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How Do I Get Rid of Anxiety?

HOW DO I GET RID OF ANXIETY? PART SIX:

Here’s the last of it folks!  Part Six of our How Do I Get Rid of Anxiety blog series.

I had to save the best skill for last, right?

Progressive muscle relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is one of the most successful tools I can offer you (after breathing). It is one that you can adapt and do anywhere, anytime. While it is most helpful and encouraged to be used when you are about to go to sleep (great sleep hygiene tool!), it can be incredibly helpful for anger. Progressive muscle relaxation is used to purposely build tension in specific muscle groups and to rapidly release that tension. The purpose of that rapid release is to highly to your body the change in experience, and to help release any tension that was there prior to engaging in the activity. So ultimately, you are releasing the tension you were experiencing by purposefully creating more tension and teaching your body how to let it go.

Bonus: it is the only mindfulness exercise that encourages you to allow yourself to fall asleep during the process – it means you really became relaxed!

Now when engaging in progressive muscle relaxation it is imperative that you do not cause physical strain or injury to any area that you are focusing on. And, if you have an area of your body that is already injured, you want to avoid physically adding more strain to that area. So, you can omit the area completely, or you can imagine what it would feel like to create tension in that area, and imagine what it would feel like as you quickly released it. Even though you would be imagining this added and released tension, it can still have an effect on that area, and can release some of the tension that you are indeed carrying in that area.

It is really important to remember to keep breathing throughout this exercise. If you notice that you are holding your breath, just notice it and invite yourself to start breathing again during the exercise. You may also want to adjust the amount of tension you are bringing to the focus area as it may allow your body to breath more easily.

Finally, it is important that you do not try to race through this exercise. There is purpose to the five to ten second pause in between each muscle group. The pause not only allows the tension to be released, but also allows your brain to notice what that muscle group feels like with less tension in it. You can add support to your brain’s awareness of the difference by stating ‘I’m relaxed’ during each pause between the muscle groups.

So here we start:

Begin by finding a comfortable position either sitting or lying down in a location where you will not be interrupted. If you feel comfortable, close your eyes or take a soft gaze to the floor.

Allow your attention to focus only on your body. If you begin to notice your mind wandering, it’s perfectly normal. Gently bring your focus back to the muscle group you are working on.

Take a deep breath through your abdomen, hold for 2-3 seconds, and exhale slowly. As you breathe notice your stomach rising and falling, and your lungs filling and emptying with air.

On your next exhale, imagine seeing the tension in your body being released and flowing away from you.

Inhale…pause…and exhale. Pause. Notice your body already relaxing.

As you go through each area, remember to keep breathing.

Now to begin tensing our muscles one by one. I invite you to start at the top of your head.

Tighten the muscles in your forehead by raising your eyebrows as high as you can. Hold for five seconds. Quickly release, feeling the tension fall away.

Pause for five to ten seconds. Saying to yourself ‘I’m relaxed’.

Next, tighten your eye muscles by squinting your eyelids tightly shut. Remember not to strain any area. Hold for five seconds, and release.

Pause for five to ten seconds. Saying to yourself ‘I’m relaxed’.

Now smile widely, feeling your mouth and cheeks tense. Don’t worry about how this might look to others. There is no one watching. Hold for five seconds, and release. Allow your tongue to fall from the roof of your mouth, and create space between your teeth by relaxing your lower jaw. Notice the softness in your whole face.

Pause for about 10 seconds. Saying to yourself ‘I’m relaxed’.

Gently pull your head back as if to look at the ceiling, or pull your chin forward to touch your chest. Hold for five seconds, and release. Feeling any tension melting away.

Pause for five to ten seconds. Saying to yourself ‘I’m relaxed’.

Maybe notice the weight of your head and neck sink into your body.

Remember to breathe in and out throughout your practice.

Moving to your arms, lift your shoulders up as if they could touch your ears. Hold for about 5 seconds, and quickly release, feeling their heaviness.

Pause for five to ten seconds. Saying to yourself ‘I’m relaxed’.

Now, flex your biceps. Feel the buildup of tension. Hold for five seconds, and release.

Pause for five to ten seconds. Saying to yourself ‘I’m relaxed’.

Now, tighten your triceps by extending your arms out, locking your elbows, and flexing your hands backwards. Hold for five seconds, and release.

Pause for five to ten seconds. Saying to yourself ‘I’m relaxed’.

Now, tightly, but without straining, clench your fists for five seconds, and release.

Pause for five to ten seconds. Saying to yourself ‘I’m relaxed’.

Bring your attention back up to your shoulders and tense your upper back by trying to make your shoulder blades touch behind you. Hold for five seconds, and release.

Pause for five to ten seconds. Saying to yourself ‘I’m relaxed’.

Gently arch your lower back. Hold for five seconds, and release.

Pause for five to ten seconds. Saying to yourself ‘I’m relaxed’.

Tighten your chest by taking a deep breath in, hold for five seconds, and exhale. Imagine you are blowing out all of the tension in your body.

Pause for five to ten seconds. Saying to yourself ‘I’m relaxed’.

Now tighten the muscles in your stomach by trying to pull your belly button back to touch your spine, and try to pull the sides of your abdomen towards each other, as if you were trying to close a book. Hold for five seconds, and release.

Pause for five to ten seconds. Saying to yourself ‘I’m relaxed’.

Feel the limpness in your upper body as it falls into your hips, or the support behind you. Let go of any remaining tension and stress.

Now for your lower body. If it feels safe and comfortable, tighten your buttocks. Hold for five seconds, and release. You might imagine your hips falling open and wide.

Pause for five to ten seconds. Saying to yourself ‘I’m relaxed’.

Next, tighten your thighs and press your knees together, as if you were holding a small object between them. Hold for five seconds, and release.

Pause for five to ten seconds. Saying to yourself ‘I’m relaxed’.

Now flex your feet, pulling your toes towards you and feeling the tension in your calves. Hold for five seconds, and release. Feel the weight of your legs sink down.

Pause for five to ten seconds. Saying to yourself ‘I’m relaxed’.

Lastly, curl your toes under to tense your feet. Hold for five seconds, release.

Pause for five to ten seconds. Saying to yourself ‘I’m relaxed’.

Now imagine a wave of relaxation slowly spreading through your body as you move from the bottoms of your feet, all the way up to the top of your head.

Feel the weight of your relaxed body as you breathe in and out.

On your next breath, open your eyes or bring your focus and attention away from your body and back into the environment you are in.

 

Now this is just one version of progressive muscle relaxation. You don’t have to even start with your head, you can start with your feet if you prefer (it is also suggested to switch ends you start with if you tend to fall asleep before you have completed the exercise to keep you body tension balanced). Larger muscle groups can be done together too (ex: full head, whole arms, entire abdomen, and full legs)! You might want to end the exercise with a whole-body tension and release, or focus on one certain are in particular (for example, repeatedly tensing a releasing your fists or feet if you are feeling social tension). Whatever your preference, start there and see how you feel.

 

That’s a wrap folks!

What did you think of it? I really want to hear from you and see what your thoughts are. Reach out and connect to let me know how these skills worked for you!

Want to see more or a focus on another topic? Let’s connect!

 

If this is something that you are struggling with, and would like to work on it with a counsellor, visit the Contact Me link on my website to schedule an appointment today.

If you want more information, skills and support with your mental health, make sure to sign up for my email list to hear about my upcoming online Course in Mental Health!

Know someone who might benefit from reading this information? Feel free to share this with them, and encourage them to sign up for my blog emailed directly to them!

And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram or Facebook @devanceciliacounselling for daily supports and information!

 

photo cred: Ben White

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