When I was first introduced to this technique, I was sceptical, and the person introducing it to me had to tell me that it was used by NASA’s shuttle pilots before re-entry. I figured that if it was good enough for NASA it was good enough for me to try…
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Let’s call this PMR, for simplicity. You can download a very short history of PMR here.
So what exactly is PRM – or APMR?
To be honest, there are dozens of different versions. I’ve even created my own script for it in the past, mixed in with a little bit of the visualisation techniques you’ve learned here already. The important elements are pretty simple though…
- find a safe, warm, comfortable place to work; it’s hard to relax if you’re anxious about being interrupted
- allow yourself 20 to 30 minutes
- lie down on your back; make sure your head is supported comfortably
- raise a leg, keeping it relatively straight and tip your foot back so that the muscles down your legs are tight; pay attention to that tension; hold things for about five seconds or so
- lower the leg to the floor and consciously relax it
- repeat for the other leg
- make a fist of your right hand; consciously pay attention to the tightness and tension in your forearm. Bend your arm and tighten your bicep: concentrate on that
- relax your bicep and your fist and consciously notice the difference
- repeat that for your other arm
- tighten your facial muscles by stretching up your eyebrows and pay attention to where feels tight, then relax and notice the difference
- do the same sort of thing to your eyes – both together: really screw them up tight
- clench your jaw and bite your teeth together and notice the tightness before you relax.
The idea should be pretty clear: taking each bit of your body one at a time you make it as tight as you can, then consciously relax it.
Generally the recommendation is that you should run through it twice. Personally I find it helpful to spend a moment or two doing something distracting (such as looking out of the window) before I repeat it.
You can download a PDF version of the outline below – which might be easier to use – by clicking here.
A side-note of caution
If you do the exercises fully, resting on the floor, the chances are that you’ll relax quite a bit – so much so that if you stand up in a hurry you risk what doctors call ‘postural hypotension’. That’s the pretentious term for what most of us call ‘head rush’ or ‘leaving our blood behind’.
If it happens to you, just wait a few moments until your heart sorts it all out or, better still, get up slowly, so that you don’t get the effect
A quick parting shot
I hesitate to mention it, but going to the gym also works.
There are dozens of pieces about this, all looking at slightly different things in slightly different ways, but the ‘storyline’ behind them all remains constant. Going to the gym (well, exercise, at least – you don’t need to be at the gym if you can get your exercise in different ways) is good for you: it helps with:
(And obviously feeling like you look good helps your confidence, too!)