One of the quickest
responses our body has to stress is increased muscle tension and contraction.
The physiologic reason for this muscular activity is to prepare us for
fight or flight but, in reality, few of our modern day stresses are resolved
by either. When muscle tension continues for long periods without physical
release a low, or even moderate, level of chronic pain may develop, especially
in the shoulders, neck and lower back. To break the contraction cycle
and relax these muscle areas, stretch them each 3 or more times each week.
Autogenics, as the name suggests, are self-generated suggestions your
mind gives your body to relax. It is a quick and portable relaxation technique
that pin-points body regions that need to relax. For example: shoulders,
jaw, or neck muscles may be the first area of your body to tense when
you are stressed. Autogenic relaxation of any one of these areas could
be done with just a minute or two of concentrated relaxation. Here
is how this works.
When we are stressed, our breathing may become more rapid and shallow.
Chest muscles tighten, and air moves quickly but not deeply into our lungs.
This is not efficient breathing and fatigue can result. Deep Breathing,
also called Diaphragmatic Breathing, is a technique used to slow rapid
breathing and move air deeper into the lungs. The trick is to use the
diaphragm, not chest muscles, as the main muscle which opens the chest
and allows lungs to expand. Here
is the technique. You can use it almost anytime, anywhere as an immediate
Like autogenics, visualization uses the power of your mind's eye and inner
voice to bring about relaxation. Visualization is the imagery of any location
that, to you, is peaceful and stress-free. Your peaceful image can be
brought to your consciousness at anytime (in a traffic jam, a tense time
at the office) for a quick moment of tension release. Advance practice
will allow you to call upon this imagery more effectively at times of
stress. For its deepest effect, visualization is done in combination with
progressive relaxation. Once deeply relaxed, spend a few minutes imagining
the peaceful location you wish to "visit". The more detail you add to
your image, the more real it will seem to your mind.
Progressive relaxation is similar to Autogenic Relaxation, but it requires
more time and a quiet, comfortable environment where you can complete
relax. In it, you use your mind's eye and internal voice to suggest relaxation
to your body. Unlike Autogenics, the relaxation is not limited to one
part of your body. It progresses to all body parts during the relaxation
exercise. The time necessary for a thorough Progressive Relaxation is
20 to 30 minutes, although it can be varied depending on your skill and
needs. It is often helpful, especially for beginners, to be lead through
Meditation is a very deep form of quieting the mind and relaxing the body.
It may begin a progressive relaxation and a peaceful visualization, but
moves into complete mind quieting. Music can help bring us into this very
deep state of relaxation. Done regularly, it can help to keep general
stress levels much lower.