A survey by the Australian Psychological Society found that severe levels of stress are leading Australians to engage in risky behaviours to manage including drinking alcohol, gambling, smoking, and using recreational drugs. Being stressed makes us vulnerable, and it is concerning that so many of us are resorting to these risky behaviours in order to manage and cope with stress in our lives. Although these may be common strategies people engage in, we know from time and experience that these are not effective. If you one of the growing number of Australians experiencing high levels of stress, this five part wellbeing blog series is a must read. My aim with this wellbeing series is to name some alternative strategies to use to begin to calm down, look after ourselves, to implement self-care and to invest in our future wellbeing.
Part One: Muscle Relaxation.
The mind and the body are connected, so by learning to relax your body this will contribute to your overall wellbeing. One of the body’s reactions to stress and anxiety is muscle tension. Perhaps you hunch your shoulders or strain your neck? Do you notice yourself feeling tense? This can then lead to ongoing pain and feeling uncomfortable and exhausted.
Progressive muscle relaxation is a form of relaxing your muscles one muscle group at a time.
- Sit yourself in a comfortable position either on a chair, or sitting or lying on the floor. Ensure you are able to relax your body, and that you are in a calm space without distractions.
- Begin by focusing on your breath and taking deep breaths in and out. When you feel ready close your eyes and visualise the breath filling your lungs as you breathe in, and then visualise the breath leaving your body as you breathe out. Continue to take deep breaths in and out, and think about calming your mind.
- Turn your focus to your body while continuing to deeply breathe in and out.
- Focus first on your feet. Curl you toes under and hold the tension in your feet for about 5 seconds. Notice the sensation of tension in your feet.
- Now release the tension and notice the feeling of relaxation in your feet. Enjoy that feeling for about 10 seconds. Remember to keep taking deep breaths in and out.
- Continue this process throughout your body next with your lower legs, tensing for 5 seconds and then releasing and noticing the feeling of relaxation and continuing to breathe.
- Progressively and one at a time, continue to tense and then release your upper legs, then your buttocks, then your stomach, then your shoulders, then your arms and hands, then your face and neck.
- Once you have tensed and relaxed each muscle group in your body continue to sit and notice the different sensation in your body when your muscles are relaxed. Enjoy this moment. Continue to breath.
- When you feel ready you can end the exercise.
Remember, like any skill relaxation takes practice. Try to practice this muscle relaxation daily and notice the difference in your muscle tension and overall wellbeing. Tune in next week for the second part of this wellbeing special.
Often managing stress on your own can be difficult and seeking professional help is a good idea. Speak with your GP, or contact Jessica to discuss this further.
Some more helpful resources: