Our bodies are conditioned to respond to stress, and under normal circumstances this is a good thing. Stress can help us be more aware of our surroundings and give us the motivation or focus that we need to accomplish certain goals. However, extended periods of even low-level stress can flood our bodies with chemicals that make us feel on edge, weaken our immune system, increase blood pressure and many other health issues.
To help you manage your stress as we continue to experience huge disruptions to our lives because of COVID-19, I will walk you through a progressive muscle relaxation exercise that is great for all ages to do at home.
As you do the following steps, focus on your breathing and take deep, slow breaths in and out. Also, do not stretch past the point of hurting yourself. Pulled muscles are not the goal.
Progressive muscle relaxation exercise
- Hands and arms: Squeeze your left hand into a fist as tight as possible. Feel the tightness in your hand and arm as you squeeze. Now, release your hand and relax. Can you feel how much better your hand and arm feel when they are relaxed? Repeat with your right hand.
- Arms and shoulders: Pretend you’re Stretch Armstrong and stretch your arms out in front of you. Keep going. Now, raise them up high over your head. Way, way up. Feel the pull in your shoulders. Stretch even higher. Now, just let your arms drop back down to your side like a normal human. Repeat.
- Shoulders and neck: Pull your head down to your shoulders and your shoulders up to your ears like a turtle escaping into its shell. Hold in tight. Now, release and feel your muscles relax. Repeat.
- Face and nose: Imagine that you have an itch on the end of your nose but your hands are full and you can’t reach it. Wrinkle up your nose and make as many wrinkles as you can. Scrunch it up real good. Well done, your itch is gone. Oh, wait. It’s back. Repeat.
- Stomach: Pretend that a good lookin’ guy or gal is headed your way and you want to show off. Make your stomach very hard, tightening the muscles real tight. Hold it, hold it, hold it. OK, he/she is now out of sight. Just kidding, he/she is heading back this way. Repeat.
- Legs and feet: Imagine your feet are in the warm but wet sand at the beach. You know, the sand left over after the wave recedes. Squish your toes down deep into the sand. Spread your toes apart and feel the wet sand squish up between your toes. Now, relax your feet and let your toes go loose. Repeat.
Need further help for managing your stress? We are accepting new clients of all ages from Iowa and Nebraska for telehealth sessions. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.