Relax Every Day
by Navin Banthia
Nancy used to come home with a headache from her high-pressure job in a busy purchasing department. "It would begin about the middle of the afternoon when the pressure was building up”, she remembers. It was persistently worse and annoyed her all evening.”
Today, Nancy’s life has changed. Along With scores of other people, she learnt how to relive her tensions at a relaxation programme at Pennsylvania state University . originated by Marann Walker, a nursing instructor, and based upon the work of Arnold Lazarus, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University, it’s a course that teaches relaxation as an antidote to stress. The step by-step techniques are simple and effective and can readily be learnt and practised at home.
For most people, simple relaxation is difficult to achieve. Telling yourself not to get upset in the midst of an upsetting situation is rarely effective. Yet we feel battered by the various demands of our jobs, families, which tend to lock muscles, which tends to lock muscles, raise blood pressure, and subject us to a whole host of diseases caused or aggravated by stress, including peptic ulcers, migraine headaches, heart trouble etc.
By mastering the techniques Mrs Walker suggests, that however, almost anyone can learn to “turn off” the tension and anxiety to work in the midst of stressful situations or used as a regular routine for soothing away the day-o-day strains of living. Either way, says Mrs Walker, immediate and lasting benefits can occur.
To learn the techniques at home, you need to practice in a quiet room. Ideally, you should spend 30 minutes a ay for three two week periods-but if you can spare only a few minutes a day, an abbreviated programme should still prove beneficial. You can read the instructions to yourself, step-by-step, or have them read to you. Some students record the instructions on a tape recorder, then play them back while practicing.
Exercises for the first two-weeks period are designed o demonstrate the difference between feelings of tension and feelings of relaxation.
The second two weeks of the course focus on mental methods that can help peel away layers of tension and anxiety. When you’re first learning you’re very conscious of every thing you do. But with practice it all becomes automatic.
1. Lie on your back in a darkened room, with eyes closed, arms at your sides, legs crossed. Place pillows under your neck, knee and feet if that increases your comfort. Loosen or remove binding clothing-shoes, belts tight collars. Alternatively contract and release parts of your body, one at a time . When you are tensing, try to make your muscles tighter and tighter and hold for about 30 seconds. Then let go very slowly and feel the relaxation developing. Here is the recommended sequence of tension and relaxation.
• Clench each fist
• Bend both elbows and tighten your biceps, hard.
• Rigidly straighten both arms.
• Wrinkle your forehead until you feel tension moving across your scalp.
• Frown deeply, to tense every muscle in your face.
• Close your eyelids as tightly as possible
• Clench your teeth and notice the tension in your jaws, cheeks and neck.
• Press your tongue against the roof of your mouth
• Press the back of our head firmly into your pillow or against the floor .
• Push your chin against your chest and strain your head forward.
• Shrug your shoulders upto your ears.
Pause here. Think about the feeling of relaxation spreading from your fingertips up to your scalp and down to your neck and shoulders.
• Now concentrate on your midsection. Inhale as deeply as you can and hold before slowly exhaling. Repeat.
• Tense your abdominal muscles as tightly as possible without pulling them in.
• Pull in your stomach and hold.
• Arch your back and hold as long as you can.
Pause again. Think about relaxation spreading from your head down through your shoulders and arms. Then imagine that feeling spreading even deeper into your chest, back and stomach.
• Concentrate on your legs and feet. Press both heels against the floor.
• Point feet and toes away from your head as far as possible.
2. Lie comfortably in a darkened room, breath deeply several times and try to feel a warm, heavy, relaxed sensation spreading through your body as you slowly exhale. Think about a wave of calm flowing over you in a slow, logical sequence. Imagine a blank blackboard then put the numbers one through ten on it, one at a time.
As each appears, try to relax more deeply and capture the sensations suggested by a different stimulus word (warmth, tranquility, serenity). By the time you reach ten you should be totally relaxed.
3. Start each daily session lying comfortably on your back, breathing deeply several times and thinking about relaxation spreading through your body.
To conclude -
Like other students of relaxation, you may find one stage more helpful than the others. In that case, Mrs Walker advices using it. Daily practice is the best way to learn which parts of the programme are more helpful in making you feel better or respond more calmly. ***