Counseling techniques of relaxation training differs from relaxation training.
Relaxation training refers to the regular practice of one or more of a group of specific trainings including deep breathing, vizualization, and muscle relaxation.
In 1975, Herbert Benson described the changes involved in what he called the "relaxation response". He observed that the heart rate, breath rate, oxygen consumption, blood pressure, skeletal muscle tension, metabolic rate, and skin electrical conductivity all decreased during the "relaxation response", and when we are relaxed it is impossible to feel fear and or anxiety. These exercises most often involve a combination of deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and visualization techniques which have been proven to release the muscular tension that your body stores in times of stress.
These techniques are highly effective in bringing about a state of deep relaxation when practiced regularly.
Initially you will want to do your relaxation training in a quiet room where you won't be disturbed. Later, when you are more familiat with the exercises, you can try them in more distracting and public places.
You can use white noise to mask sounds you have no control over, wear loose fitting clothing and sit comfortably.
When I am stressing myself, abdominal muscles can tighten, which can block the free movement of my diaphragm in breathing, and it is very important to realize the speed of the Central Nervous System in the stress response. We perceive and respond to the stressor with hormonal changes in the body faster than we can blink our eyes.
The result is shallow breathing, and a breathless feeling, which actually brings the internal chemistry of fear, which keeps the stress response going, ect.
Abdominal breathing is easy to learn.
Practice the following exercise for about three minutes.
1. Lie down and close your eyes. Take a moment to notice the sensations in your body, particularly where your body is holding tension.
Take several breathes and see what you notice about the quality of your breathing.
Where is your breath centered? Are your lungs filling all the way up? Does your chest move up and down when you breathe? Does your abdomen? Do both abdomen and chest move?
2. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen, right below your waist. As you breathe, imagine you are sending your breath as far doen as it will go. Feel your lungs expand with air. As you do this, the hand on your chest should remain fairly still, but the hand on your abdomen should rise and fall with each breath.
3. Continue to gently breath in and out. Let your breath find its own pace. If your breathing feels unnatural, just maintain your awareness of that sensation as you breath in and out. Eventually any straining or unnaturalness should diminish.
If you have difficulty getting the hand on your abdomen to move or if both hands move, try pressing down with the hand on your abdomen. As you breathe, direct the air so that it pushes up against the pressure of your hand, forcing it to rise.
4. After breathing deeply for several breathes, begin to count each time you exhale. After ten exhalations, start over again at one. When thoughts intrude and you lose track of the number, simply start over after returning attention to the breath.
Continue counting for 10 minutes, making sure that the hand on your abdomen continues to rise.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation or PMR is a relaxation techniqe that involves tensing and relaxing all the various muscle groups in you body in a specific sequence. The technique was developed by Dr. Edmund Jacobson in 1929.
Realizing that the body responded to anxious and fearful thoughts by storing tension in the muscles, Jacobsen found that the tension could be released by consciously tightening the muscles beyond their normal tension point and then suddenly relaxing them.
He discovered that repeating this proceedure with every muscle group in the body could induce a deep state of relaxation.
Researchers today say that a daily regimen of 16 exercises can be equally effective. These exercises divide the body into four major muscle groups, the arms, the head, the midsection, and the legs.
Regular practice of progressive muscle relaxation will lead to the experience of Benson's Relaxation Response, and more importantly, with several months practice, the amount of anxiety, anger, and other painful emotions that habitually come up in your life will significantly diminish.
Practice the following exercise for about 20-30 minutes daily, whether you feel like it or not. You are developing a skill, the ability to relax.
Repeat the tensing and relaxing cycle for each muscle group, tightening for seven seconds, relaxing for 20 seconds.
Tighten without straining and relax suddenly, paying close attention to the feeling of relaxation, and learning to remember it.
Most folks remember the order of muscle groups after a practice or two, but if you do not, make a tape, and play it for yourself as a guide.
1. Clench both hands tightly, making them into fists. Hold the tightness for seven seconds. Pay attention to the sensations in the muscles as they contract.
Now let go of the tension and notice the difference. Stay focused on the sensations you are feeling.
