Progressive Relaxation Techniques to Melt Away Stress

Mar 5, 2024 | Healthy Living, Stress Management

Stress doesn’t knock; it barges in. You know the feeling—heart racing, mind buzzing, the world’s weight seemingly on your shoulders. It’s an unwelcome guest in your daily life that deteriorates your mental and physical health rapidly. Progressive Relaxation Techniques are free, can be done anywhere, and help your body feel stress and anxiety-free.

 

How Stress and Anxiety Impact Your Health

I’m not sure there is a single person who hasn’t felt the intense wave of stress and anxiety within their bodies. The framework of our current society doesn’t help. While feeling stress and anxiety is undoubtedly an incredibly uncomfortable sensation while it is happening, it has dire consequences that all too often go unthought of.

When your body is stressed, your adrenal gland is stimulated. This floods your system with adrenaline and cortisol, giving us that sensation we all know too well. When we start feeling this way, we can use mindfulness and gratitude to our bodies for trying to keep us safe. Our bodies haven’t evolved as quickly as other areas of our lives, so we can still experience these hormone surges even when we aren’t in life-or-death situations. 

Adrenaline causes your blood pressure to increase, which is why we get an intensified heartbeat when we are stressed. This was originally needed in our body to increase our energy to escape harm. It can cause you to become jittery and on edge.

Cortisol is the main stress hormone that is released. When we go into one of the flight, fight, fawn, or freeze responses, it starts to shut or slow down non essential organs until we are back to ‘safety.’ This is often our reproductive organs, growth processes, immune system, and digestive system. It spikes our blood sugar (glucose) and tampers with our mood stability and motivation. It’s primary objective? Surviving. 

Now, this is great when we are actually being threatened. There are so many incredible stories of people being able to do what feels like the impossible in life-or-death situations. But the reality is that when your body can’t tell the difference between daily stressors or life and death, it will stay flooded with these hormones for too long. 

 

What Happens When You’re Stressed For Too Long

Your sleep is impacted, not allowing for proper toxin removal or necessary rest and repair. Your hormones and reproduction are all thrown off. Your blood sugar and pressure are haywire. You can’t stop reaching for foods high in saturated fats and sugars, even though you try so hard to stay on track. You suffer energy crashes that make you want to curl up for a nap at 3 pm. You begin to snap at those around you because your mood is unstable. You might even wonder if you can even make a decision, let alone a good one. Your body can’t use its full immune system, and you keep getting sick. You wonder if we can ever be properly happy again. 

Chronic stress is a state that feeds on itself, with each stressful day making it harder to find your way back to a sense of calm and well-being. Until the day you get hit with a preventable but very severe illness. 

You don’t want to be even more stressed later trying to deal with what could be prevented today: heart disease, diabetes, asthma, gastrointestinal issues, alzheimer’s, or more simply because you didn’t take the steps to manage your stress now.

 

What is Progressive Relaxation? 

Progressive Relaxation techniques target stress’s physical and mental manifestations by teaching you to better recognize and release muscle tension

Starting from one end of your body and moving to the other, you learn to tense each muscle group firmly but gently before letting go. This process aids in relieving the feeling of being wound up. It recalibrates your stress response by promoting the activation of your parasympathetic nervous system, the part of your body that signals relaxation and recovery.

Each time you practice progressive relaxation techniques, you further contribute to your resilience against stress. Over time, you will notice a decrease in those automatic stress responses – like that quickened heartbeat or shallow breathing – even outside your practice sessions. Progressive relaxation is a practical approach to stress management, grounding you in the here and now. It will help give you more control over your body and its responses.

 

What Are the Benefits of Progressive Relaxation Techniques? 

It’s surprising how something so simple, free, and achievable in almost any setting can greatly impact your health and well-being. With consistent practice, you can experience these benefits that even rise above stress reduction: 

Reduces Physical Tension

By focusing on tensing and then relaxing muscle groups, these techniques lower the overall tension held in the body. It leads to decreased pain, such as headaches and muscle soreness, and improving physical comfort.

Enhances Sleep Quality

Regular practice helps ease the transition into sleep by calming the mind and body. It can reduce insomnia and improve the quality of rest, allowing for deeper and more restorative sleep cycles. If you are looking for more ways to get the sleep of your dreams, I can help! Click here to see how.

Stabilizes Blood Sugar Levels

Engaging regularly in progressive relaxation can influence how your body manages glucose. It’s particularly beneficial in managing stress-related blood sugar spikes. Having steadier blood sugar control can support overall energy stability and reduce cravings for sugary snacks leading to better nutrition. It’s a great combo to stave off pre-diabetes

Mindfulness and Body Awareness

When you practice progressive relaxation techniques, you sharpen your awareness of both physical and emotional sensations within your body. It is an act of mindfulness and empowers you to recognize stress signals early. It promotes proactive actions to manage what is coming up for you. The pause to work on deepening the connection and control over your body can be life (and health) changing. 

Regulates Emotions

Regular practice aids in emotional regulation, reducing the intensity of reactions and promoting a more balanced mood. This can improve relationships and leave you feeling happier and more fulfilled in your life.

Lowers Blood Pressure

Engaging in progressive relaxation exercises can naturally reduce blood pressure, benefiting heart health by easing the strain on the cardiovascular system without the need for expensive medications.

