Everyone experiences stress in their life. Some ‘stress’ can surround positive moments, such as the excitement before a first date or are starting at a new job. Too much stress, however, can have negative effects on our overall health and wellness.
There are many ways to deal with stress, but one tool you may not be familiar with is progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). By simply tensing and relaxing your muscle groups, you will be able to control stress and anxiety, relieve insomnia, and even reduce some chronic pain.
What is Progressive Muscle Relaxation?
Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique designed by Edmund Jacobson in the 1930s. It is based upon the premise that mental calmness can be achieved through physical relaxation. If your body is relaxed, your mind has no choice but to be as well.
This technique can be learned by anyone, and only takes about 10 to 20 minutes a day to complete. Since you don’t need anything other than yourself, progressive muscle relaxation can be practiced anywhere. If you feel yourself getting stressed at your desk, try a quick version to ease your mind!
How to Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation:
Practice makes perfect! Although you can practice anywhere, to achieve optimal results, it is recommended that you are seated or lying down in a quiet, relaxing place with comfortable clothing on.
Follow this process for each of the muscle groups, beginning with the hands and working your way down to your legs.
- Breathe in and tense the first muscle group for 4-10 seconds. Hold your hands out in front of you and pull your fingers in towards your palms. You'll want to tense hard, but not to the point of cramping.
- Breathe out and suddenly relax the muscle group. Make sure that you release it all at once, not gradually. Watch as your fingers spring out and release all the tension they have been holding.
- Relax for 10 to 20 seconds before you move onto the next muscle group. Take notice of how different the relaxed muscle feels.
- Once you have finished every muscle group, take a few seconds before you come back to focus.
There are over 17 different muscle groups you can work on so spend some time working on each of them, or choose a few to start with. At first it may feel funny learning how to tense and relax certain muscle groups, but you will get the hang of it soon!
Benefits of Progressive Muscle Relaxation:
Progressive muscle relaxation has been proven to lessen stress more effectively than other common methods. A study from the Journal of Behavioral Medicine exposed 67 volunteers to a stressful situation and then had them practice progressive muscle relaxation, undergo music therapy, or take part in a control group. The members of the progressive muscle relaxation group experienced greater relaxation than the two other groups.
Aside from stress relief, progressive muscle relaxation can help with certain health problems. Breastcancer.org even released an article stating that progression muscle relaxation can help reduce nausea, vomiting, anxiety and depression which can be side effects of chemotherapy.
Progressive muscle relaxation takes some time and patience to master, but once you do, there are many positive benefits, which will manifest in your everyday life. The ability to control your stress and anxiety can greatly impact your quality of life on a day-to-day basis.