Relaxation is a feeling of refreshing tranquility and an absence of tension or worry. Stress triggers chemical reactions which interfere with your normal, healthy functioning. Progressive relaxation with tensing is an excellent method for intentionally finding calm. (See also Calm)
Here is an abbreviated method for relaxing your muscles quickly. Before you begin, remember to use care in tensing your neck and back, because excessive tightening could result in muscle or spinal injury. You will focus on the naturally existing tension in a major muscle group and then consciously release it. Tense each muscle group from five to seven seconds and then go limp from ten to twenty seconds. When going limp, release tension instantly, not gradually. As you relax between tensions, be mindful of the contrast between the sensations of tension and relaxation.
Find a quiet place away from noise and visual distraction. Turn off devices and remove earpieces. Remove your shoes and loosen tight clothing if desired. Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Free your mind of intrusive thoughts. Begin to relax as you take several slow, deep breaths.
Let your shoulders drop. Roll your head around on your neck clockwise in a complete circle, then reverse. Relax. . . . Force your eyes tightly shut. Hold for five seconds, then open wide for five seconds. Relax. . . . Tense your facial muscles. Open your mouth, force a smile; squint, and wrinkle your cheeks; raise and hold your eyebrows up; wrinkle your forehead. Force your face into several exaggerated expressions. Relax. . . . Arch your shoulders and back without straining, and take a very deep breath into your chest. Hold for a few seconds. Exhale. Relax. . . . Push your abdomen out, then relax. . . . Tense your abdominal muscles tightly, holding for a few seconds. Relax. . . . Clench and curl both fists. Tighten your biceps, forearms, and shoulders as much as possible. Relax. . . . Point your toes back toward your face, tightening your shins. Hold. Relax. . . . Tense your calves and the arches in your feet. Relax. . . . Straighten your legs and tense your thighs. Relax. . . . Breathe slowly and deeply. . . . Feel the tension fading away. Consciously allow your entire body to go slack. Your entire body is comfortably loose, calm, and relaxed.
This exercise is most effective when performed twice in a twenty-minute morning session, and twice in a twenty-minute afternoon session. Progressive relaxation will reduce the physical effects of stress, and reinforce your sense of autonomy and control.