Don’t Try to Relax – Just Let Go!

Relaxation as a means of reducing stress is a simple matter of understanding and applying the principles of effort and release. There is a time to make effort and to try and there is a time for release and non effort.

In physical relaxation this of course relates directly to our muscles. In daily life it is normal to retain a small amount of muscle tension, perhaps 15% of a residual tension that is necessary for our protection regarding ‘fight or flight’ decision making. Our muscles must retain a degree of preparedness. We are always on the ready to react or to act in some manner. It is only in sleep that any accumulations of additional muscle tension are reduced but still our subconscious mind remains alert. It is only at death that we have a total condition of ‘letting go’.

Learning the art of relaxation is perhaps best remembered as degrees of ‘letting go’. We learn to release any unwarranted muscle stress, any tense or inappropriate emotions and any conscious mental thoughts and activity. This would seem to be a simple exercise but is much more difficult to achieve than we think. However, practice makes perfect. If we remember our key command, we will succeed in gaining greater control and proper application of effort and release of our energy. This can be applied in physical sports, society exchanges and relationships, in balancing out our natural concerns of mind and in modifying extremes of emotion.

It is an important aspect of mental health as we seek to reduce stress related symptoms that are having a negative effect upon our well being. Successful self-help practice of relaxation is best achieved by non effort after a little preparation. There are some simple steps to consider when you want to try it out.

Choose a peaceful environment where you feel private and secure. To lie flat on your back, in a prone position, offers best results. Arms are down by your sides, legs a little apart and feet falling outward. An alternative is to sit upright in a chair. Get comfortable. Move around until you are sure you can remain still for a period. Then close your eyes and keep them closed to help your awareness and concentration.

Proceed to make silent mental commands to the muscles of your body. First tell your feet to tense and contract. Then tense the calves and thighs until you can tense and release the tension from the lower limbs. Repeat with the upper limbs starting with the hands. Then command your abdominal muscles to tense and let go or relax. Then take a deep breath and tense the chest. Hold the breath for a few seconds before releasing it with an audible sigh as you ‘let go’. Now tense the neck muscles and facial muscles remembering to squeeze the eyes tight too. The final command it that you tense your entire body, and hold it for a few seconds as long as you feel comfortable. The final release when you ‘leg go’ all effort and enjoy the relief and pleasant feeling that floods throughout your body and your being. This is your reward for doing this simple exercise.

The object is to gain more and more conscious control so that as you become aware of any stress or excessive tension, you can quietly make the inward command to return the body, your feelings and your thoughts to their natural state. This is only the beginning in your experiences of ‘letting go’ and feeling good.

BOLA TANGKAS