Stress Management Clinic Audio Files

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

by Dr. Henry J. Perkins

Listen to Dr. Perkins explain PMR.

Progressive muscle relaxation is based on the premise that you cannot be tense and anxious and relaxed and calm at the same time. As a technique for relaxation, PMR is unique in that it does not require the use of imagery, willpower, or suggestion in order to achieve a deep state of relaxation. PMR works because of the systematic and progressive relaxation of all of the muscle groups in the body. Achieving relaxation occurs when the individual focuses on the sensations experienced in the body as one contrasts muscle tension with releasing and letting go of tension. The process involves tensing muscles for 5 seconds followed by the experience of releasing tension for 20 seconds for major muscle groups in your body. The benefits of PMR are similar to taking a medication for anxiety and/or anxiety related illness, e.g., high blood pressure, tension headaches, and gastrointestinal disorders. The use of PMR is also similar to medication in terms of taking a dosage of a medication on a regular basis. The recommended dosage for PMR is two 15 minute time segments twice daily for two weeks followed by once daily 3 to 4 times per week. This dosage is a good maintenance program for sustaining the benefits of lowered levels of anxiety.

If this is your first time using PMR, you may need to go over each muscle group two or more times to achieve the desired relaxation. Once you’ve learned the procedure you can experiment with shortening the time necessary to get the relaxed state.

The Relaxation Response

by Dr. Sara Gruzleski

Listen as Dr. Sara Gruzleski explains the relaxation benefits of breath-based meditation

We would like to introduce you to the relaxation response. This is the term coined by Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson to describe the inborn set of physiological changes that offset those of the fight or flight response. The fight or flight response, also known as the stress response, is a set of involuntary physiological reactions that are triggered whenever we are faced with a real or imagined threat. This powerful set of reactions mobilizes the body’s resources in order to take immediate action to cope w/ a threatening situation.

The fight or flight response is useful and, in fact, necessary in times of emergency. However, the stressors of modern living elicit the stress response in situations where neither fighting nor running are called for.

Individuals differ widely in how they respond to stress. Some people react to stress w/ increased worrying or impaired concentration. Others may have emotional symptoms in the form of sadness or anxiety. And some individuals experience stress in the form of muscle tension, stomach problems, or sleep difficulties.

It is important for all of us to find ways to neutralize the negative effects of stress on our health and well-being. The relaxation response can be elicited by exercise, yoga, prayer, or meditation.

Two basic components are involved in eliciting the relaxation response:

The first is a mental focusing device that serves to shift your mind from everyday thoughts and worries. Examples include focusing on your breathing, repeating a word, or a phrase.

The second component involves developing a passive attitude towards distracting thoughts which means not worrying about how you are doing, but gently directing your attention back to you focus device once you become aware of your thoughts drifting.

Practice makes perfect! Try tuning into your relaxation response for twenty minutes a day and notice the results.