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Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Counselling sessions occasionally need to be quite fluid and open to change, no matter what my ‘plan’ was at the start. Recently, I had a client whose body language spoke volumes about their inner turmoil. Throughout the session, they were fidgety and erratic, making it clear to me that they were carrying a significant amount of stress and anxiety. As we delved into their ongoing issues, it became apparent that their body language was becoming more pronounced, signalling their increasing discomfort. It was at that moment that I decided to change the direction of the session and introduce a powerful technique: Progressive Muscle Relaxation.

Our bodies have an incredible way of communicating with us, often revealing what our words alone cannot express. This was evident in my client's case, where their fidgety and erratic body language mirrored the inner chaos they were experiencing. This physical manifestation of anxiety and stress is not uncommon; it's a clear indication that our bodies are responding to emotional distress.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a simple yet highly effective technique that can help calm the body and mind. It involves systematically moving your attention through your body, notice the different sensations you’d ordinarily be ignoring and then allowing each muscle group to relax. The way I like to do this is to imagine a hula hoop being passed over your body. You’d start at the scalp, just notice all the sensations there and then gently relax those muscles. Then you’d move your imaginary hoop slightly lower, perhaps to your face, and again notice all the sensations and allow these muscles to relax. Normally at this point people realise they’ve been holding a bit of tension in their jaws and you see them trying to figure out how to relax it. Now imagine this process with every part of your body as you move your ‘hoop’ lower. You end up with a completely relaxed body, which has the inevitable and enjoyable effect of also calming the mind.

With my client's consent, we set aside 10 minutes of our session to practice PMR. I guided them through the process, starting with their head and working our way down to the tips of their toes. After just 10 minutes of this relaxation exercise, the transformation was astounding. My client's body language had shifted from restlessness to stillness. They even told me that they couldn’t remember the last time they felt so still and calm.

This experience served as a powerful reminder of the interconnectedness of the mind and body. It highlighted the importance of not underestimating the power of spending a mere 10 minutes to calm your body. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a valuable tool that can help alleviate the physical manifestations of stress and anxiety, the effects of which are often felt throughout the rest of the day. And just like stress, the effects of exercises such as PMR are also cumulative and can be a powerful defence against the stresses of your day-to-day.

If you find yourself in a state of heightened tension or anxiety, consider giving PMR a try. Spend those precious 10 minutes to listen to your body, release the tension, and allow yourself to be in a more receptive state of mind. Your body is a powerful communicator; don't ignore its signals, and remember that sometimes, a little self-care can go a long way in improving your overall well-being.

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