Relaxation therapy is a strategy that uses steps to achieve an overall calming of both the body and the mind. In general, the person consciously concentrates on relaxing one part of the body, or one set of muscles, at a time until the entire body is in a state of relaxation. The great thing about relaxation therapy is that you can practice it on your own at home as often as you want.
Here's how it works: Close the blinds or pull down the shades (if darkness helps you relax, as it does for many people). Then lie down and begin the therapy.
You can really start by relaxing any part of your body, as long as you concentrate, focus, and work to completely relax that part of your body. For example, you may choose to start at your feet.
In this case, you start by imagining your feet becoming increasingly relaxed, loose, and tension-free. You breathe deeply and tell yourself, in your mind, that your feet are becoming heavy and too hard to hold up. Then you imagine this relaxed feeling slowly moving its way up your body to the knees and then to the upper legs. Keep telling yourself that each part of the body is heavy and needs (and wants) to rest.
Take your time. You can't rush through relaxation therapy. Don't move on to another part of your body until the part that you're concentrating on feels completely relaxed.
The relaxation mode continues up through the trunk of your body and out into your arms. You may choose to end with your head and your very, very tired eyes that just want to close. Or you may want to close your eyes at the very beginning of your relaxation session. Either way can work.
You may notice that relaxation therapy uses some of the basic techniques that are also used in hypnotherapy; however, with relaxation therapy, relaxation is the goal. With hypnotherapy, relaxation is merely the path to get to the goal, which is to adopt suggestions that are given to you while you're under hypnosis.
Some people accompany their relaxation "self-talk" with thinking about a pleasant place where they feel relaxed. Some people imagine resting in a quiet forest; others may equate relaxation with thinking about the crashing of the ocean's waves or another scene. You're bounded only by your own imagination.
If you think that relaxation therapy sounds like nonsense, try making a deal with yourself. You want to find a way to feel more relaxed, with less fatigue, stiffness, and pain, right? So why not give relaxation therapy at least one or two tries? What have you got to lose? If it doesn't work, you haven't done yourself any harm or even wasted any money. And if it does work, you've gained a new strategy to cope with your stress and, perhaps, lessen your FMS pain.
You can purchase a relaxation audiotape to help you discover everything you'd ever need to know about relaxation therapy. Some stores even let you listen to relaxation audiotapes before you decide to buy one. Listen for a voice you find appealing and soothing. Avoid tapes that offer subliminal messages (messages heard only unconsciously); they may work, but the goal is to figure out how to achieve relaxation on your own, when you don't have the tape available.
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