Living with MS is beyond difficult. Has anyone told you that you just need to relax? If they have, you probably immediately became tense. There’s something about those words — relax, be calm, and calm down — that trigger a deep emotional response in most of us. These five simple relaxation exercises include something suitable for just about everyone living with multiple sclerosis. We hope you’ll find one that works for you.
When you have a chronic illness, it is important to learn to deal with stress. Of course, that is easier said than done. Depending on your disease progression, you may not be in the position to practice many of the popular relaxation techniques. And let’s face it, most of us don’t feel like we have time to practice relaxing.
Simple relaxation techniques may help manage your MS and any anxiety you feel about your disease.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) considers relaxation exercises to be safe for most people. However, just like with exercise routines, people with serious physical health problems such as multiple sclerosis should discuss the techniques with their healthcare provider before starting a relaxation routine.
There are many viable techniques for relaxing. These include deep breathing exercises, self-hypnosis, and guided imagery. Each relaxation technique goal is to produce a natural reaction from the body. This should include: lower blood pressure, slower breathing, and a sense of well-being.
We found five easy relaxation exercises that are simple enough for most people to do in a chair or while lying in bed.
Place your hand just beneath your navel so you can feel the gentle rise and fall of your belly as you breathe. Breathe in. Pause for a count of three. Breathe out. Pause for a count of three. Continue to breathe deeply for one minute, pausing for a count of three after each inhalation and exhalation.
While sitting comfortably, take a few slow deep breaths and quietly repeat to yourself, “I am” as you breathe in and, “at peace” as you breathe out. Repeat slowly two or three times. Then, feel your entire body relax into the support of your chair.
Raise eyebrows up and tense the muscles across the forehead and scalp. Feel the tension build and hold. Take a deep breath. As you exhale say “relax” while letting the tension leave your body.
Relax your facial muscles and allow your jaw to open slightly. Let your shoulders drop. Let your arms fall to your sides. Allow your hands to loosen so there are spaces between your fingers. Uncross your legs or ankles. Feel your thighs sink into your chair, letting your legs fall comfortably apart. Feel your shins and calves become heavier and your feet grow roots into the floor. Now, breathe in slowly and breathe out slowly.
Observe your abdomen rising and falling with each breath. Inhale and press your navel toward the spine then tense your abdomen. Feel the tension build and hold it. Take in a deep breath. As you exhale say “relax,” and let the tension leave you.
Here’s a PDF with more relaxation techniques from the University of Michigan.
The NIH recognizes the relaxation response as having broad health benefits including the reduction of pain and restoration of sleep. In addition, research on the relaxation response has shown that this simple technique can increase energy and decrease fatigue. It can increase motivation, productivity, and improve decision-making ability, too. The relaxation response lowers stress hormone levels and lowers blood pressure.
The relaxation response is your personal ability to make your body release chemicals and produce brain signals that make your muscles and organs slow down and increase blood flow to the brain. Find a relaxation exercise that suits you the best so that you will continue to practice it each day. The more you use it, the more benefits you will reap.
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