This way, you will get rid of all tensions, and stress will disappear completely. A few minutes of relaxation will make you feel great.
But let's start with a little experiment:
Sit on a chair leaning forward and hunched. Flex your body and assume such position as if you were under a lot of stress right now. Put on a worried grimace on your face and start breathing fast and shallow. Now think about something stressful. Visualize this thought and sink in it to feel stress. And now suddenly change the physiology of your body - sit as comfortably as possible, relax your muscles, smile and start breathing deeply. With your eyes closed, keep thinking about this stressful situation. Do you feel something has changed?
Let me guess, stress has disappeared completely?
As you know, the sensation of stress is caused by negative thinking. The way you think about what is ahead of you, determines the emotional condition you are in. Stress is a purely physiological reaction consisting in muscle tension and secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone. So, it seems that our thoughts induce a specific reaction in the body. But you have just experienced that …
It also works the other way round. The change in the physiology of your body affects your emotions and your way of thinking.
You are not able to remain stressed when all the muscles in your body are relaxed. So, the relaxation of your body allows you to get rid of negative and stressful thoughts in your head. Therefore, this time we will not work with the mind to change how you feel. We will work with the physiology of your body to change your emotions and thoughts.
This is exactly what Jacobson's Relaxation is about. In the 1920s, Edmund Jacobson, with the assumption that mental relaxation should result from physical relaxation, created this technique.
"A worried mind cannot exist in a relaxed body" – Edmund Jacobson
Practicing Jacobson's Relaxation will allow you to significantly reduce the level of stress and tension during the day. At the same time, your concentration and ability to cope with difficult situations will rise. You will feel more relaxed and calm. If you practice it regularly, after about two weeks you will experience these effects not only for some time after the exercise, but all day long, every day. You will notice positive results very soon as with this type of relaxation techniques they are very clear and visible.
Jacobson's Relaxation is a very simple exercise. It involves flexing specific muscles of the body for a few seconds and then relaxing them. Your task is to repeat this sequence with every muscle group. Each time you release the tension, take a couple of seconds to notice this pleasant feeling when relaxation and respite slips into your body.
Before you get specific step-by-step instructions on how to do each exercise, here are some general tips:
- The exercise should take about 20 minutes. Try to practice it daily, once a day. If that often is not possible for you, do the exercise every other day. You can always get up earlier and take some time to do the relaxation.
- Exercise systematically, so that after a while relaxation will become your habit.
- Make sure no one will disturb you. If you still hear any noise or disturbance around you, turn on some relaxing music or skip to the pharmacy and get some earplugs.
- Find a comfortable place. It can be a bed or a cozy chair. Take such position, in which your body can rest completely. If you are tired, do not lay down in bed because you might fall asleep easily. The most pleasant thing about it is to consciously experience deep relaxation, without falling asleep.
- Do not worry about whether you do it right or not. Just relax. Let go of any thoughts and expectations regarding this technique. Do not make yourself do it at a push, do not fight your thoughts, just let go and unwind.
- If your mind starts to wander during the relaxation, it’s fine. Just get back to carrying out your exercise. You will see that the more you practice, the easier it will be for you to stay focused. You will gradually be able to attain deeper states of relaxation within a shorter time.
- Flex your muscles for about 5 seconds. During this time, hold certain muscles flexed but do not overdo it. After 5 seconds, let it go and feel the muscle relax. Give yourself 10 more seconds for this feeling of relaxed muscle to sink in.
Here is how the exercise should be done. Read the instructions below two or three times and move to action.
- In the beginning take two deep breaths. Release the air slowly. Now clench both fists. Feel the tension, hold that position for about 5 seconds ... and let go. Take a moment to focus on the pleasant feeling of relaxation in this area of your body.
- Flex all muscles of both arms by pressing your forearm into your shoulders. Hold on ... and let go.
- Flex your shoulders. Hold the tension ... and let go.
- Lift up your eyebrows and crinkle your forehead. Hold it... and let go.
- Clench your eyelids really tight and flex all the muscles around your eyes. Hold it for a moment... and let go.
- Clench your teeth really tight while strongly pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Hold it... and relax.
- Press your head back and flex the back muscles of your neck. Hold that position for a minute... and let go. This step should be repeated because the neck muscles are usually the most strained.
- Flex your back muscles. Hold it... and let go.
- Take a deep breath, hold the air in, and flex the chest muscles. Hold it... and while exhaling, relax those muscles.
- Flex your abs. Hold it... and let go.
- Squeeze your glutes. Hold them tight... and relax.
- Flex your leg muscles: first thighs, then calves. Hold the clench... and let go.
- Flex your foot muscles by pointing your fingers towards your face. Hold the position... and relax.
- Curl your toes tight, flexing the muscles there. Hold it... and let go.
- Stay conscious of the state of your body. Feel the deep relaxation in which you are. If you feel that any muscle is still a little tense, flex it tightly and let go.
- Enjoy this pleasant state of relaxation for a few minutes by visualizing yourself being on the beach, in the woods, or in the meadow. Focus on this image, using all your senses. After a few minutes take a deep breath and stand up. This wraps up the exercise.
Practicing this workout regularly, you will notice interesting additional effects. After some time of systematic relaxation, you will learn to be aware of your muscles and you will be able to consciously relax them - even without prior tensing. Exactly in the same way as you flex any muscle in your body now by sending a signal from the brain to the muscle, you will be able to relax it at any moment. This is a skill that can be trained.
Soon, you will be able to use it not only for relaxation but also throughout the day. You hardly ever realize how many muscles in your body are tense while performing everyday activities. It is usually the case that more muscles tighten up than it is really necessary. So, for example, when you read a book, try to keep tight only those muscles that are needed for this activity. You can relax all the other areas of your body. This way, your body will use less energy. In addition, you will feel more relaxed and the level of your concentration will rise.
I encourage you to start practicing this relaxation technique as soon as possible. You will gain new experience and I am sure you will start to use this technique often. Fitting Jacobson's relaxation into your life will allow you to get rid of any stress. If what’s at stake is your feeling of relaxation and serenity, why not give it a try?
Let me know about the results!