One of the most effective means of battling stress is to learn how to conduct relaxation methods both on a preventative level as well as at the times when stress strikes. Having learned about progressive relaxation methods at a conference in Philadelphia in the mid-70’s I was amazed as to their effectiveness. The scenario is this: We had spent the whole morning sitting in hotel conference rooms listening to the professionals expound on the various topics that were being presented at the Milton Erickson Annual Symposium. A friend of mine and I decided to have a very light lunch and go for a brisk walk to take in the sights of the City.
It was the fall of the year and the air felt good on our faces since it tended to awaken us for our “next bout” in the Conference. I had previously chosen to sit in on a demonstration of a relaxation method. However, instead of going into a more spacious conference room, we went to one of the hotel rooms which was much smaller and very stuffy and warm. Instead of having some cool air circulating, the heat was on. Fortunately, someone was able to open a couple of windows to alleviate the problem. Be that as it may, I was stressed … big time! I really didn’t want to be there and, since it was the last day of the Conference, I wanted to go home to my family. But, I had paid to attend and I thought that I might learn something.
When I asked her what she believed that she was missing in her life she was startled and replied “Well, my husband of course.” I interrupted her and said “no, that’s not it … take another guess.” She looked puzzled, confused, overwhelmed and somewhat aggravated with me for pursuing the point but she became thoughtful and finally said “I really don’t know what I am missing.” I first calmed her down before responding. I started by talking about how it was obvious that she missed her husband but I then entered the point that I wasn’t sure, based on what she had shared with me, whether she loved him or was more dependent on his roles in her life. We talked about her dependence on him for almost everything in her life and that one of the considerations that she might need to make was to become a more independent person now that she is living by herself.
The presenter gave a history of relaxation indicating that it could be traced to medieval times when the farmer would take his lunch break about 10 a.m. since he had been up since 4 a.m. doing his chores. After eating, he might sit with his back up against a tree and while his horse grazed, he would close his eyes for about 20 minutes before resuming his work routine. He wouldn’t sleep but he would allow as sense of relaxation flow over his body in order to prepare him for the next set of chores. When finished, both he and his horse felt refreshed and ready to start once again.
Much to my dismay, the presenter went through a brief description of the mechanics of the relaxation exercise and then she chose a participant and asked her to lead the group in the exercise. I was jaundiced! The “pro” was going to allow someone who was there to learn to take on the leadership role? Preposterous! Well, the meeting proceeded as she began to talk about relaxing my toes, and then my feet, and then my calves, etc. all the way up my body to the hairs on my head. I was amazed at the effect that my moving through my body with my suggestion that each of the groups of body parts relax had on me. Not only was my body very relaxed but so was my anxiety. It felt GREAT!
When I went back to my room, I was still feeling the effects of my relaxation. When my friend came into the room, I couldn’t stop voicing the praises of what I had learned. From that day forward, not only did I become a “disciple” of relaxation but I developed and taught nine different relaxation methods to clients in psychotherapy with me as well as in my conducting stress management seminars. In fact, I decided to create audio tapes that I would give to people in order to facilitate their ability to resolve their issues by reducing their anxiety and stress levels. How relaxed can you become? VERY MUCH SO!!
Both as a consultant and author, Charles Bonasera’s story-telling have motivated people to change patterns and resolve problems in their lives. All of his books contain valuable, practical lessons that people can easily apply to bettering and managing their lifestyles. He has also written a myriad of articles which can be found on his website at www.charlesmbonasera.com.