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Stress less and be stress free

Are you stressed?

Lets face it, I think all of us are suffering some form of stress or anxiety during these unprecedented times. Most of us carry on with work, being furloughed, school or home schooling but sometimes it all gets a little too much and we become overloaded.

Normally we go through our daily life with  moderate amounts of stress. Historically, stress helped us stay alive – to escape threats, find food and simply live. Today, our stress is based mainly around modern living and often associated with our life roles. Remember, moderate stress is important and people can usually cope with certain amounts of pressure like having to meet deadlines, perform in staff meetings, make decisions, deal with relationships, juggle childcare and homelife. Basically we are simply living our lives.  So…some stress is necessary and actually good for us preferably in short bursts.

However, the saga of 2020 saw prolonged stress levels rise globally. Cases of severe anxiety and conditions aggravated by stress increased phenomenally which is why, as a Clinical Psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, I decided to enrich my practice by adding to my list of credentials the role of Professional Relaxation Therapist, so I could help clients overcome their stress in a variety of ways.

As a Relaxation Therapist, I have researched the physical and psychological implications of stress and its impact on the human body. I have also studied the techniques and methods that ‘work’ to alleviate stress.  I am particularly interested in the work of Edmund Jacobson (a doctor in 1908) who investigated why individuals can’t just ‘let go of stress’ and the consequences of long term anxiety on the body and ultimately mental health.

Jacobson discovered that whilst experiencing long term or prolonged stress, our muscles actually become taut and the effects of this tension shortens the muscle fibres in the body. I’m sure some of you will have experienced tension headaches or found your shoulders aching because you’ve been squeezing the muscles without even realising it. This becomes a continuous effect. You want to relax but your muscles have contracted, this perpetuates your feeling of anxiety. And so it goes on, you stress – tense – muscles shorten – you remain stressed. 

There are many methods and techniques involved in my new role, including exercise, diet, meditation, scent therapy, sleep patterns and self hypnosis. There are also breathing exercises and something I want to share with you, to start you on the road to relaxation. I would like to introduce you to  Progressive Muscle Relaxation which lasts approximately 15 minutes and works wonders in reducing your stress levels (and reduce wrinkles) when practised regularly.

Would you like to try it for yourself?

First I’d like you to dedicate 15 minutes to yourself, no distractions – turn off the television, give the dog a treat and make sure nothing interrupts you.

Next you need to be comfortable. Either sit in a chair or lie on a bed in your baggiest of outfits (and we all have one of those). The room should be at a temperature where you are neither too hot or too cold.

Then you need to practise breathing:

  • Inhale deeply through the nose. Count to six and then through pursed lips, blow the air out slowly – as you breathe out (think of blowing out a birthday cake candle), imagine your stress is leaving your body – almost like a fluid. This is often called a cleansing breath.

The next steps must be in the right sequence for the greatest impact on your relaxation. Get someone to read the steps out to you, make your own recording or access the free audio on my website and Facebook page.

Step 1. Inhale. Flex your feet so the toes point downwards like a dancer. Tense the muscles of the feet. Hold for the count of six then slowly exhale and allow your feet to relax.

Step 2. Inhale and flex your feet upwards to the ceiling. Tense the muscles of the feet, hold for the count of six. Exhale and allow your feet to relax.

Step 3. Inhale and pull up your knee and thigh muscles as if you have an elastic band pulling upwards. Tense, hold for the count of six, exhale and relax.

Step 4. Inhale, squeeze the buttocks – tense, hold for the count of six, exhale and relax.

Step 5. Inhale and extend the abdomen. Tense, hold for the count of six, exhale and draw your abdomen muscles inwards as you relax.

Step 6. Inhale into the upper lungs lifting the chest. Tense ,count six. exhale and relax.

Step 7. Inhale and raise your shoulders to your ears (like a shrug). Tense, hold for 6 then as you exhale pull your arms down, spanning your fingers wide and stretching your arms out. I always imagine Superman flying at this point.

Step 8. Inhale, flex your arm at the elbow (making a fist helps) …tense, hold and exhale. Relax.

Step 9. Inhale and lift your head a few centimetres. If sitting push the head forward slightly – tense, hold, exhale and relax.

Step 10. Inhale, raise your eyebrows, hold and tense. Exhale and relax.

Step 11. Inhale and tense your face, scrunching up the whole face like a child in a temper tantrum. Hold, exhale and relax.

Step 12. Inhale. Open your mouth and jaw wide. Tense and hold for 6. Exhale and this time breathe out the sound ‘Ahhh’.

Now do a self body scan. Spend a few moments thinking about your body. Does it feel heavy or light? Is it warm in a particular place or have you any tingling sensations? Now sleep or just relax.

This deep muscle relaxation aids recovery from physical conditions aggravated by prolonged stress, for example: Migraine, insomnia, PMT, Muscle aches, panic attacks, IBS and many more.

It also helps reduce blood pressure, maintains blood sugar levels, increases the blood flow to major muscle groups, improves concentration – mood – sleep quality, lowers fatigue and overall helps us cope with our personal stress  and makes us tackle our current situation more calmly.

Please let me know how Muscular Relaxation works for you, your friends, family or child. If you want to know more about the different therapies I offer, contact me via my website or PM on 07775429575.

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