By Michael G. Rayel, MD
Many parents feel stressed before and during school openings, when kids have to wake up earlier than usual, when they have to wrestle with new school mates and new teachers.
As well, kids demand latest jeans and designer shirts just to keep up with peers. And who shell out the required funds for these extra and sometimes unnecessary demands? Of course you, honorable parents.
Unfortunately such demands can take their toll. Very soon, you’ll notice that you’re becoming more irritable, stressed, and tensed. How do you cope? Are there any simple techniques you can use during untenable situations?
Breathing exercise and progressive muscle relaxation are effective ways of dealing with daily stresses and tension. Aside from their portability — something you can do anywhere — they’re also free and easy to do. There’s no need to buy expensive sneakers or tight-fitting jogging pants to start the regimen. As well, there’s no need to enroll in a boutique sports club just to relax.
As long as you have the will, you can do these simple exercises when needed. You may be having a sumptuous dinner in a restaurant, or doing mundane chores at home, or finishing some essential tasks at work, you can easily use breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation to relieve you from gnawing stresses.
Let’s first discuss breathing exercises. Indicated for anxiety, stress, and anger reduction, it consists of a slow cycle of inhalation through the nose and exhalation through the mouth with the intent of achieving relaxation. The process includes the following:
1st Step – Choose a comfortable location where you can sit undisturbed by unsuspecting bystanders. To prevent dizziness, avoid doing this while walking or standing.
2nd Step – Inhale through your nose. Slowly count up to 3 or 5, depending upon what’s comfortable for you.
3rd Step – Pause and hold your breath after inhalation. Again slowly count up to 3 or 5.
4th Step – Exhale through your mouth. Slowly count up to 3 or 5.
5th Step – Pause and hold your breath after exhalation. Slowly count up to 3 or 5.
And then, repeat the whole process for at least five minutes.
Another simple exercise is progressive muscle relaxation, which is achieved through a cycle of tensing and then relaxing a group of muscles throughout your body. Each cycle should last for a few seconds. Like breathing exercises, this is highly portable and is indicated for stress, anger management, and anxiety.
Here, you have to start with the muscle groups of the lower extremities such as toes, feet, etc. going up to the head. The key is to relax all muscle groups thoroughly.
1st Step - Choose a comfortable location where you can sit or lie down comfortably and quietly.
2nd Step – Tense and relax the lower extremities. Start with your toes, then your feet, followed by your legs, and then your thighs. Tense and relax each group for a few seconds.
3rd Step - Tense and relax your hip, then your buttocks, and followed by your abdomen.
4th Step - Tense and relax the upper extremities. Start with your fingers, then your hands, followed by your forearms, and then your arms.
5th Step – Tense and relax your chest, your back, and your shoulder areas.
6th Step - Tense and relax your neck region and eventually your facial and head areas.
You can repeat the process for at least five minutes.
You can perform both exercises when you’re significantly tensed or stressed. Alternatively, if you want to prevent unnecessary stress or tension from occurring, you can perform any or both exercises twice or thrice a day.
However, these exercises will not work in one try. You should do them regularly, hopefully daily, to get the desired results.
Dr. Michael G. Rayel — author, game inventor, and psychiatrist — has created the Oikos Game Series to promote emotional health and A 31-Day Series to help kids and teens. Since 2005, he has published Oikos’ Insights! www.oikosinsights.com as an online resource for personal development. Visit www.oikosglobal.com for more info. Also, he has offered psychiatry board review for ABPN II. Visit www.psychedu.com for details.