When you struggle with anxiety, it is common to spend a lot of your time with your muscles tensed. This is because when your mind is stressed or anxious, your body language will reflect it. Plus, when you are repeatedly stressed or anxious, you become “desensitized” (ie. numb) to this tension as it has become your new normal.
This is why the progressive muscle relaxation technique is so important. Not only is it grounding and promote relaxation, but it helps “re-identify” the feeling of tense versus fully relaxed muscles and regain control over the body's anxiety response.
In order to recommend this technique to someone in your life, we feel it is important you give it a try yourself first. This way you will not only experience first hand its effects, but you can feel more confident explaining it to someone else.
Before you begin, we encourage you to find a quiet place to practice this technique - away from any distractions with minimal sensory cues (ie. minimals sounds/ lights off). Find a comfortable surface to lay down, making sure every part of your body has its own space. As with any mindfulness technique, begin by focusing on your breath - paying attention to each inhale and exhale. Take deep belly breaths, with long inhales and forceful exhales.
Now it's time to check in with your body.
How tense are you feeling in this exact moment?
Is your jaw clenched? Are your shoulders up by your ears? Are your hands and feet fully relaxed?
Now, progressively focus your attention to each of the following areas, beginning by squeezing the corresponding muscles for 15 seconds, then slowly releasing this tension for 30 seconds. Be sure to notice the difference between the tense muscle, and the sensation of full relaxation. Continue breathing through each step.
Don’t be afraid to repeat this process as often as required, or to work your way up and down the list.
We hope you enjoy this exercise and we thank you for taking the time to teach yourself so you can better help others!