December 22, 2009

PMR-Short form

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:19 pm by kellyfdennis

Whew!  The last several days have been a whirlwind! I have discovered something interesting in this very busy time….just when I need to use the relaxation methods the most, I forget to use them!  What’s up with that?!  I had a very stressful day last week and found myself getting caught up in the anxiety of the moment.  It wasn’t until I took a deep (exasperated) breath that I remembered to “breathe deeply”.  Once my relaxation mode was triggered and I used the belly breathing, I almost instantly felt my anxiety reducing.  I guess I need to put some “cues” around my environment to remind me to use my skills!  “Therapist, heal thyself”, as my good friend would say!

Ok, so I promised PMR, the short form.  If you look back a couple of blog entries ago, I explained the long version of PMR.  Hopefully, you have tried it and found some measure of relaxation with using it.  sometimes, though, it’s helpful to have a shorter version that you can do quickly…in the moment, if you will.

Start by taking three long, deep belly breaths (wow, we are getting really good at breathing!).  Now imagine that your individual muscles are grouped together.  Tense your toes, calves, and thighs all at once.  Hold for a count of three, then release very dramatically.  Feel the tingle in those muscles.  Remember to tell your brain the difference between tension and relaxation.  Now move up to your buttocks, stomach and chest.  Tense those muscles, all at once.  Hold for a count of three and then dramatically let go. Feel the tingle.  Next tense your arms, neck and face.  Hold for a count of three and then dramatically let go…feel the tingle.  Now, end by tensing all the muscles in your body at one time.  Hold for a count of three and then dramatically let go.  Enjoy the all over body tingle.  Take three long deep belly breaths and feel the relaxation.

The more you practice the long form, the more the short form will trigger relaxation.  Our minds and bodies are very “trainable”.

Give yourself the gift of relaxation this Christmas Season!

Merry Christmas!

December 11, 2009

Relaxation Day 4

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:45 am by kellyfdennis

I realized this morning that this is a great time of year to practice relaxation!  As I was doing PMR, though, I found my mind wandering and it became difficult to concentrate on the muscle groups.  So, I decided today would be a good day to practice visualization.

As I sat in my comfy chair in my living room, I took three, deep, long belly breaths.  Imagining that I was breathing in a sense of peace and calm and exhaling any tension or anxiety.  Then I began to imagine a peaceful, serene place (mine is imaginary; yours can be real, if you like), with green leaves on the trees, warm, yellow sunshine, birds singing, and the sweet smell of flowers drifting through the air.  I tried to imagine this place in as much detail as possible; involving all my senses.  I asked myself what I saw as I imagined myself in this place, what I felt when I reached out my hand.  I imagined myself breathing deeply and fully, and became totally absorbed in this peaceful place.  I allowed myself to explore, noticing how my bare feet felt on the soft grass and the way the warm breeze caressed my face. I allowed myself to imagine that I was sitting in the grass in a particularly sunny spot and felt the warm sun on my skin.  As I sat, I breathed in the calmness and serenity of this place.  I imagined closing my eyes and focusing on each part of my body; allowing a warm, comfortable sensation to spread throughout my muscles.  I imagined feeling as calm and relaxed as I had ever been. 

As I slowly opened my eyes, I allowed my surroundings of my living room to slowly filter back into my mind, took three more deep, long, belly breaths and eased my way out of the chair.

I felt wonderful!  Why don’t I do this more often?

December 10, 2009

Relaxation Day 3

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:44 pm by kellyfdennis

So, are you remembering to breathe?  I find myself doing the deep breathing more readily in the past couple of days. What did you think of PMR?  My muscles were a little sore this am…which isn’t unusual after PMR.  Muscles can become so used to being “tight”, that when they’re allowed to relax, it’s a work out for them!

Another item worth noting is, don’t be discouraged if you are finding relaxation difficult or if it’s not “working” for you yet.  That’s not uncommon either…keep at it!  However, there are a few people for whom relaxation can actually trigger anxiety or an emotional reaction which can surprise you.  If that happens and it’s distressing for you, talk to your counselor about it.  Sometimes guided relaxation from a professional can help you move through the anxiety or emotionalism it may cause.

