Edmund Jacobson created the progressive relaxation method. At the beginning of the 20th century, he conceived a method to relax, the goal was to achieve mental tranquility by progressively eliminating all muscular tensions through progressive relaxation. It is intended to teach you to relax step by step all the different groups of muscles in your body.
The progressive relaxation works on the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) the opposite way from stress, so one can't be anxious and relaxed at the same time. It is important that you carry the progressive relaxation process out correctly and on a daily basis, until you master it and you will be able to do it whenever and wherever you wish.
NOTE: Be careful before practicing progressive relaxation (PMR); you should consult with your physician if you have a history of serious injuries, muscle spasms, or back problems, because the deliberate muscle tensing of the PMR procedure could exacerbate any of these pre-existing conditions.
If you continue with this procedure, you do so at your own risk.
The progressive relaxation (PMR) procedure teaches you to relax your muscles through a two-step process. First you deliberately apply tension to certain muscle groups, and then you stop the tension and turn your attention to noticing how the muscles relax as the tension flows away.
Through repetitive practice of the progressive relaxation process you quickly learn to recognize and distinguish the associated feelings of a tensed muscle and a completely relaxed muscle. With this simple knowledge, you can then induce physical muscular relaxation at the first signs of the tension that accompanies anxiety... and with physical relaxation comes mental calmness... in any situation.
Here are some suggestions for practice of progressive relaxation (PMR):
The process of applying tension to a muscle is essentially the same regardless of which muscle group you are using. First, focus your mind on the muscle group; for example, your right hand. Then inhale and simply squeeze the muscles as hard as you can for about 8 seconds; in the example, this would involve making a tight fist with your hand.
NOTE: Beginners usually make the mistake of allowing muscles other than the intended group to tense as well; in the example, this would be tensing muscles in your right arm and shoulder, not just in your right hand. With practice you will learn to make very fine discriminations among muscles; for the moment just do the best you can.
It's important to really feel the tension. Done properly, the tension procedure will cause the muscles to start to shake, and you will feel some pain.
NOTE: Be careful not to hurt yourself, as compared to feeling mild pain. Contracting the muscles in your feet and your back, especially, can cause serious problems if not done carefully; therefore do it gently but deliberately.
This is the best part because it is actually pleasurable. After the 8 seconds, just quickly and suddenly let go. Let all the tightness and pain flow out of the muscles as you simultaneously exhale. In the example, this would be imagining tightness and pain flowing out of your hand through your fingertips as you exhale. Feel the muscles relax and become loose and limp, tension flowing away like water out of a faucet. Focus on and notice the difference between tension and relaxation.
NOTE: The point here is to really focus on the change that occurs as the tension is let go. Do this very deliberately, because you are trying to learn to make some very subtle distinctions between muscular tension and muscular relaxation.
Stay relaxed for about 15 seconds, and then repeat the tension-relaxation cycle. You'll probably notice more sensations the second time.
Sit in a comfortable chair reclining arm chairs are ideal. Lying on a bed is okay too. Get as comfortable as possible no tight clothes or shoes and don't cross your legs.
NOTE: Each step is really two steps one cycle of tension, two cycle of relaxation for each set of opposing muscles.
As the days of practice progress, you may wish to skip the steps that do not appear to be a problem for you. After you've become an expert on your tension areas (after a few weeks), you can concern yourself only with those. These progressive relaxation exercises will not eliminate tension, but when it arises, you will know it immediately, and you will be able to "tense-relax" it away or even simply wish it away.
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