In grief, we may become stressed due to repeated, recurrent thoughts that are related to our loss.  We replay images of the person who died, or events that led up to the loss. We keep thinking “if we had only done X or if we would have done Y” maybe our loved one would not have died or left. Our body perceives these thoughts as threats which activate the “fight or flight” autonomic nervous system response.  This sends blood to the muscles, causing them to tense, preparing the body to take physical action.  This state of tension taxes us, leaving us physically exhausted.  We are often not aware that our muscles are tense and we conduct our daily actions with this increased muscle tension, wondering why we are so tired all of the time, or have headaches, back aches, or stomach upset.  It is like a spiral- our thoughts cause us to feel a certain way emotionally, which causes our body to react, which affects our behaviors, which trigger more thoughts, then feelings, then body reaction and behavior…

Interrupt the anxiety spiral by taking a moment to consciously relax your muscles and extend the minimum effort necessary to complete everyday actions, giving your body, and mind, a break.

Differential relaxation involves reducing muscle tension in muscle groups involved and not involved in performing a certain task. The idea is that by minimizing the amount of energy extended, you avoid expending unneeded energy. This leaves you more relaxed, less stressed physically and mentally. For example, as I’m typing on the computer, I’m now aware of lifting my hands with the least amount of muscle tension possible to type on the keyboard, and am letting go of any muscle tension in my hands, arms, neck, shoulders, neck, chest, neck, stomach, buttocks, legs and feet. Releasing the muscle tightness in my shoulders and elsewhere allows me to be more comfortable and relaxed, and in this state I will be less likely to freak out over something should some kind of threat (real or imagined) enter my world at this moment.

Take just a minute to do this exercise:

1) Sit in a comfortable position

2) Take a deep breath in; gently exhale

3) Notice where your arms/hands are placed

4) Pay attention to the muscles in your arms and hands

4) Let go of any muscle tension not needed in your arms and hands right now

5) Begin to lift your right hand toward your nose, using the least amount of effort possible

6) Touch your nose using the least amount of effort possible

7) Return your hand/arm back to a resting place

Now try doing this while conducting your next activity, whether it be driving, walking, talking, doing a chore, eating etc. Perform these tasks with the least amount of muscle tension possible to effectively conduct the task.

Try doing this a couple of times a day to release the excess tension carried in your body. Try and catch yourself when you find yourself tensing up muscle groups and then let go of the constriction in those muscles.

Speak Your Mind

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