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Have you ever had a headache because the muscles in your back and neck were too tight? Or maybe you’ve experienced other stress-related physical problems such as rapid breathing, feeling like your heart is pounding, or an upset stomach. Where does all this stress come from?
Stress Is All Around Us
There are sources of stress all around us. Some, like being yelled at by your boss or undergoing a painful medical procedure, are easy to spot. Others, like telephones ringing all day or your kids playing their music too loud may fade into the background until you are hardly aware of them.
Is All Stress Bad?
There are times when stress works to our benefit. Athletes often talk about harnessing their stress before a big game and channeling all that nervous energy onto the playing field. Small to medium amounts of stress may also make you sharper and more alert in meetings with clients. If you are selling high ticket products like ultrasonic transducers or a piezoelectric sensor, for instance, a little stress may make you more aware of your prospects reactions so that you can tweak your presentation accordingly.
When You Should Stress about Stress
Stress becomes harmful when it overwhelms you, paralyzing you so that you cannot complete the activities required by your life or your job. Chronic stress — anxiety that you feel all or most of the time — can also interfere with your health and quality of life.
If you feel that the stress in your life is harmful to you, you may want to learn some basic relaxation techniques. One of the easiest techniques to learn is progressive relaxation.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive relaxation usually takes anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes the first time you try it. As you get more used to relaxing, and your body learns what relaxation feels like, you will be able to achieve a relaxed state much more quickly. There are CDs to guide you in learning this technique, but most people find they don’t need outside assistance.
The first step is to sit or lie down so you are comfortable. Close your eyes. First, focus on your feet. Try to tense every muscle from your ankle to your toes. Hold the muscles tense while you count to ten, then allow them to relax completely. Next, do the same thing with the muscles in your lower legs, your upper legs, your torso, and so on. Continue until you have tensed and relaxed every group of muscles in your body, even the muscles of your face.
After you are finished, check in with all your muscle groups. Has the tension crept back into any of them? If so, allow them to relax.
If you practice progressive muscle relaxation at least once a day, you will learn how to tune into your body and keep yourself from tensing up during stressful moments. Gaining control over your anxiety can improve both your health and your quality of life. Why not give it a try?