Learn how to relax when you feeling tense or stressed out with Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Read on for my tips on how to relax with this helpful tool – it works even if you can’t meditate!
I started using this tool before I really understood meditation. I learned it when I was beginning to manage stress, anxiety, and panic attacks. My therapist told me to practice this twice a day. TWICE A DAY? I was busy! (I’m sure anyone who struggles with stress can relate!) It seemed like too much… But little did I know how much this relaxation practice would change my life.
The Benefits of Practicing Relaxation
Relaxation or meditation can be really helpful to clear your mind in times of busyness or stress. It can free to practice (or you can pay for recordings, subscriptions, teachers, etc. but it’s not necessary!) Relaxation can help reset and soothe your nervous system, which is why it was so helpful for me when dealing with anxiety.
Why People May Struggle With Meditation
Meditation is really popular right now, especially in the self-help world. It also has amazing effects! But if you’re just starting out, it may be really hard to meditate. It may even feel impossible to clear your mind, especially if you are feeling a lot of stress. Which is why I started with a specific type of relaxation practice.
Enter… Progressive Muscle Relaxation
What is Progressive Muscle Relaxation? It’s a practice of slowly tensing and relaxing your muscles in a specific and slow sequence. It works very well for people who are new to relaxation practices because it gives your mind something to focus on.
You don’t have to listen to a recording to practice this – I just find it very helpful to shut off my mind completely and let the recording to the work.
Why It Works
Have you ever felt your muscles after working out? Your body is generally very relaxed because the muscles have been working and now they are not. That is exactly how progressive muscle relaxation works. When you tense your muscles for several seconds, then release, you feel the release in your body.
This translates into your mind feeling the body relax. When you are feeling stress or anxiety in your mind, it can often have an effect on your body. Your stomach may get upset, your jaw may clench, and you may feel sweaty.
Progressive muscle relaxation does this in reverse. You essentially focus on relaxing the body to tell the mind to relax.
How To Do It
You can do this standing, sitting, or laying down. When starting out, I recommend doing it laying down to relax as much as possible. This helps to train your brain to relax deeper each time you do this.
You can put on some instrumental spa or relaxing music, or remain in silence. Begin to slow your breathing gently, taking deeper belly breaths. Next, you’ll begin to tense your muscles in order, from your feet all the way up to your forehead.
Getting Started with Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Curl your toes and tense your feet. Count to ten, then release. Take a deep breath and blow it out slowly. Rest for 10 counts.
- Then, tense your calves. Count to ten again, then release. Take another deep breath and blow it out slowly. Again, rest for 10 counts.
- Tense your thighs. Count to ten, then release. Take a deep breath and blow it out slowly. Rest for another 10 counts.
- Repeat this process, SLOWLY working your way up the muscles in your body. Don’t rush the process.
- Then, just lay still and enjoy the feeling of relaxation in your body.
I have a favorite resource that I used for this practice. I bought it on Amazon for about $3. It’s a worthy investment if you ask me! You can check it out here.
Some tips that can help to deepen your practice:
- Try putting a pillow or bolster underneath your knees as you lay on your back.
- If you don’t use a relaxation recording, try listening to relaxing spa music. You can find playlists online.
- You can also use an eye sleeping mask to help deepen your relaxation.
- Relaxing essential oils like lavender or cedarwood can help to reinforce the relaxation practice.
- You can try using a weighted blanket if you find that calming.
- I like to make sure that I keep warm with a big fuzzy blanket during the process.
- If you are still having trouble relaxing and letting go, try journaling before beginning this technique. Letting your thoughts out on paper can be really helpful in calming the mind.
Have you ever tried this practice? Do you have any favorite relaxation resources? Let me know in the comments below!
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