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When it's hard to relax


 When you are stressed or anxious, the body prepares for any possible danger to enable us to fight, or flee. Muscle tension is common with people who suffer from PTSD, Trauma, Stress or Anxiety. Tight muscles can also be a result of pain. We curl up in a ball and find it hard to relax.
When your body is relaxed, stress anxiety and the symptoms of Trauma or PTSD are reduced, and the more you learn to relax and the more often you can do this – the more profound the results. In the case of pain, not only can it alleviate some of the pain, but would you prefer pain in a tight tense body or in a relaxed one?
Relaxation can be hard to achieve when you are continually tense. Progressive relaxation can help, but when I started I found by the time I had gone through forehead eyes jaw shoulders stomach, my eyes were screwed back up and my forehead was back to its tense furrow. Not only did practice help, but also just learning to relax one part of the body at a time then increasing to two and three and so forth can also really help to master the art of just releasing that tension.
The great thing about relaxation, is that when you can learn to do it quickly – instantly – those awful triggering moments no longer become two or three hours of just trying to calm down, but become mere minutes and in some cases immediate.
In order to keep the muscles fuelled and tense ready for fight or flight, not only does the body send its energy to the muscles ready for action, but it also saves energy by shutting down parts of the thinking and logical brain so the primal survival instinct part of the brain becomes much more alert.
This is why we sometimes behave irrationally or say things in the heat of the moment. It is survival or our integrity, feelings or life.
The body sends signals back to the brain saying we are tense there is a danger and the brain sends a signal back saying – there is danger, get ready and so the cycle begins. This cycle is in constant play when someone suffers trauma, anxiety or PTSD.
Not only is relaxation a great way to help with the symptoms and issues caused by stress, anxiety trauma and PTSD, but progressive relaxation can help you to settle in to a better sleep, lower inflammation in the body (which can lead to disease) and help your body heal. Not only that, but it helps you feel calm, and that leads to better decision making meaning you are less likely to end up in a situation that is likely to trigger you!
Whilst it seems to be everywhere – the mind body connection – somatic therapy- vagal release and much more, there is a lot of truth and science to back this connection up. There is also a lot of evidence to show the benefits of relaxation especially if you have one of the mentioned conditions or something like IBS. It seems like such a simple thing yet it is truly remarkable at how effective learning to relax is on the mind and on the body.
I had a client who used the relaxation techniques recently in a dentist chair whilst having a filling – with anaesthetic – but it was the first time she had been to a dentist in 15 years through anxiety worry and fear. She said “I decided I would use the time in the chair to perfect my technique and remind myself I was doing myself several big favours. It would be easier for the dentist, I would be more relaxed, and I would be doing something therapeutic for myself whilst undergoing a medical procedure.” When I asked her if she would go back, she said “yes, it made such a difference.”
Whilst there are some wonderful progressive relaxation videos on YouTube, and you do need to find which ones resonate with you. I have below written the sequence for Progressive Muscle Relaxation for you to try for yourself.  Once you learn how to relax each body part, you will be able to practice doing it at the drop of a hat meaning any triggers, no matter how big, can be controlled and put in their place by instant relaxation. See my breathing techniques too which are equally helpful!

 Tense (or squeeze) each area at around 50% capacity of tension for around 7 to 10 seconds before relaxing the muscles there. Hold the relaxation for 10 to 20 seconds, really relax it, more than you think you can. If an area is painful to tense, just notice the tension there, and then do your best to release it without tensing first.
Make sure you are safe and comfortable.
Firstly notice  your breathing, a deep breath in filling the stomach, followed by a long slow out breath. On the out breath you will notice a natural relaxation. Use this to your advantage where you can.
Switch your focus after a few moments to your entire body. Note the tension in your body, do not try to change it, just notice it. Then, following the sequence below, squeeze each part of the body as described above, before releasing and relaxing. When you have completed the exercise you will feel calm, more relaxed and will have relieved some of the tension. The more you do it, the better you get at it and the deeper you can relax those muscles and promote mental and physical wellbeing.

Sequence order :
Forehead,
Eye muscles,
Jaw (let the jaw drop open)
Neck
Shoulders,
Arms,
Hands,
Fingers
Stomach (let it drop right into the pelvis we all hold tension here)
Hips,
Thighs,
Calves,
Ankles
Feet
Toes.
If at the end of the first round you find you have (like I used to) tensed a part of your body back up, just release it and follow the sequence again, or focus on just one or two areas at a time until you master the program. Best of luck ! Happy relaxation !

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