Ask anyone how to deal with stress and the word ‘relax' is likely to come your way. Indeed the stress-relaxation concept is so commonplace as to sometimes be dismissed as too obvious to merit any particular thought or action. Perhaps the main focus of my posting is you - the person who thinks relaxation will be of no or little use in times of stress. I'm not about to go through the relaxation process, but I am going to refer to its uses.
Of course very many people know just how powerful a tool relaxation can be. Stress is more recognized than ever and this is a good thing. In my view anything natural that breaks up a hectic life and helps someone to calm down has to be good, whether they use hot stones, Turkish baths, music or just sitting still as their method.
But, back to people who dismiss relaxation. In my own experience I find the few people who dismiss relaxation do so in a way that acknowledges its worth to some people, but not to them. When I explore why the person thinks this way I find the answer tends to fall into one of three categories. First and most commonly, they have never actually tried relaxation but, like the vegetable they've never tried, they just know they won't like it. Secondly, they have some experience of the basic technique but taught rather poorly and/or in a way that was not in a therapeutic setting, so they didn't rate it. Thirdly, and less commonly, they've heard relaxation is hypnotism and they may not come out of it, or they may be made to do things against their will.
Some of these concerns can be dispelled quite quickly but I suspect that some of the confusion comes about by the way relaxation is taught or experienced. I'm aware, for example, of classes of students who go through the basic steps of the relaxation technique in a single session and then report they have ‘done' relaxation. It's not uncommon to find that they have simply gone through the motions and have never actually experienced relaxation for what it is. I have observed a few of these sessions in schools and colleges and I've watched the giggles & distractions, heard background noises and listened to instructions than make me cringe. Fortunately, I've also observed some excellent sessions which then helps to restore my faith.
As long ago as 1938, Edmund Jacobson found a way of measuring electrical activity in muscle fibers. By asking volunteers to sit and relax Jacobsen noticed a decrease in muscular tension. Then, by asking volunteers to pay attention to their sensations during muscular tension and relaxation, he found muscular tension decreased even more significantly.
Since these early days, a body of research has developed that consistently demonstrates stress reduction as a result of progressive muscle relaxation. Some people ask how it is possible to relax when you are actually under stress. Relaxation is a skill that, once learned, is surprisingly easy to employ in stressful situations. For anxiety related conditions like phobias, relaxation in conjunction with systematic desensitization, has proved itself as a useful and effective therapy for both children and adults.
Published On: April 24, 2008