After 20 seconds of allowing the muscles to relax, clench your fists again. Hold the tension for seven seconds, then relax for twenty seconds.
2. Next, bend both elbows and flex the biceps. Hold this "Charles Atlas" pose for seven seconds, then let go of the tension. Flex a second time, then relax, paying close attention to the physical sensations of relaxation.
3. Tense your triceps, then muscles underneath your arms, by locking your elbows and stretching your arms as hard as you can, as you hold them by your side. After seven seconds, let go of the tension for 20 seconds and repeat the process. Pay close attention to the feeling of relaxation.
1. Raise your eyebrows up as high as you can, and feel the tension in your forehead. Hold for seven seconds, relax for 20 seconds, then repeat.
2. Squinch up your entire face as if you were trying to move it to the tip of your nose. Feel where the strain is. Then release the tension and notice the feeling. Repeat.
3. Close your eyes tightly and smile, stretching your mouth as wide as open as you can. Hold it, then relax, Repeat.
4. Clench your jaw and push your tongue up to the roof of your mouth. Hold, then release. Repeat. Notice how the sensations change. (Hold tension in your tongue? Nah?) Open your mouth into a big "O". Hold for seven seconds, then release so your jaw goes back into a normal position. Feel the relaxation, and notice the difference. Repeat.
5. Tilt your head back as far as you can, hold, and relax twice, then hold your head to each shoulder, hold for seven seconds and relax for 20 seconds, and repeat. Stretch your head forward, as if to put your chin on your chest. Hold, relax, and repeat.
As your head returns to its normal posture, notice the difference.
1. Bring your shoulders up as high as you can-as though your are trying to touch your ears with them. Hold, and relax, feeling the heaviness in the muscles as they relax. Repeat.
Stretch your shoulders back, as though to touch your shoulder blades together. Hold the position, then let your arms drop by your sides. Repeat.
2. Bring your arms out straight in front of you, lifting from the shoulders so that your arms are parallel with each other. Then, while keeping them straight, cross one arm over the other at a point as high up on your arms as you can. Feel the stretch in your upper back. Drop your arms to your sides, noting the relaxation. Hold for seven seconds, relax for twenty seconds, and repeat.
3. Take a deep breath. Before you exhale, contract all the muscles in your stomach and abdomen. Hold, relax, and repeat.
4. Gently arch your back. Hold the tension, then relax so your back is flat again on the floor, bed, back of chair, ect.
1. Tighten your buttocks and thighs. Increase the tension by straightening your legs and pushing down hard through your heels. Hold for seven seconds, relax for twenty seconds, and repeat.
2. Tense your inner thight muscles by pressing your legs together as hard as you can. Release, and feel the sense of ease spread throughout your legs. Repeat.
3. Tighten your leg muscles while pointing your toes. Hold this position, then release as you return your toes to their natural position. Repeat.
4. Flex your toes by drawing them upwards towards your head as you tighten your shin and calf muscles. Hold, relax for 20 seconds and repeat.
Although the basic Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) procedure is an excellent way to relax, it takes too long to go through all the different muscle groups sequentially to make it a practical tool for on-the-spot relaxation.
To relax your body quickly, you will need to learn the following short-hand muscle relaxation method.
The key to short-hand PMR is learning to simultaneously relax the muscles in each of the four body areas.
You will tense and hold each group for seven seconds, then relax for 20 seconds, and repeat.
1. Make tight fists while flexing your biceps in the "Charles Atlas" pose. Or if you are at work, just tighten the muscles as your arms hang at your sides.
2. Press your head back, and wrinkle up your face. Roll your head clockwise. Relax, then tense jaw and throat muscles and hunch your shoulders up. Hold this position and relax.
3. Gently arch your back as you take a deep breath. Hold this postion, then relax. Take another deep breath, and this time push your abdomen out as you inhale. Then relax.
4. Point your toes up towards your face while tightening your calf and shin muscles. Hold and relax. Now curl your toes while tightening your calf, thigh and buttocks. Hold this postion, then relax.
Should feel good about now.
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