There are many ways to relax when you are anxious and stressed. Some techniques may help you, and some may not, but the worst thing you can do is NOT try. Progressive muscle relaxation requires regular practice and it’s best to begin before anxiety takes control. You know if your day is leaning toward an anxiety attack, so start as soon as possible.
What is Progressive Muscle Relaxation?
Why did I start using PMR?
For me and most other people, when I am anxious, the muscles from shoulders up get very tense. Including my jaw muscles. I can always tell when I’ve been having an anxious week because when I wake, my teeth hurt from clenching my jaws so tight.
I think I developed this habit from my father. When he is angry he clenches his teeth and jaws and I can see the muscles jumping. That was the look I was afraid of as a child. It meant I did something wrong and I was about to be in trouble.
In retrospect, I realize I had a few signs of clenching my jaws including:
- Craze lines in my teeth- these are harmless cracks in your teeth.
- Sensitive teeth due to grinding at night.
- Sore teeth and jaw muscles in the morning.
As I became more aware, I noticed myself doing this throughout the day and sometimes will stick my finger between my teeth to encourage my muscles to CALM DOWN! I’ll stop clenching when it hurts my finger!
My dentist pointed out the wear on my teeth and has urged me to get a mouth guard, which I got on clearance at Publix. It’s one of those self made ones that you microwave (like this), but I look forward to investing in a good quality one.
Who should use PMR?
It’s great for those suffering from anxiety and stress, but there are more people that can benefit from practicing PMR.
And anyone looking to increase their whole body awareness
How Can You Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation?
When it comes to various treatments for anxiety and stress, I used to wonder, “Will this actually work?”
Well, what is the risk of trying it and what could the benefits be? Reduced the anxiety preventing you from completing daily tasks? Stop the overwhelming stress that shuts you down to all enjoyable activities in your life?
Sounds like we have more incentive to try this than not try it. I suggest setting a reminder or alarm on your phone, perhaps around 8 pm after dinner and before bed, or maybe you’re an early riser and want to start your day relaxed or try it on your lunch break. It’s especially good to practice this on your lunch break because work is most likely the cause of some of your anxiety.
I started being more consistent a few weeks ago and I can tell that I focus quicker during. I’ve always been very aware of my body including all of the aches and pains that come with also being hypermobile in my joints. (Extreme flexibility is not all it’s cracked up to be)
Top tips for practicing Progressive Muscle Relazation
1 // Find a quiet and relaxing place to try out PMR. Also, make sure it is not freezing in the room you choose. Don’t choose the living room with the television blaring or a room with someone else working in it. Can you imagine how annoying it would be to hear *click*click*click* while you are trying to remain calm.
2 // Remove distracting devices and live creatures -duh- like cell phones, ipads, dogs, cats, babies. If you are using music to meditate to, then put your phone on do not disturb or airplane mode. You know the slightest ding will peak your curiosity and you won’t get back in the grove.
3 // Don’t get discouraged if you forget the flow of the movements. You know how to flex your guns, so if you forget where you are and you don’t have this handy print out, then just work small groups of muscles at a time.
4// Release the muscle contraction quickly. If you release the hold slowely, you are still using the muscles to maintain the contraction.
*If you fall asleep, FANTASTIC! You’ve relaxed so much your body was comfortable with sleeping. And obviously you needed it.
And Finally, Here's how to do it
Complete the following after you have found a quiet place with few distractions, find a warm room and sit in a comfortable chair and position or lie down.
Hold each of these for 5 seconds and relax the muscle for 10 seconds.
If you have an injury, or feel pain with any of these, stop or avoid those areas. Perhaps consult a physician about possible physical therapy to treat severe pain.
- Clinch your right hand into a fist
- Bend your right hand back at the wrist without the aid of your left hand
- Tense your right upper arm
- Clinch your left hand into a fist
- Bend your left hand back at the wrist without the aid of your right hand
- Tense your left upper arm
- Shrug your shoulders to your ears
- Raise your eyebrows high
- Smile big! As big as you can
- Open your mouth as wide as you can
- Press your lips together tightly
- Press the back of your head against the ground or chair you are on
- Squeeze your hands together in front of you like you are praying
- Squeeze your shoulder blades back and down
- Tighten your abs (remember to breath)
- Squeeze your glutes
- Clench your right thigh
- Point your right toes toward your head and then curl them away from you
- Clench your left thigh
- Point your left toes toward your head and then curl them away from yo
Let me know how you liked relaxing once you wake up from your nap!