturing pleasant places, scenes, or memories to relax and focus.
- Mindfulness Meditation – focusing on your breathing, making your mind present in the moment without thinking about any past or future concerns.
- A Repetitive Prayer – silently repeating a short phrase or prayer while practicing breath focus (based on your own religion or spiritual belief).
- Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong – altogether combining rhythmic breathing with a series of postures or flowing movements; helps with racing thoughts and enhances balance and flexibility.
Step 2: Breathe and Tense
You can find an audio recording guide online to help you do this step. First, you either sit or lie down in a quiet place free of distractions. Wearing comfortable clothes will help you relax more. Next, take five slow, deep breaths. While inhaling, contract one muscle group (calf muscles, for example) for five to ten seconds. After that, exhale and release the tension.
Step 3: Relax
Give yourself a ten or twenty-second break before moving on to the next muscle group. The direction is up to you, but you can also follow a practitioner’s advice. Most practitioners recommend beginning with the lower extremities and ending with the face, abdomen, and chest.
Step 4: Focus
While releasing tension, try to focus on the changes you feel when a particular muscle group is relaxed. Moreover, using the guided imagery method may be helpful in releasing tension. You can imagine, for instance, your stress or other negative feelings coming out of your body as you relax each muscle group.
Step 5: Body scan
Blending breath focus with progressive muscle relaxation, body scan helps boost your mind-body connection awareness. As previously mentioned, you can follow a direction you want or what practitioners recommend. You gradually work your way up or down the body, tensing and relaxing muscle groups.
Progressive muscle relaxation can help with anxiety, insomnia, depression, and other conditions. It also helps improve mental health by reducing stress and serving as a means to have complete rest and relaxation. You can set aside 15 to 20 minutes a day for progressive muscle relaxation. Do it when you’re calm. This will help you learn the method easier especially in the beginning. Don’t forget to turn off your phone, wear loose clothing, and avoid holding your breath. Fully inhale and exhale. With practice and time, you can be able to accurately identify and reduce the signs of stress in your body.
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