There are some proven relaxation techniques we can try in order to protect our physical and mental health from the potentially negative consequences of stress and anxiety: progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) and deep breathing exercise.
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is anxiety-reduction method first introduced by American physician Edmund Jacobson in the 1930s. It is achieved through systematically tensing and relaxing the muscles of the body in turn, for example from head to toe. There is a great guided PMR available on youtube. (LINK TO VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihO02wUzgkc)
Breathing exercises are quick and easy and they work on anxiety on a physiological level by automatically slowing our heart rate.
Most people take short, shallow breaths into our chest which can boost anxiety and zap our energy. This is how we can practice deep breathing*:
- Get comfortable. You can lie on your back in bed or on the floor with a pillow under your head and knees. Or you can sit in a chair with your shoulders, head, and neck supported against the back of the chair.
- Breathe in through your nose. Let your belly fill with air.
- Breathe out through your nose.
- Place one hand on your belly. Place the other hand on your chest.
- As you breathe in, feel your belly rise. As you breathe out, feel your belly lower. The hand on your belly should move more than the one that is on your chest.
- Take three more full, deep breaths. Breathe fully into your belly as it rises and falls with your breath. Repeat 4-5 times.
* WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on January 19, 2020