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Progressive Jacobson's Muscle Relaxation

Stress is a tension. Relaxation is a state opposite to stress. That is why progressive relaxation using Jacobson's technique is one of the most effective methods of dealing with stress. The secret of the Jacobson's method is in the relation between negative emotions and muscle tension. Negative emotions (fear, anxiety, uneasiness, panic, irritation and other) always cause muscular tension. You don't have to look too far for examples. Any of us can easily recall frowning of the eyebrows, straining of the shoulders and stomach tightness in stressful situations. And this relation of stress and muscular stress is so strong that if you learn to get rid of the excessive muscular tension you will know how to decrease the intensity of stressful emotions.

But how can you learn this? Children and animals know how to relax (take a look at how relaxed a child when he/she sleeps or how cat enjoys the sun). But all adult people in this crazy world are gradually accumulating stress and tension. Most of them already forgot how to relax.

TV, reading, games and other forms of entertainment do not give valuable relaxation. We cannot be relaxed even at night and as a result of this we cannot fall asleep, sleep becomes intermittent and we don't feel as good as usual in the morning. And just wanting to relax is not enough anymore. Something else is needed.

And that's where progressive relaxation method can make a big difference. You perform special exercises to make your muscles tired and tired muscles weaken automatically without any need of conscious decision. You only have to watch the relaxation process.

This relaxation method consists of three stages.

  • At the first stage you learn how to relax all muscles in your body.
  • At the second stage you train muscles not participating in keeping seating posture. Also you can train to relax specific muscles not participating in writing, reading and other activities.
  • At the third stage the task is to notice which muscles get strained during the day when stressful situation happens. The goal of this stage is to be able to relax these muscles at the moment when tension happens.
  • At the end of the course you will be able to get rid of stressful tension in 20-30 seconds. But to get such result you need to train regularly. It is recommended to do it 15 minutes 3 times a day. It is also recommended to do it for at least 2-3 months.

    Relaxation steps

    Sit in a comfortable chair - reclining arm chairs are ideal. Bed is okay too. Get as comfortable as possible - no tight clothes or shoes and don't cross your legs. Take a deep breath; let it out slowly. Again. What you'll be doing is alternately tensing and relaxing specific groups of muscles. After tension, a muscle will be more relaxed than prior to the tensing. Concentrate on the feel of the muscles, specifically the contrast between tension and relaxation. In time, you will recognize tension in any specific muscle and be able to reduce that tension.

    Don't tense muscles other than the specific group at each step. Don't hold your breath, grit your teeth, or squint. Breath slowly and evenly and think only about the tension-relaxation contrast. Each tensing is for 10 seconds; each relaxing is for 10 or 15 seconds. Count "1,000 2,000..." until you have a feel for the time span. Note that each step is really two steps - one cycle of tension-relaxation for each set of opposing muscles.

    Do the entire sequence once a day until you feel you are able to control your muscle tensions. Be careful: If you have problems with pulled muscles, broken bones, or any medical contraindication for physical activities, consult your doctor first.

  • 1. Hands. The fists are tensed; relaxed. The fingers are extended; relaxed.
  • 2. Biceps and triceps. The biceps are tensed (make a muscle - but shake your hands to make sure not tensing them into a fist); relaxed (drop your arm to the chair). The triceps are tensed (try to bend your arms the wrong way); relaxed (drop them).
  • 3. Shoulders. Pull them back (careful with this one); relax them. Push the shoulders forward (hunch); relax.
  • 4. Neck (lateral). With the shoulders straight and relaxed, the head is turned slowly to the right, as far as you can; relax. Turn to the left; relax.
  • 5. Neck (forward). Dig your chin into your chest; relax. (Bringing the head back is not recommended - you could break your neck.)
  • 6. Mouth. The mouth is opened as far as possible; relaxed. The lips are brought together or pursed as tightly as possible; relaxed.
  • 7. Tongue (extended and retracted). With mouth open, extend the tongue as far as possible; relax (let it sit in the bottom of your mouth). Bring it back in your throat as far as possible; relax.
  • 8. Tongue (roof and floor). Dig your tongue into the roof of your mouth; relax. Dig it into the bottom of your mouth; relax.
  • 9. Eyes. Open them as wide as possible (furrow your brow); relax. Close your eyes tightly (squint); relax. Make sure you completely relax the eyes, forehead, and nose after each of the tensings.
  • 10. Breathing. Take as deep a breath as possible - and then take a little more; let it out and breathe normally for 15 seconds. Let all the breath in your lungs out - and then a little more; inhale and breathe normally for 15 seconds.
  • 11. Back. With shoulders resting on the back of the chair, push your body forward so that your back is arched; relax. Be very careful with this one, or don't do it at all.
  • 12. Butt. Tense the butt tightly and raise pelvis slightly off chair; relax. Dig buttocks into chair; relax.
  • 13. Thighs. Extend legs and raise them about 6in. off the floor or the foot rest but don't tense the stomach' relax. Dig your feet (heels) into the floor or foot rest; relax.
  • 14. Stomach. Pull in the stomach as far as possible; relax completely. Push out the stomach or tense it as if you were preparing for a punch in the gut; relax.
  • 15. Calves and feet. Point the toes (without raising the legs); relax. Point the feet up as far as possible (beware of cramps - if you get them or feel them coming on, shake them loose); relax.
  • 16. Toes. With legs relaxed, dig your toes into the floor; relax. Bend the toes up as far as possible; relax.

    Now just relax for a while. As the days of practice progress, you may wish to skip the steps that do not appear to be a problem for you. After you've become an expert on your tension areas (after a few weeks), you can concern yourself only with those. These exercises will not eliminate tension, but when it arises, you will know it immediately, and you will be able to "tense-relax" it away or even simply wish it away.



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