For the month of April I’m blogging alphabetically about quick, easy, and practical ways to relieve stress. To see the other posts in this series, click here.
The other day I was really tense. I could feel my shoulders all clenched up. Then I realized that the majority of my body was doing the same thing. I got the bright idea to try the progressive muscle relaxation I learned in my Bradley Class when I was preparing for natural childbirth. In a nutshell, progressive muscle relaxation is when you contract a muscle and then relax it. You repeat the tensing and relaxing with muscle groups all over your body. When you’re finished, you check to see if any of your muscles are still tense. If they are, you can repeat on those areas. Anyway, by the time I was done with the technique I felt so much better, so much calmer, and my muscles were much more relaxed.
Since I first noticed this the other day, I have realized that when I get stressed, I tighten up my muscles. This makes so much sense because stress triggers our fight or flight response. This was fabulous for our ancestors who got stressed out about things like running into lions. Not so great for people like me who are perpetually stressed out.
I’ve realized that my muscles get tense really often. Many times a day. Now that I’m aware of it, I’m noticing it more and more. This is great because, when I notice it, I can quickly go through the relaxation exercises to loosen my muscles back up. Relaxing my muscles immediately makes me feel better physically, but it also makes me feel better mentally too. It’s really a great little trick for me. It takes minutes of my time, sometimes even only seconds if I only focus on one or two muscle groups, and it makes a huge difference. Ideally, I think you should probably go somewhere quiet and really focus on the technique, but I do it wherever I am when I notice the tension – standing over the stove, listening to a little one read on the couch, sitting in traffic. Wherever the tension strikes, I’m countering it with relaxation. It’s working so well for me!