Stress relief in the now – an instant stress relief series: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Palapas and chairs on the beach

By Denise Zanardi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 es], via Wikimedia Commons

Stress relief techniques are all well and good but there are times when you are faced with a situation where your stress just starts to build up exponentially like during an entrance exam, when you organise an important event, during a driving test, etc., but you can’t just take out half an hour and do things that would de-stress you; and these are the type of situations where you need a calm and clear mind to do the job properly.

I’ll give you a personal experience of mine as an example, my first driving test. Now I’m an okay driver, I’m not the best driver in the world obviously, if I had to race with Vin Diesel he would have crossed the finish and I would still be lagging behind at the half way point, but I’m decent. Put it this way, I follow the rules of the road and I can get from point A to point B without killing anyone or destroying anything. But enough about my driving, let’s get back to my first driving test.

Let me tell you this right now, I failed my first driving test, but it wasn’t because I’m a bad driver. It was because I was stressed out of my mind; I kept thinking, I can’t mess this up, I can’t mess this up, I can’t mess this up, and I messed it up. What’s worse is that I messed up right at the very beginning, and the testers were very strict, they don’t even let you continue the test, one mistake and that’s it you fail. The thing is, I know that if I had just been calmer when I was taking the test, I would have passed first try, but I wasn’t and I failed (sniff).

The night before the test I made sure to stay calm and cool and collected, and I was fine even when I woke up, but as soon as I entered the driving centre all the calm went away and stress filled up the void. When I came back home I was pretty bummed out, all that preparation, all that practice and for what?

So remembering that, I felt that I need to look up ways to calm oneself down instantly and on the spot, because stress can pop up anywhere and we don’t always have the time to just sit and calm down.

In this post I am going to be talking one particular method to help you calm down instantly, in this case Progressive Muscle Relaxation; we’ll call it PMR for short.

PMR is a technique where you monitor and control muscular tension. It was developed by American physician Edmund Jacobson back in the early 1920s (or 1939 depending upon your source, not sure which is correct). Nowadays it is used as a way to help people who suffer from anxiety disorders. How it works is you basically tense up certain groups of your muscles for about 8 seconds and then you relax them. A good way to start out as a beginner is from the ground up: first you tense and relax your feet then work your way up to your shins and so on till you reach your face. It’s easy to do and only takes five minutes max. Fair warning, if you have a history of muscle spasms, serious injury, etc, then make sure to consult your physician first, you want to make things better not worse. I’ll leave a link to a website which explains everything you need to know about PMR here.

Or you could just watch this video:

From what I can tell, PMR can be considered a form of meditation where you are concentrating on one thing and since your body actually feels the tension and relaxation, it forces your mind to pay attention to it. Also I think a little bit of hormones which can promote relaxation are released when you do PMR, but that’s just a guess on my part.

I’ve been trying it out a little since I began researching it and I think it works. Granted I’ve only been doing it for a little while now but I do feel good after doing it so I think it’s worth a shot, plus you can do it pretty much anywhere which is handy. I really wish I had known this on my driving test, who knows I might have passed.

Well that’s it for this post. Give PMR a try and let everyone here know whether it works for you here in the comments; remember the point is to help people relax and to share the knowledge. Until then, happy tensing and relaxing!

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