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DO YOU FEEL STRESSED OUT?
ARE YOUR MUSCLES TENSE AND TIGHT?
DO YOU FEEL FATIGUED AND LACK ENERGY?
DO YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO OFTEN COMPLAINS OF THESE THINGS?

If the answer is YES, you need to learn to relax or teach someone else to relax. We've all been told to "relax" but relaxation is not always that easy. Relaxation is an ART. As an art, it requires learning techniques and practice, practice, practice.


WHY SHOULD I LEARN TO RELAX?

Behavior therapists have used relaxation therapy and deep breathing for decades to reduce
anxiety and stress related symptoms in clients. Numerous studies have concluded that progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing are effective in reducing both anxiety and stress. Only recently have studies shown the actual physiological connection between stress levels and health. Higher stress levels result in lowered immunity which, in turn, increases the risk of developing a major health condition.


NOW THAT YOU KNOW WHY...YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW


You can help yourself or someone you love reduce daily stress through Progressive Muscle Relaxation Techniques (PMRT) and Progressive Diaphragmatic Breathing Techniques (PDBT). These techniques are effective if they are used with consistency, as written.
However, they are not to be used in place of any advice, recommendations and/or medications provided by your doctor. Some of the techniques were designed by Bernstein and Borkovec (1973). Many of the techniques are those that I have found to be effective with and well liked by clients I have taught in the past 20 years.

YOU WILL NEED:

1. Relaxing music (natures sounds or soft guitar or piano)
2. A comfortable place to lie down
3. A detailed memory of a pleasant place you have been
4. Dim lighting
5. Preferably no distractions (minimize the distractions if impossible to eliminate)

To begin, turn on the music, dim the lights and lie down on your back with your arms by your side. If you are doing this for someone, you must paint, with words, a vivid and detailed picture of what you want them to imagine. It must involve all of the senses.  If you are doing this for your self you must imagine the memorable scene as vividly as you can. Try to remember every aspect of that moment.
EX: You are lying on a beach by the ocean. The color is a peaceful blue-green (visual). You can feel the sun warming your body and the wind blowing gently across your skin (touch). You smell the salt from the spray of the waves (olfactory). You hear the seagulls call as they soar above you and the waves as they break over the rocks (auditory). Take a deep breath. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Think about the ocean, the blue-green color, the sun and wind, the salty smell, the sound of the seagulls and the waves and begin to relax. Just breath normally and focus on the top of your head. Does your scalp feel tight and tense?  Then focus on your forehead squeeze your eyebrows together and feel the tension in the forehead hold for 5 seconds. Now relax for 30 seconds. Notice the difference between tension and relaxation. Inhale and exhale as you go deeper into relaxing that muscle. Now, wrinkle up your nose and squint your eyes hold for 5 seconds and notice the tension in your face around your eyes and upper cheeks. Now relax, release all the tension from that area. Notice how the muscles unwind, smooth out, and relax more and more deeply. You begin to feel warm, calm, serene, peaceful and relaxed.

Continue this line of dialogue through all muscle groups. If you are doing this for yourself, you must try to imagine as vividly as possible the scene. Try to remember exactly how your body felt, what you smelled, what you heard and the color that was predominant. As you relax you must mentally concentrate on each muscle you tense and release in order to make yourself aware of exactly how it feels. If you are helping someone learn to relax you can guide them with words to each part of the body and instruct them to tense and relax. Always begin at the top of the head working down the body to the toes. Remind yourself, or the person you are guiding, to breath deeply and evenly in through the nose and out through the mouth.
DO NOT FALL ASLEEP AS THIS WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO BECOME AWARE OF HOW THE MUSCLE FEELS WHEN IT IS TENSE. THE REWARD OF DOING PMRT CORRECTLY IS TO RELAX AND ELIMINATE STRESS SO THAT YOU CAN FALL ASLEEP WHEN IT IS TIME. NOT TO MENTION THE BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM GETS FROM RELIEVING STRESS AND ANXIETY.

Practice relaxing each muscle group in this order:

1.   Top of head and forehead
2.   Upper cheeks and jaw
3.   Lower cheeks and jaw (clench your teeth and pull the corners of your mouth down)
4.   Neck and shoulders (lift shoulders up towards your ears and tense neck and shoulders)
5.   Upper Back (squeeze shoulder blades together to tense then relax)
6.   Chest (Give yourself a great big hug squeezing the pectoral muscles under the breasts tight...then relax)
7.   Stomach (taking a deep breath and holding and pulling abdominal muscles toward the ground to tense then
      release breath and relax)
8.   Mid Back and Lower Back and Pelvis Girdle (arch back up off the ground tense then relax)
9.   Upper Arms, Lower Arms, and Hands make a fist with both hands and press both arms into the floor and
      tense for 5 seconds then open the hands and relax the arms for 30 seconds)

10. Gluteals (squeeze buttocks together tight then relax)
11. Upper Thighs, Knees, Shins (point right foot and lift right leg tense then release and lower, repeat on left leg)
12. Hamstrings, Knees, Calves (flex feet and press leg as hard as you can into the ground both legs at the same
      time tense and release)
13. Ankles and Feet (circle feet together to the outside first then reverse and circle to the inside)


After you have gone through the whole cycle end the relaxation with deep Progressive Diaphragmatic Breathing. As you get older you lose 20-30% of your lung capacity as the lungs become less elastic. Regular deep breathing practice will help keep elasticity in the lung and help aerate the lung all the way to the bottom lobe, thereby helping to prevent bronchitis and pneumonia associated with aging lungs.

Diaphragmatic breathing is using the diaphragm instead of the shoulders to inhale and exhale. The stomach (not shoulders) should rise on inhalation and fall on exhalation. Progressive breathing is diaphragmatically inhaling to progressively longer counts.  EX:

Breath in for 5 counts - Breath out for 5 counts
Breath in for 6 counts - Breath out for 6 counts
Breath in for 7 counts - Breath out for 7 counts


Before rising from relaxation, make sure you move each body part to increase the blood flow to the relaxed area. This avoids dizziness associated with sudden movement from a relaxed state. If you are in bed, you may now go to sleep.

It is recommended that you practice relaxation 3-4 times a week until you are easily able to use this technique anywhere, in any environment and with one cue word from yourself such as "relax."  Deep breathing techniques should be practiced daily 1-2 times a day for optimal results and it should be used in any situation you find stressful.

Here's hoping you have a much less stressful life by utilizing these techniques and that you reap all the wonderful health benefits associated with relaxation and deep breathing.

Together in Health,

Patricia Binkley-Childress

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