Have you ever heard the saying, “The issues are in the tissues?” Stress is something that we all face, and often when that stress builds up, we can feel it in our muscles (the “tissues”) and throughout the whole body. When you feel stressed, does your body feel relaxed and at ease? Or does it feel tight and tense? I tend to feel tighter and more tense when I’m stressed, and I often feel this tightness and tension in my shoulders and neck. This can lead to pain.

Luckily, there are different practices we can do on our own as part of our self-care and well-being. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a simple technique that can help relieve and release some of that tension. PMR is a process of tensing one part of your body at a time and then releasing it, paying attention to the experience of how it feels to “let go.” Doing this practice helps you learn where you carry tension in your body and how to release it. It is used to manage stress and anxiety, reduce chronic pain – including headaches; decrease blood pressure, help with digestion, and can even help with sleep!

When you first begin to practice PMR, it can be helpful to follow along to a video or audio recording until you learn how to do it on your own. Join Lamanda Blackman from the Central Arkansas VA Medical Center as she leads a 9 minute Wellness Muscle Relaxation session.

Looking for more information on PMR? Check out this information on the Veterans Health Library: Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Guided Imagery (va.gov) or this handout: https://www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTH/veteran-handouts/docs/ProgressMuscleRelax__Final508_11-13-2018.pdf.

Do you want to practice more self-care, but don’t know where to start? Whole Health offers the support you need to make the changes you want. Start your self-care journey with the Circle of Health: https://www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTH/circle-of-health/index.asp.

Alison M. Whitehead, MPH, C-IAYT is the national program lead for the Integrative Health Coordinating Center in the VHA Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation.   

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