Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a practice that sounds very complicated and clinical, but it’s actually something everyone can do at home, at the office or anywhere else without any equipment. This exercise helps minimize stress and other negative emotional symptoms of stress like anxiety and insomnia. PRM is a perfect tool that can be deployed in high-stress situations and even help with panic attacks. So what is this relaxation practice and how can you use it to relieve stress, tension and anxiety?
History of PMR
The first discovery of PRM comes from Edmund Jacobson, an American doctor in the 1920s. This physician figured out that many of his patients, no matter their illnesses, struggle with muscle tension and pain. When telling them to relax, Jacobson noted that many of them didn’t even realize they were tense or lacked the connection between muscles and mind to achieve relaxation. This inspired him to create a technique that will help people to identify tension, learn how to relax and recognize what muscles feel when they are relaxed. This is how progressive muscle relaxation came to be.
How it works
We all know about something called the fight-or-flight response. This response helped humans and animals survive since the dawn of times either by fighting the threat or running away from it. When this reaction is unnecessary, repeated activation of it can affect the body in different ways, mostly through pain, tension and stiffness. With PMR, a person can beat the fight-or-flight response and also become more aware of how it can affect emotions. By relaxing the body, it’s possible to relax the brain as well.
Steps of PMR
To practice PMR, it’s necessary to lie down comfortably or sit in a chair. It’s important to be in a stress-free environment where you can even close your eyes.
Start with breathing
To prepare your body and mind for muscle relaxation, start with a deep breath, focusing on how your stomach and lungs move. Exhale from your mouth and put some vacuum in your stomach. Repeat this breathing exercise a few times. Also, if you don’t have time to go through RMR because you’re super busy or surrounded by people, you can reach for a handy muscle massager that you can use on your most problematic areas. This massager is especially useful when used after a workout, and all you need is a few seconds on each muscle group you exercised.
Continue with PMR
Start tightening your muscles from the feet and upwards. Clench your toes and dig your heels into the ground and hold for 10 seconds. After 10 seconds, release and take a few breaths. Next, point your toes to your head flexing the shin and calves, hold and release. Continue targeting every muscle on your way to the head going from legs, glutes, abs, back, hands, shoulders, neck and face. If you come across any extra stiffness, repeat the tightening and relaxation of these muscles.
After you’re finished with all muscle groups, stay in your original position and breathe. Notice how relaxed your muscles are and how calm your brain is. Remember that feeling for future reference.
As you practice progressive muscle relaxation, you will learn how to recognize both tension and relaxation. With experience, you will get to skip the tense part of the PMR and practice “release only”. In the beginning, you won’t feel relaxation as intensely as before, but in time, the “release only” technique can be very effective.
Benefits of PRM
PMR has many benefits, one of the biggest ones being anxiety relief (general anxiety or anxiety caused by stress). According to a recent study, scientists followed 50 unemployed people and recorded that PMR helped them reduce anxiety, stress and depression while boosting feelings of well-being. Due to its relaxation properties, PMR also helps with sleep and neck and shoulder tension that cause neck pain. Lower back pain is also present with stress, so muscle relaxation can help there as well.
Migraine is another condition that causes people a lot of pain. This neurological condition comes in “attacks” that can be triggered by everyday things as well as stress. According to research, PRM can reduce migraine frequency since it helps with serotonin balancing (often low in people suffering from migraines).
If you want to try progressive muscle relaxation, simply follow these steps and enjoy the ride. Be present in the moment and relaxation will come into your life.
Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to home improvement, DIY and interior design. In her free time she enjoys reading and preparing healthy meals for her family.