Evolutionarily, our emotional state is closely related to the body. What can save an animal in a dangerous situation? Running or attacking. Both require muscular tension. In stressful situations, we develop muscle tension, which in turn signals the brain of danger. After all, the brain remembers the situations in which it needs the body to be tense – when danger is imminent.
The American physician Edmund Jacobson studied this “brain-body” connection in the 1920s. His experiments showed that human emotional reactions often manifest themselves in the form of muscle tension, the degree of which increases as emotional tension increases.
If we have chronic muscle tension, we are trapped in a vicious cycle:
- We are constantly tense.
- The brain receives a signal of danger, but there is none in the external environment.
- Our consciousness starts looking for such signals in our head and, naturally, finds: I might get sick; I might lose at a legal casino online; something might happen to my loved ones, and so on.
- We fixate on these things, replaying them in our heads over and over again, which increases the intensity of stress.
- Stress leads to additional muscle tension.
And so our vicious circle closes. To address this problem, Jacobson developed the Progressive Neuromuscular Relaxation technique to relieve anxiety, muscle tension, deal with stress and phobias, relax and neutralize the negative effects of stress. Today we will acquaint you with this technique.
How Jacobson Neuromuscular Relaxation Works
The technique consists of two steps: first you systematically tense certain muscle groups and then release the tension. The entire process of neuromuscular relaxation by Jacobson takes about 15-20 minutes. It’s better to practice the relaxation technique in a warm and quiet place, where no one will disturb you. To do this, take a comfortable position: lie on the floor or on the bed, sit on a chair. Relax your body and breathe slowly. Your task is to alternately tense and relax the different muscle groups of the body.
During the relaxation focus on the sensations in your body. The scheme is simple: you should first tense your muscles for 5 seconds and then relax them while enjoying the feeling of complete relaxation. After intense muscle tension, there is an emotional calm. When you do the exercise, don’t hold your breath, breathe freely and evenly. Regulate the degree of tension – it shouldn’t cause pain.
When to Perform Jacobson’s Neuromuscular Relaxation Exercises
Generalization of the relaxation effect depends on regularity of performing exercises. During the first month, it’s recommended to practice the method 1-2 times a day, more often if possible. In the second month you should do it 1 time a day. After that it is possible to gradually reduce the frequency of exercises to a couple of times a week.
It’s best to do the exercises after waking up, before going to bed and before eating. It’s undesirable to exercise after eating, because the digestive process prevents full relaxation. Exercise is also contraindicated in case of infections, pregnancy and in cases where physical activity is limited by the doctor.
The skill of voluntary muscle relaxation developed through these exercises will allow you to cope more effectively with stressful situations and improve your health.