How to use “progressive muscle relaxation” to calm stress and relieve anxiety
After a year and a half of living with a pandemic, it’s no wonder our mental health suffers and we struggle to get a good night’s sleep. As someone who already suffered from bad anxiety before the coronavirus, now the restrictions are unblocking and life is getting a little bit back to normal – my anxiety is worse than ever, causing me to have sleepless nights, which, quite simply. , is not really fun at all.
Rolling over and over most nights with anxious thoughts in our heads is something most of us are familiar with, but something that can help us sleep more soundly and help keep anxiety at bay, is progressive muscle relaxation – also known as PMR. .
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What is progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)?
Julie Leonard, a life coach with over 30 years of experience in psychology, says progressive muscle relaxation is a method of releasing stress and tension from the body. It is a deep relaxation technique that can be used to control stress, anxiety, insomnia, and in some cases, chronic pain.
Julie thinks that PMR is a “simple but effective way to calm you down” because it means that you “focus your mind and body on the present moment”, which keeps us from brooding or worrying about the “what ifs”. .
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“[PMR] is great for everyone as a preventative health, however, research shows it is extremely effective in treating anxiety, stress, and sleep issues, ”she adds.
Doctors have been reported to have used progressive muscle relaxation in combination with other medicinal treatments to relieve cancer pain and headaches, which also work well on high blood pressure and digestive issues.
How do you do?
Here’s how to practice PMR, according to Julie:
- Lie down in a quiet room and make yourself comfortable, or get into bed if you are going to sleep.
- Concentrate on your breaths, contracting a set of muscles while inhaling slowly – clenching your fists, for example.
- As you breathe out, relax the muscles.
- Relax for 15-20 seconds, breathing deeply, paying attention to how your muscles feel before and after.
- Move on to the next muscle group, like your thighs.
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Julie loves practicing PMR as part of a guided meditation, “so I don’t have to think about which part of my body I should relax next,” she tells us, “I can devote all my attention to my body. breathing and straining and relaxing my muscles. Some ways to improve technique are to breathe so that you can hear the sound of your breathing rhythmically, like the sound of waves coming in and going out.
Julie recommends making this soothing ritual an event by featuring essential oils. “I burn incense and sweet orange which are fantastic for meditation and soothing the mind.”
How Does PMR Relieve Anxiety?
“It stimulates the relaxation response,” says Julie, “an innate response that is the opposite of the stress response”.
Julie explains how we often contract the muscles in our jaw, shoulders, and hands, which can also lead to headaches, muscle pain, and back pain. When you practice PMR, you focus on breathing while releasing muscle tension. “When we focus on our breathing and relax our muscles, our mind is diverted from the over-thinking part of the brain where our anxious thoughts are located and we are distracted from the anxiety and instead focus on relaxation.”
Does it * really * work?
Blogger and writer Lisa opened up to GLAMOR about her experience with PMR. “I find it really helpful,” she said, “having to take the time to focus on each set of muscles means your mind can’t wander. It is very careful. Tending and relaxing the muscles, in turn, alleviates the physical stress in my body. It helps me disconnect at the end of the day.
Lisa was referred for PMR by a mental health nurse during a “particularly severe anxiety episode.” At first I was skeptical that it couldn’t help, but after trying it a couple of times I found it really very helpful in relieving anxiety symptoms both mentally and physically.
She continued, “You can’t have bad thoughts while you are actively doing it and the tension and relaxation of the muscles is really soothing physically, it makes you feel similar to what you feel after a massage.”
Lisa always uses the PMR technique if her anxiety takes over and she can’t sleep: “It’s easy for your mind to race when you try to fall asleep, so PMK calms you down and puts you in. a better position to be able to fall. sleeping”.
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If your feelings of anxiety seem overwhelming and you want advice, visit mind.org.uk or talk to your GP.