Muscle relaxation is one of many ways of achieving physical relaxation. Meditation, yoga, a hot bath or shower and even vigorous exercise can also have a relaxing effect on your body and mind.
The following technique is an easy method of muscle relaxation. It involves relaxing each part of your body one by one, called progressive muscle relaxation.
- Choose a time of the day when you’re confident that you won’t be interrupted (for example, when baby is having a nap). About 20 minutes is a good length of time.
- Find a place in the house that’s quiet and away from everyone else.
- Sit or lie down with your eyes closed. If you sit, you might want to sit in a comfortable chair or on the floor against the wall.
- Make sure you’re warm enough.
- Start with your feet. As you slowly breathe in, tense the muscles in your feet and hold the tension briefly. As you breathe out, slowly relax them. Wait a moment, focusing on the relaxed feeling, then repeat once.
- Move to your calves and repeat the above. Work your way up your body in order of knees, thighs, pelvis, stomach, chest, arms, hands, face and forehead. Repeat a couple of times for each body part, until it feels heavy and relaxed.
- When your whole body feels relaxed, continue to sit awhile, breathing gently in and out.
- If it helps, imagine yourself in a quiet, serene setting or picture yourself in a favourite place, like the garden, a forest or by a river. Keep imagining yourself in this place for a while.
Quick tip: if you’ve got only a few minutes, try this relaxation exercise on just your arms, shoulders and face. You’ll be surprised at how well it works.
You can also get more detailed exercises on DVDs and CDs and in books on stress management. Look in your local library or bookshop or check online.