Today I’m dedicating to practicing belly breathing and PMR.  When you believe that you have mastered PMR, you can move to doing the “short” form, which I’ll describe in another blog.

So, today is about breathing while tensing and relaxing our muscles!  Enjoy another day of lowering your anxiety.

December 9, 2009

Relaxation Day 2

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:52 am by kellyfdennis

Yesterday, I reminded us to breathe…aah, just breathe.
Today I am revisiting Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). PMR is a relaxation technique used to release stress. It can relax the muscles and lower blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. Wow! No wonder I feel so good after doing it!
Ok, PMR is pretty simple. It is the tensing and then relaxing each muscle group of the body, one group at a time. Though this technique is simple it may take several sessions before it is ‘mastered.’ You can do it sitting or lying down.
Tense a group of muscles – tense hard but don’t strain – and hold for about 5-10 seconds. Release the tension from the muscles all at once almost in a dramatic way. Stay relaxed for 10 – 20 seconds. It is important to Pay close attention to the feeling of relaxation when you release the contracted muscles because you are actually training your brain and body to notice the difference between tension and relaxation. We spend so much time feeling tense, our bodies may actually experience it as “normal.”
You can start anywhere you like, but it helps to be systematic about it.
Here we go:
Let’s start by doing some belly breathing. Take a deep breath in, and release it. Repeat about 3 times.
Now we’ll begin PMR:
• Hands – Clench fists
tense for 5, release, rest for 10
• Right forearms and hands – Extend arm, elbow locked, and bend hand back at the wrist
tense for 5, release, rest for 10

• Upper right arm – Bend arms at elbows and flex biceps
tense for 5, release, rest for 10

• Forehead – wrinkle forehead into frown, tense, release, rest, and/or raise eyebrows
tense for 5, release, rest for 10

• Eyes – close eyes tightly, hold and release
tense for 5, release, rest for 10

• Mouth – press lips tightly together
tense for 5, release, rest for 10

• Jaw – open mouth wide and stick out tongue
tense for 5, release, rest for 10

• Buttocks – tense
tense for 5, release, rest for 10

• Abdomen
tense for 5, release, rest for 10
(Don’t forget to breathe!)

• Chest
tense for 5, release, rest for 10

• Back – arch back
tense for 5, release, rest for 10

• Neck and shoulders
tense for 5, release, rest for 10

• Thighs
tense for 5, release, rest for 10

• Lower legs and feet – Point toes toward shin
tense for 5, release, rest for 10

• Feet – Point toes and curl them under
tense for 5, release, rest for 10

You may repeat relaxing and tensing muscle groups that have you have already done to relax them further.
Sometimes it helps to listen to a recording of someone guiding you through the PMR. This website has some mp3 recordings of progressive relaxation that you can listen to on your computer: http://hws.edu/studentlife/counseling_relax.aspx

December 8, 2009

Relaxation

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:18 pm by kellyfdennis

I think relaxation is a lost art. As we get caught up in our daily grind, or completing our to-do lists, we can lose touch with ourselves, leading to disconnection or the “numbness” that the people who sit across from me describe. I decided that I’m going to reconnect with the art of relaxation myself. I hope you’ll try it with me.
Day 1 Breathing…yes, Breathing!
This is a very powerful and very simple technique. It teaches you slow breathing from the “diaphragm” or belly. It relaxes you and also relieves many of the symptoms of anxiety. Plan to practice it once a day, starting with five minutes. Then, gradually increase the time up to about 15 minutes.

Lie comfortably on your back, with a pillow under your head, your knees bent and back flat. You can stretch your legs out if that’s more comfortable. Place one hand on your belly. Once you’re comfortable, you can start the exercise.

Inhale while you slowly count to 4. Expand your belly as much as you can – like a balloon. You know you’re doing “belly breathing” right when you can feel your belly expand. Then, exhale to the slow count of 4, just letting all the air out of the balloon. As you exhale, just feel yourself letting go of tension.

Keep repeating the belly breathing to the slow count of 4. When your mind wanders, just gently bring your attention back to the counting and belly breathing.

As you gradually master your Belly Breathing, you are gaining a powerful tool to lower your overall level of anxiety.
Aah…I feel better already.

stefdennis

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