Relaxation is not something that many of us find easy. When was the last time you were truly at ease with relaxed muscles and general feeling of calm, both physically and mentally?
You’ll all be well aware of the flight or fight mechanism that kicks in when we are under threat or stress. We automatically (in an evolutionary effort of self-preservation) become more alert and more ready and efficient at responding to whatever we are faced with. Many of those who perform on stage say that without those pre-show butterflies they would not be able to put on an engaging performance. I’ve even heard some say that if those feelings stopped they’d stop performing.
But what happens when that feeling lasts for a prolonged period of time?
Part of the flight or fight mechanism involves muscle tightening and if the tension is prolonged our muscles never deactivate from that state. Eventually it becomes incredibly difficult to notice when the tension is there as you become used to that feeling. After a while you don’t even associate it with stress. You may be jumpy, irritable, nervous. You may be more likely to worry excessively and even develop physical symptoms, such as backache or headaches. Constant tension can make you over-sensitive to even small happenings in our lives. Ever been on the go continuously and then when you stop…feel the pain of tiredness… or even worse, find you develop a cold or become ill? It happens more often than we think. You take that much needed holiday only to find 3 days in your body decides its had enough?
So how do we relax?
First of all we need to realise that we are indeed tense. Then we need to actively complete steps in order to relax. You may have a variety of methods of relaxation, below is a description of Isometric Relaxation for you to try. Remember in order to feel the true benefit of this exercise you may have to do it several times a day in order to counteract the tension and maintain a relaxed state. Eventually it may become a habit they you automatically apply when feeling tense.
When sitting or lying down in private
- Take a small breath and hold it for up to seven seconds
- At the same time, straighten arms and legs out in front of you and stiffen all muscles in the body
- After seven seconds, breath out and slowly say the word ‘relax’ to yourself
- Let all the tension go from your muscles
- Close your eyes
- For the next minute, each time you breathe out say the word ‘relax’ to yourself and let all the tension flow out of your muscles
- Repeat if necessary until you feel relaxed