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Reduce Stress With Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Mar 9, 2008
Whether you have a high stress job such as an airline pilot and have to sit in one cramped place for long hours at a time or you are the worn out mother of a toddler on the run from morning till night, you can feel like your nerves are shot to pieces. You probably crave genuine relaxation but doubt you can achieve it.

No matter what your situation, the answer to your stress may be as simple as progressive muscle relaxation. This technique originated in the 1930s and is still popular today. This method of relaxation is simple; muscle groups are flexed then systematically relaxed. The idea behind progressive muscle relaxation is that by relaxing the muscles, your mind also becomes relaxed. Furthermore, this technique does not require any special training. In fact, anyone can do it.

Ideally, muscle relaxation should be practiced between ten to twenty minutes every day. It's okay if you don't get it right the first time. Be prepared to develop your ability to relax gradually if necessary. By practicing regularly you will quickly become competent at progressive muscle relaxation and will be able to better deal with the stress in your life. If you are willing to be patient and persistent, the effort will be worth it.

Progressive muscle relaxation is considered to be a deep relaxation technique which means that it is not only beneficial for stress reduction but also for the alleviation of chronic pain and insomnia. Migraines and cancer symptoms have also been helped by this method. Most of the time, the feet and legs are relaxed first. From there, the muscles are flexed and relaxed all the way up the body to the face. However, this order is not set in concrete and some physicians teach their patients to do it differently.

As you develop your ability to flex and relax the muscles of your body, you can increase the tension to gain more benefit. This technique should only be attempted when you can be quiet and uninterrupted or it may be difficult to complete the whole body exercise. First, tighten your muscles for around eight seconds and then release the tension. Relax for about half a minute before moving on to the next set of muscles. It can be helpful to use this relaxation technique in conjunction with imagery. For example, you could imagine you are like an ocean wave with power unleashed when flexed muscles are released.

Progressive muscle relaxation also helps you to interpret your body's messages. Increased sensitivity to these cues can help you to recognize signs of tension in your body. Once recognized you can work out ways to overcome it. Consequently, you will likely feel less stressed and more relaxed. In fact, you may even feel more energized. Progressive muscle relaxation has a long history of producing excellent results which means you can be confident that it is a legitimate approach to relaxation and stress reduction.

Your first session of relaxation will take about an hour if you do exercises such as making a fist, bending your arms, clenching and releasing teeth, lifting and lowering shoulders, bending arms and lifting and lowering heals. These exercises are in addition to the flexing and relaxing of muscles from toe to top. With practice your muscle relaxation exercises will become natural. Don't try to fast track these exercises; the goal is relaxation. Perhaps they'd make a great addition to a Sunday afternoon or a Saturday morning after a busy week. Whenever you can take time out to focus on relaxing, these exercises can help you release a lot of built up tension and improve your physical and emotional well being.

Progressive muscle relaxation works well for everyone. No matter what your vocation in life and irrespective of the cause of the stress in your life, relaxation exercises can improve your sense of well being and your life overall. You may have a high stress way of interacting with the world but you can still learn to do these exercises and change your approach. It can be hard if you are a Type A personality but it is still possible. If you make progressive muscle relaxation a regular part of your life you will be less stressed, happier, healthier and more energetic. In fact, the time you spend on relaxation will be the most valuable time of your week.
About the Author
Kevin Sinclair is the publisher and editor of My-Personal-Growth.com, a site that provides information and articles for self improvement and personal growth and development.
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