Tense muscles are a nearly universal reaction to stress. Few of us get through a normal work day without some tension in the neck and shoulder area. Progressive muscle relaxationicon not only helps you relax your muscles, it also makes you more aware of when there is tension in your body and where the tension is located. Progressive muscle relaxation also helps calm other reactions to stress, such as rapid breathing and heartbeat, stomach problems and headache.
Relaxation in 20 Minutes
Allow yourself 20 minutes to do this exercise. If possible choose a quiet place where you can lie down undisturbed. Eventually you will be able to do all or part of this exercise sitting up at your workplace.
- Relax your entire body as much as possible, allowing it to feel heavy.
Take a few slow, deep breaths. Imagine the tension flowing out with each breath.
- Now contract the muscles of your feet as you inhale. Hold the contraction briefly,
then relax as you breathe out, still imagining the tension flowing out with the breath. Breathing out and relaxing should take more time than breathing in and contracting. Notice the feel of the muscles as they are contracted or relaxed.
- Move up your body, contracting in turn the muscles of the lower legs, upper legs, buttocks and abdomen, and so on up through the body, including your arms and hands. End with your face, tensing and relaxing the muscles of your mouth, jaw, eyes and scalp. If a muscle seems particularly tense already, repeat the contraction with that muscle group.
- A Now lie still for five minutes, just experiencing your relaxed muscles. Continue to breathe slowly and deeply, feeling tension flow out and relaxation get deeper and
deeper with each breath.
- When you are ready to get up, count backward from four to one. Though you may be groggy at first, in a few minutes you will feel awake and refreshed.
Make It a Habit
Done regularly, this exercise not only relaxes you, but it also trains your body to recognize and reduce muscle tension. Do it daily if possible, along with other stress-reducing techniques such as meditation and visualization. or take time for a session whenever you begin to feel stressed out. You can do a mini-relaxation on the muscles you use in your work, such as the neck and shoulders if you sit at a desk.