7 Ways to Calm Down Blog Series, Part Five
Do you feel tense? Do you get headaches and body aches and pains? When you’re anxious, stressed or angry it’s common to tense your muscles. This is your body’s way of preparing itself for the fight or flight response, which is an important survival mechanism. If you have ongoing stress or post-traumatic stress symptoms, then you’re likely carrying tension in your body a lot of the time. This can lead to chronic aches, pains and headaches.
Progressive muscle relaxation is a systematic way to relax your whole body. Like 7/11 breathing, it can be great in helping you fall asleep. In progressive muscle relaxation you start at the toes and work all the way up to the head, relaxing each muscle group one by one.
1. Find somewhere comfortable to sit or lie down. Slow down your breathing (box breathing is a nice technique for this.) Give yourself permission to relax.
2.One by one, tense and release the muscle groups described below. For each area, tense these muscles as tightly as you can without any pain or cramping. Slowly count to 10 as you keep them tense. Then relax them, slowly counting to 20.
Take time to notice how relaxed they are. Then move onto the next area. Start with your feet.
Feet. Curl your toes downwards. (Hold for 10 seconds, then release for 20 seconds. Notice how they feel. Continue this sequence for each area.)
Calves. Tense your calves. (Be careful to avoid muscle cramps here.)
Upper legs. Tighten your thigh muscles.
Hips and buttocks. Squeeze your buttocks.
Chest and stomach. Breathe in deeply, filling your chest and stomach with air.
Shoulder blades and back. Push your shoulder blades back and together, so your chest pushes forward.
Shoulders. Shrug your shoulders up towards your ears.
Neck. Face straight forward and tilt your head up to look at the ceiling. (Be careful here too to avoid cramping.)
Mouth and jaw. Open your mouth as wide as you can, as if you’re yawning.
Face. Squeeze your eyes tightly shut.
Forehead. Raise your eyebrows as high as you can, as if you’re surprised.
Upper arms. Bring you forearms up towards your shoulder and tense your bicep.
Hands and forearms. Make a fist with your hands.
Practicing this often can help to improve overall body tension. It can also help you gain more awareness about where you carry stress and tension in your body, and how much. If you find you’re often stressed, it can be helpful to ask yourself why. What isn’t working in your life? What can you change? What issues do you need to address? If you’re carrying chronic tension and stress, therapy can help.
Next week’s blog will focus on increasing calm by using the body in a different way.