Today I’d like to explain to you one basic (but yet powerful) relaxation technique that you can use to cope with anxiety. This method is called Jacobson’s Progressive Relaxation or Progressive Muscle Relaxation. It was developed in early 20s of twentieth century by American physician Edmund Jacobson. In next post I’ll describe other technique (autogenic training by Schultz’). Regular practice of any of these two will make it much easier for you to relax, and stay in control of your emotions. I’ll jump straight into instructions how to use it in practice. These descriptions are not in their ‘pure’ form – I modified them basing on my own experiences, to get the optimum results out of them.
Jacobson’s Progressive Relaxation method is based on process of alternate tensing and relaxing all muscles in one’s body (one by one). The factor of physical tension is crucial here. The goal of experiencing it is to become fully aware of the state of tension, what it is, and how it influences us. At the starting stages of the training (first few weeks) it may even be helpful to clamp one’s fists or make faces. As we gain some practice, we become more aware of your body, and much more subtle tension is enough. It’s just easier to relax any muscle if we’ll tense it before over the ‘usual level’.
How to go through such relaxation session? The very first thing is of course to find about 40-60 minutes of free time that we can set apart of any distractions. We can lie or sit in comfortable position and close our eyes. We’ll be relaxing all muscles one by one, first tensing and then relaxing them. We can start from head and go down, or the opposite way. The first version is more popular. The exact procedure (that I use myself) goes like that:
- Inhale the air and tense muscles of your head (face, jaws, tongue, eyes) as much as you can
- Hold the air, and hold the tension in your muscles (as long as you can). What’s crucial here is to feel the tension.
- In one moment exhale the air and release all the tension. Relax all the muscles completely.
- Inhale the air and tense muscles of your head (face, jaws, tongue, eyes). This time you don’t need to do that as strong as you can
- Hold the air, and hold the tension in your muscles (as long as you can). Just as before, to feel the tension is the crucial thing here.
- Exhale the air and release all the tension. This time do this slowly and steadily. Relax all the muscles completely.
Depending on how much stress we feel, we can repeat phase two few times in a row. In most cases there will not be a need to do it more than three times.
And of course we repeat this procedure for all next parts of muscles – shoulders, left and right hand, back, stomach, buttocks, left and right leg, and feet. If we want, we can also work on each single muscle separately.. yet it’s not necessary in most cases.
Even practicing this single method will bring you great outcomes in the level of control you have over stress. It will make coping with anxiety much easier for you. And you can combine it with visualisation techniques to get even better and faster results. Power of visualisation can help you become much more self confident in social situations, and also in public speaking. I’ll write about that later on. In next post I’ll tell you about another relaxation techniques for anxiety – ‘autogenic training by Schultz’.