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Simple Relaxation Secret


Most of us have become so accustomed to continual low-level stress that we never experience full relaxation often enough to realize what we're missing. But taking time to learn how to relax can help you calmly meet the challenges of life.

Most of us have become so accustomed to continual low-level stress that we never experience full relaxation often enough to realize what we're missing. But taking time to learn how to relax can help you calmly meet the challenges of life.

Relaxation can be achieved by practising "progressive muscle relaxation." All you do is focus on tensing up different body parts, then relaxing them consciously.

Edmund Jacobson developed this technique in 1920. He found that deeper muscle relaxation can be achieved if muscles are contracted prior to relaxing. Daily practice
is recommended.

Prepare Yourself

The technique is simple. Set aside 20 minutes of uninterrupted time without music, telephones or coffee. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, you're out of town, OK? Now, sit comfortably with your legs uncrossed and your hands on your lap.

Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Slowly. Deeply. Empty your mind of any daily concerns or worries. If any thoughts intrude, imagine them drifting away. Continue to breathe deeply throughout the exercise. Focus on the feeling in your body. What parts are tense? What parts are relaxed?

From the Ground Up

Tense your feet and hold that tension for two seconds. Suddenly release the contraction and imagine all the tension draining through the soles of your feet, which should be far more relaxed than before you tensed them. (Remember to keep your eyes closed throughout the entire relaxation session.)

Tighten your calf muscles and hold for two seconds. Again, release the contraction and imagine that the calves are totally relaxed and free of tension.

Repeat the tense-and-relax sequence with your thighs, buttocks and lower back. You may want to do your thighs, the largest muscles in your body, twice.

Tense the abdominal muscles by holding them in for one second, as if preparing to take a punch, and then let it go.

Arms, Neck and Head

Tense the shoulders by bringing them up to your ears for two or three seconds and then letting them fall. Imagine your shoulders are weightless. Try that again.

Tense the muscles of your upper arms. Hold for three seconds. Release the contraction and feel the tension leave. Same for your lower arms. Then make tight fists. Hold for two seconds and just let the hands go. Imagine all the tension draining from your hands.

Tense the neck and gently, without strain, look to the right. Feel that tension on the left side? Then look forward and imagine total relaxation on the left side of your neck. Focus on the mellowness there. Do the same for the right side.

Continue relaxing the neck by gently bringing your chin towards your chest. Feel the tension in the back of the neck. Bring your head up and imagine your neck as being light and free of tension.

Now, focus on your forehead. Tense the forehead by furrowing your eyebrows together for two seconds and then release. Raise your eyebrows as high as you can and hold for two seconds. Release your eyebrows and imagine your forehead and face as totally relaxed.
Scan your entire body. Is there any part that remains tense? If so, contract and release that area again. Do this until all muscles throughout your body are completely relaxed. Take a couple of deep breaths in this relaxed state and imagine yourself in a very tranquil environment such as at a beach or in a meadow.

When you want to end this blissful experience, simply take a deep breath and very slowly open your eyes. Still feeling relaxed, gradually orient yourself to the room. Get up and start moving only when you're ready.

Schedule Time for Yourself

Set aside a few minutes each day to practise progressive relaxation. If possible, choose a time when you will not be interrupted. The benefits you receive from practising muscle relaxation are cumulative. That is, after a few weeks you will find it much easier to relax during the day.

After a few times, you'll feel the difference in how you react to stress. You'll be less flustered, more in control, and you'll add enjoyment to life's hectic pace. Your immunity will be higher, you'll live longer, and you'll learn to see the forest beyond the trees. What have you got to lose except stress?

Stress Effects

Between 70 and 80 percent of all visits to physicians are for stress-related disorders, according to current estimates. Tense muscles, headaches, stomach cramps, teeth clenching, exhaustion, lumps in the throat and sleeplessness are common signs attributed to stress. On an emotional level, stress can cause memory problems, depression, emotional outbursts and panic attacks, as well as hormonal imbalances (adrenal, pituitary, thyroid) that interfere with immune function. By depleting the immune system's resistance, stress increases vulnerability to all kinds of illnesses. Long-term stress can aggravate many conditions, including allergies, arthritis, asthma, cancer, colitis, diabetes, heart disease and ulcers.



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