Stress Relief via. Relaxation Response: Part II

May 10, 2015


Last month we brought up the fact that the majority of Americans feel stressed on a regular basis, but very few are actively making a difference in how that affects their daily lives. The Relaxation Response is a way the body can adjust and learn to cope with stress. The most common forms this technique takes on are yoga and deep breathing. This month we’ll overview biofeedback and muscle relaxation as ways to reduce your everyday stress.


Biofeedback: this therapy involves training patients to control different physiological processes. It is overseen by a trained professional who connects electrical sensors to your body.  These sensors monitor your body's physiological state, such as brain waves, skin temperature or muscle tension. This information is fed back to you via cues, such as a beeping sound or a flashing light.


Normally functions like blood pressure or heart rate are automatically controlled by your brain. With biofeedback, you are connected electrical sensors that help you receive information about your body and make adjustments to alleviate stress.


Muscle Relaxation: this technique teaches you to voluntarily relax specific muscle groups. When you are under acute stress, your muscles tend to hold onto your tension- even when you think you are relaxing. This can cause painful knots and fatigue in your muscle.

After you use the muscle relaxation technique, the tension level not only returns to normal, but actually drops, producing even greater relaxation to the muscles. Here’s how you can try this at home:

  • Begin by finding a comfortable place away from distractions

  • Take a few deep calming breaths

  • Tense each muscle group beginning at your feet and working you way upwards:

    Toes, feet, calves

    Thighs and knees

    Hips and buttocks

    Lower back and abdominals

    Upper back, arms, shoulders

    Neck, face, jaw

  • Now, imagine relaxation flowing over you from the top down:

    The crown of your head

    Over your forehead, jaw, and chin

    Down your neck and into your shoulders

    Across your back and into your arms and hands

    Down your chest and abdomen

    Flowing through your hips and buttocks

    Into your thighs and legs

    And finally down your ankles and feet

  • Take a few more deep breaths and take your time getting up

Try one of these techniques yourself or find a trained professional to assist you. Maybe slowly we can start to reverse the statistics from over-stressed to not-stressed. One can only hope!

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