Friday, 12 April 2013

Anxiety: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

I learned this relaxation technique early in my Anxiety diagnosis, and found it really useful to do before going to sleep.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation is easy to learn, but best to master whilst laying down. Once you are familiar and practiced with the technique you can use it in many situations and locations.

I was shocked at how much tension can be held in the muscles. It is important to recognise this and release the tension to prevent further complications. I find this out first hand when I experienced terrible pain across my chest, which then ended in my armpit.

It was easy to go down the wrong path of thinking it could be cancer related, because of the location and the tenderness of the lymph nodes, even though the lymph nodes were soft. After investigation it was found that the lymph nodes and surrounding tissue were fine, but the pain was such that some days I avoided lifting my arm.

Once I was diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder I found a brilliant doctor who put the pieces together to reveal that I had so much tension in my pectoral muscle, that my lymph nodes in this area were being squeezed and pinched, causing the pain.

Perform the following steps for Progressive Muscle Relaxation:

  • Lie down flat and stretched out on your back, placing your arms by your side, palms down.

  • Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply into your stomach. Do this a few times to circulate the oxygen. Listen to your breathing to focus on the moment.

  • Now begin, working each muscle group and parts of your body , then actively relaxing, in a systematic form.

  • Clench your hands into fists and hold clenched for 15 seconds. Be sure to relax the rest of the body as you do each group. Picture in your mind the muscle contracting tightening more and more.

  • Then, let your hand relax fully and go limp. As you do this, picture the tension as a dark colour leaving that part of your body, leaving it glowing and golden.

  • Now in the order of face, shoulders, back, stomach, pelvis, legs, feet and toes; tense and the relax each part of your body. Each time, clenching for 15 seconds, picturing the tension and its release, followed by 30 seconds of complete relaxation.

  • The last movement should be the shaking of your hands, as you imagine any remaining tension leaving though your fingertips.

You will know which areas of your body may need some extra focus, and these areas can be activated and relaxed twice if needed. With the face, for instance, I like to spend time stretching and moving my jaw, as well as focusing on my forehead and the muscles around my eyes.

It can help to set the scene, if that helps with your relaxation. This can include soft lighting, some soothing music, a relaxing scent like a lavender candle, and even a light blanket over you to help you feel warm.

I find this technique effective and it leaves my body feeling much lighter, and warm. I hope you try this method for yourself and get great results.

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