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Perhaps you're an airline pilot who's just spent hours in the cockpit. It seems like every muscle in your body is tense and you need relief. Or perhaps you're a stay-at-home mom who's spent the better part of your day cleaning your house. You feel as if your nerves are shot and you desperately want to feel better.

In both instances, the key to relieving stress may be progressive muscle relaxation. It's a technique that began in the 1930s, but still has relevance today. With this technique, muscle groups are flexed and then relaxed in short order. The foundation of this technique is the concept that physical relaxation leads to mental repose. While the method does involve activating the muscles, you don't have to be a weightlifter to try it. That's because it requires no special training. In fact, virtually anyone can master the technique.

In general, you'll want to practice the method ten to 20 minutes a day. But don't blame yourself if you don't master it on the first try. It's best to take a gradual approach, improving your muscle flexing capabilities over time. You'll need to rehearse the technique again and again in order to obtain maximum benefit. You'll also need to be patient because you might not be able to pick it up in a single afternoon. But, in the long run, it will be well worth the effort.

Progressive muscle relaxation is referred to as a deep relaxation technique. This means that it can not only reduce stress, but also help alleviate chronic pain and sleeplessness. Doctors often use the technique in an effort to treat migraines and cancer. Usually, the relaxation technique begins with the feet and the legs, then gradually moves up the body to the chest, neck, and face. However, some physicians may try to relax muscle groups in a different order.

After some time, the amount of muscle tension attempted is increased in order to maximize the work of the muscles. You can engage in this exercise while seated, or you can do it lying in bed. Make sure, however, that you attempt it only in a place that is quiet and tranquil. Otherwise, you might find it difficult to complete the exercise. To begin with, tighten the muscles for about eight seconds and then release. Relax for about 30 seconds, then move onto another set of muscles. You might use progressive muscle relaxation in conjunction with imagery. In other words, you might imagine that you are like a wave of the ocean unleashing your power by flexing your muscles.

Through progressive muscle relaxation, you can learn to interpret your body's cues. In this way, you can identify signs of tension within your body and determine ways to correct it. As a result, you should feel much less stress and may even feel as if you have more energy. Because progressive muscle relaxation has been around for decades, it is proven effective. Therefore, it is not a fad, but a legitimate relaxation technique.

Your initial relaxation session should last about an hour. You will engage in such activities as making a fist, bending your arms, raising your eyebrows, clenching your teeth, pulling up your shoulders, tightening your abdominal muscles, and lifting your heels. In time, such exercises will become second-nature to you. However, you should not try to speed up your exercises—the point is to remain relaxed, not to quicken your pace. The exercises may be a perfect activity on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon—whenever you're ready to relax.

Progressive muscle relaxation is for anyone. Whether you work at a construction site or a classroom, in a music hall or in a meat market, you can benefit from the relaxation exercises. Granted, it may be hard for you to relax at first, especially if you are a Type A personality. But, chances are, you'll quickly master the technique and learn to enjoy your exercises. In time, such relaxation exercises should become a natural part of life. You'll feel healthier, more energetic, and less stressed. Chances are your attitude will brighten, since the weight of the world has been taken from your shoulders. You'll find that time relaxing is truly time well-spent

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