It’s normal to feel stressed sometimes. But if your stress builds up, or it continues for some time, you might carry the tension in your muscles. You could have muscle tightness without even realizing it.
One way to relieve muscle tension is to do progressive muscle relaxation, also known as Jacobson’s relaxation technique. Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a form of therapy that involves tightening and relaxing your muscle groups, one at a time, in a specific pattern.
The goal is to release tension from your muscles while helping you recognize what that tension feels like.
Benefits of PMR:
- Relieve stress. Anxiety and stress can make your muscles stiffen, and that can leave you feeling tenser. PMR helps to reverse the cycle because your mind calms down when your body loosens up.
- Treat insomnia. PMR can be very effective for helping you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Plus, unlike many medications, it has no harmful side effects.
- Manage chronic pain. PMR has had some success with various conditions, especially with relieving chronic pain. Other uses include lowering blood pressure and enhancing digestion.
- Connect with your body. One of the main advantages of PMR is that it helps you to listen to your body. That means you can notice symptoms faster and respond more quickly.
How to Practice PMR:
- Master the basics. PMR involves deliberately tensing and relaxing individual muscle groups. You squeeze each group for about 5 seconds as tightly as you can without causing pain or cramps. Then, you completely relax the muscles.
- Learn the sequence. Individual instructions may vary slightly. Generally, you start with your hands and arms. Then you work downwards from your head to your feet. As you become more experienced, you may sometimes want to do shorter sessions targeting a single muscle group that is particularly stiff.
- Monitor your breath. For maximum results, match your movements to your breath. Inhale as you tense your muscles and exhale as you release them.
- Slow down. Give yourself time to notice the difference between how your muscles feel when they’re bunched up compared to when they’re relaxed. So, pause for about 20 seconds in between each muscle group. Also, give yourself a few minutes of stillness at the end of your session.
- Listen to a recording. You may find it helpful to follow a recording to guide you through the sequence and pace your movements, especially when you’re just starting.
- Avoid distractions. Pick a quiet and comfortable place to do your PMR. You can sit or lie down. Close your eyes or turn down the lights.
- Talk with your doctor. While PMR is safe for most adults and children, there are some concerns you may want to discuss with your doctor, such as any previous muscle injuries.
Other Natural Relaxation Methods:
- Meditate daily. Meditation is another way to calm your body and mind. Start by observing your breath for a few minutes at a time.
- Practice visualization. Picture a setting that you find soothing and refreshing. Imagine walking on a sandy beach or sitting in a green meadow.
- Do yoga or Tai Chi. If you prefer more activity, do yoga or Tai Chi. Sign up for classes at a studio or watch videos online.
- Try art therapy. If you’re the creative type, you may want to explore music and art therapy. Pick up a book at your local library or search for a professional therapist in your area.
PMR is easy to learn and requires only about 15 minutes of practice a day to see noticeable results. Put it to work for you, and watch tension disappear.
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a relaxation technique. It involves tensing and then relaxing your muscles, one by one. This helps you release physical tension, which may ease stress and anxiety.
Research has shown that PMR offers a range of benefits, including pain relief and better sleep. It may also reduce migraine attacks, systolic blood pressure, and TMJ symptoms.
You can do PMR in the comfort of your own home. Practice the technique regularly for best results. Over time, it may help you feel more relaxed and mentally calmer.