Squeeze and Release
If you have explored the above avenues without success, it is time to consider fighting fire with fire. Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a relaxation technique that targets the physical symptoms of anxiety as well as any other relaxation. It can done almost anywhere at almost any time. All you need is a few minutes and a little bit of space to work with, and you will be on your way to feeling relaxed. Here’s how:
- Be careful – This first tip is an important one. Consult with your doctor to be sure that PMR is right for you. If you ever feel pain that becomes too intense while trying the relaxation, revise and modify the exercise. PMR is a gentle experience that reduces discomfort, not add to it. Pay close attention to your neck and back during PMR to avoid overexertion and overextension.
- Set the mood – Finding the right spot to relax may take some experimentation. Try the bedroom, living room or even bathroom as you search for initial relaxation. Music, candles or scents can set the scene further. When you relax is also important. Find the time of day that makes sense for you to relax based on your symptoms. If you are new to PMR, picking the most stressful time of the day is not advisable. Once you become proficient, it will be simple to slide into your PMR in varied settings.
- Scan your body – Once you are in your relaxation location, take a few moments to listen to your body. Start with your toes and move up towards your head. Which areas are feeling tender or stiff? Which areas feel loose and relax? Sometimes, with anxiety, you may feel that your whole body hurts but if you take the time to scan, you can identify the spots that are tenser than others.
- Tense – PMR begins by tensing an area for five to ten seconds. Your hands are tensed by making a fist and holding it tight. Alternatively, you can achieve another type of tension by opening your hands fully and spreading your fingers as wide as you can. Many areas in your body have multiple ways of tensing. Bending your elbows, straightening your legs, lifting your eye brows and scrunching your face are easy places to start. Trial and error will help you find your best options.
- Release – After your period of tensing the area, release the hold. Allow your hands to slowly and naturally open to a neutral position. Feel the relaxation flood in as the tension fades away. This might be the first time in months or years that your hands have experienced relaxation.
- Repeat – Complete the cycle of tensing and releasing two or three times to achieve full relaxation and then begin move to other areas of your body that are high in tension. When you repeat, mix your patterns to find a system that works well for you.
Managing your anxious symptoms is never a fun process. In some ways, though, you are fortunate. There are few other mental health conditions that allow you to target symptoms as directly as you can with anxiety’s physical symptoms. Progressive muscle relaxation provides you the ability to take aim at what bothers you with such precision. Many people report that once their physical symptoms are reduced, the mental symptoms quickly follow. Are you ready to aim and fire at anxiety?