Enhances Concentration and Memory

By reducing mental stress, progressive relaxation techniques can clear the mind, improve focus, and enhance cognitive functions, making daily tasks easier and more efficient. 

Improves Digestive Function

Stress negatively impacts digestion. Progressive relaxation can help normalize digestive processes, reducing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other stress-related digestive issues.

Boosts Immune System

Lowering stress levels through these techniques can enhance immune function, making the body more resilient against infections and speeding up recovery times.

Improves Respiratory Function

Being mindful of your breath and deepening your breathing during progressive relaxation exercises can enhance lung capacity and efficiency, making it easier for your body to increase oxygen levels in your everyday life.

 

How To Do Progressive Relaxation Techniques

Wondering what it takes to get started with progressive relaxation Techniques? It’s easy. Here are some step-by-step instructions that you can practice anytime, anywhere: 

  • Find a Quiet Space: Begin by choosing a comfortable and quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. This can be anywhere from your living room to a private office space. I recommend somewhere that will help you feel safe within your body. 
  • Adopt a Comfortable Position: Sit or lie down in a position that feels comfortable for you. Close your eyes to help turn your focus inward. 
  • Breathe Deeply: Take a few deep breaths. Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of 5, hold for a count of 5, and then exhale through your mouth for a count of 5. This helps relax your body and deliver much-needed oxygen to your bloodstream. 
  • Tense and Relax Muscle Groups: Focus on one muscle group at a time, beginning at your forehead and work your way through your whole body until you get to your toes. You will tense the muscles as you breathe in for about five seconds and then relax them as you breathe out. Notice the sensation of release as the tension flows away. 
  • Maintain Focus: If your mind wanders, gently redirect your attention back to the muscle you’re working on. It might take practice before your mind is willing to be quiet. Perfection doesn’t have to be the goal here. The goal is to remain present and attentive to the sensations within your body as you’re tensing and relaxing each muscle group.
  • End with Deep Breathing: After working through each muscle group, finish with a few more deep breaths. With each exhale, imagine any remaining stress leaving your body out of your mouth.
  • Take a Moment: Before opening your eyes and getting up, allow yourself a moment to enjoy the deep state of relaxation you’ve achieved. Notice how your body feels compared to when you started. Be sure to thank yourself for taking this time to nurture your health. 

Many people will feel a sense of euphoria after finishing a round of progressive relaxation techniques. You can use this in place or as an accompaniment to regular meditation. You can also find guided progressive relaxation technique tracks on popular meditation and mindfulness apps such as Insight Timer or Calm.

 

Other Important Ways To Manage Your Stress and Anxiety

When you are looking to lower your stress and anxiety, progressive relaxation techniques aren’t the only natural health method you should rely on. There are many ways you can take your health into your hands that are medication-free and easy to do. Consider these in your stress-reduction and wellness plan:

Incorporate Naturopathic Medicinal Herbs

Herbs like chamomile, lavender, and ashwagandha have been used for centuries to ease anxiety and support relaxation. Incorporating these into your daily routine can help soothe your nervous system and enhance the calming effects of relaxation practices. Always consult a professional before starting supplements that may alter your health. Want to talk to me? Book your Health Discovery Call now.

Engage Your Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)

Further engage your Parasympathetic Nervous System by getting into nature regularly and adding activities like yoga, tai chi or qigong. Spending peaceful time in nature can significantly enhance your body’s parasympathetic response. These gentle but powerful activities deepen your connection with your surroundings and strengthen your defense against stress.

Balance Your Blood Sugar

Fluctuations in blood sugar can contribute to feelings of anxiety and stress. Eating balanced meals focusing on whole foods and a balance of nutrients and fiber can stabilize your blood sugar levels. This will help to maintain your energy and mood throughout the day. Don’t skip staying hydrated, either. Ensure you get at least 1/2 of your body weight in fluid ounces of water daily to keep your mind and body working optimally

Practice Mindful Eating

Paying attention to what and how you eat can influence your stress levels. Mindful eating encourages you to savor each bite and be present during meals, improving digestion and satisfaction with your food.

Prioritize Good Quality Sleep

Sleep is foundational to managing stress and anxiety. Establishing a regular sleep schedule, creating a restful environment, and avoiding screens before bedtime can enhance sleep quality, giving your body the rest it needs to recover from daily stressors. I have a Sleep Freebie here to help you get the sleep you need.

Stay Physically Active

Regular exercise boosts your mood by releasing endorphins, helps burn off the energy generated by stress, and contributes to better sleep, too. Find an activity you enjoy, whether it’s walking, cycling, swimming, or dancing, and make it a part of your routine. Bonus points if you prioritize getting out into nature for your physical activity.

Connect with Others

Building and maintaining a support network can provide a sense of belonging and security, reducing feelings of isolation and stress. Whether it’s family, friends, or a support group, staying connected can be a powerful tool in managing anxiety. 

Feeling like you need some extra support? Check out Pocket Doc! We have some incredible support calls on Zoom, and the impact of having a community with a common goal can’t be understated! 

 

You don’t have to live your life in a stressed and unhealthy body. You have control here to change how you feel. By taking active steps to reduce stress and anxiety, you are taking your power back to reclaiming your health before it gets too late. I promise, you will feel the difference. Your mind and body will thank you for choosing peace. For choosing health.

 

Unlock your full health potential now by getting personalized insights from me! 

Book a Health Discovery Call and start living a life you love.

 

 


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