Nurse’s Blog – Controlling Stress

By Pat Woerheide, RN,  Parish Nurse

So much is happening at this time of year that your body may be feeling stressed. There are tried and true techniques that you can use to control stress. Relaxed breathing with exercise like walking helps, but I would like to introduce you to progressive muscle relaxation. Progressive muscle relaxation is an old technique that I learned years ago as a student nurse. It can relax muscles, lower blood pressure, heart rate and respiration.

This is a technique of tensing and relaxing every muscle group in your body, one group at a time. You can sit or lie down while doing it. Each group of muscles is tensed for the count of 5 seconds and released for the count of 10 seconds. You can count out loud to yourself as you do it. Pay close attention to the feeling of relaxation as you release your contracted muscles. Here is a sample: Hands: clench your fists for 5 seconds, release and rest for 10 seconds. Right forearm: extend your arm and lock your elbow while bending your hand at your wrist, tense for 5 seconds and release and relax for 10 seconds. This continues for every major muscle group separately: upper arm, forehead, eyes, mouth, jaw, buttocks, abdomen, chest, back, neck, thighs, lower legs and feet.

This exercise takes practice but it can reduce the effect that stress has on your body. Tapes are available to guide you through the technique at any bookstore on line. If you are experiencing severe stress or loss of appetite or sleep, talk to your doctor about counseling or medication.