(Disclaimer: Before engaging in any activity listed below, you should be aware of any injuries or physical limitations you have and make modifications or miss out steps that could aggravate them. Those with pre-existing medical conditions such as heart or lung problems should always consult a doctor before doing this at home)
In this ever busy world we wear multiple hats, it’s so easy to get stressed out.
Maybe you have too many plates in the air?
Maybe you experience anxiety that stops you saying yes to the people and things that you love?
Maybe today it’s all just a bit too much and you’re feeling overwhelmed?
When any or all of the above are true, no matter how fleeting or persistent, there are tools we can use to ground us in the here and now. It’s said that anxiety is worry and fear of the future. By focusing on the present, you can effectively halt the brain spin about things that haven't happened yet.
The first step is to stop what you are doing and breathe - believe it or not, you should try to breathe out first?! Chances are, if you feel anxious, you’re likely holding your breath and letting it go can be an instant relief. Now you’ve noticed that, you’ll know for next time.
But when the feelings are bigger than you can breathe away, panic looms and your thoughts are racing, we can look for tried and tested tools to help. The tool we’re showcasing in this article is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (also known as PMR).
PMR technique was developed in the 1920’s by Dr Edmund Jacobson and has been used to help with anxiety ever since. It’s a seemingly simple but powerful tool that can be adapted to help in any situation where you are experiencing overwhelm, panic, anxiety. Taking a short time out of your daily routine and following a pre-recorded list of basic instructions,you will practice both breathing and adding and removing tension into differentparts of your body.
But why would you do this? How could it possibly help? Well, it works in a couple of ways:
First, it brings your brain’s focus to your body and breath, allowing you to turn down the noise of outside stimuli. As we’ve said before, there is a lot of mental health benefit in just being in the moment you're in and letting go of future worries (that may not happen or be real or true anyway!)
Second, by mindfully adding and then releasing tension in your body, you will begin to recognise the difference in your body when you are in either tense or relaxed. Once you are able to recognise what either state feels like for you, at any point you can diagnose physical tension and find a way to mindfully let go of that tension in the present moment.
The key to success with this tool is practise. Initially, it may help to set aside a particular time and place to listen to the PMR recording. But as you become familiar with the instructions, you’ll start to notice where you personally experience tension in your body - and therefore what to look for that might indicate you need to release it in everyday situations. Once you feel confident in noticing it, you may even find yourself using the technique in the situations you experience tension: in the supermarket queue, during a confrontation with your boss or a family member, at a birthday party? Once you know more about your own body and your particular stress and anxiety triggers, you’ll notice them more and more and have a tool for dealing with them.
Why not try some relaxation exercises? We’d love to hear how you get on with it!
*And once again, please remember, we are not medical practitioners - so if you do decide to try this out, do it in a way that is safe for you and takes into account any injuries or health conditions you have. If you are in anyway unsure, discuss it with your doctor.*