progressive relaxation anyone?

hey everyone,
I realize that in my last post I did not really share anything about myself. I am still getting used to the forum of message boards- they seem a bit confusing to me. I myself suffer with anxiety of different forms. it has shifted from one form or another since I was 14 or so, and has usually focused around some aspect of my physical body. when i am the center of attention, i feel like i shrivel up inside myself and just cease to function like a normal human. I don't blush, but i do disappear. i have the hardest time ever with intimacy and have tried many things to feel more empowered to reduce the anxiety. I am 28 and only now am starting to drive on the highway because the anxiety went into driving as well for me, it just always finds somewhere to go, and it is ridiculously frustrating because I would just like to feel normal rather than constantly a few steps different from everyone else.
Because i have had so many kinds of anxiety and issues like that, i chose to study psychology to try and make myself less crazy. one of the things i'm currently doing is looking at the phenomenon of blushing and other problems people are trying to work with that relate on some level to anxiety (for some people, at least) and I want to share one thing I found that might be useful to some people. it's called progressive relaxation and is a really basic form of meditation.
The thing is, I'm realizing that a lot of my issues at least have to do with the parasympathetic nervous system- your sympathetic nervous system is the fight-or-flight one, and the parasympathetic is the rest-and-digest. Like, if you were in the woods and heard a wild animal approaching, your sympathetic system would activate. that's what happens to me when I walk in a room full of people or get ont he highway- i feel scared, fight or flight.
but, the parasympathetic system is the opposite-the antidote, really. That one is activated when you feel relaxed, like after a massage (if you are okay with massages- personally I freak out a little) or with some candles and a good meal.
So progressive relaxation helps you strengthen that parasympathetic system, and it's really easy to do, so i want to share it so you guys can try it if you want an easy form of meditation that might help you feel more in control. WHen i get on the highway now, (which I did for the first time in YEARS yesterday) i felt anxiety rising up in me, coming into my neck and getting ready to scramble my mind, but i took a deep breath and CHOSE not to let it take control, and it worked!! I was able to drive and still feel the realistic fear, but not feel the overwhelming anxiety that makes my eyes fuzzy and my heart race.
In progressive relaxation, all you need to do is sit in a chair or on a couch, and have about five minutes of peace and quiet. You could take as long as an hour if you wanted to though, the longer the better. for me personally its easier to start in five minute chunks.
you just close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths, make sure to feel the breath coming in and out. then clench your hands for a few seconds, as hard as you can, building up to that strength gradually. then release them slowly, feeling the blood rush back in.
Now do it to your forearms, clenching them slowly, then releasing. feel the blood come back. take another breath relaxed, feel the breath come in your whole body.
then clench your bicep arm area. same thing, clench it for a moment, feel that, release gently, feel that. keep doing this same pattern with your neck, head, chest, torso, pelvis, thighs, calves, feet. each time feeling yourself take a breath in between.
this has been incredibly helpful to me, i also use lots of other forms of meditation as well, but this one really helps to relax the muscles and make me feel "grounded" and the more grounded I feel, the less those anxieties get in the way of my life. They are still there though, don't get me wrong, my heart starts pounding hours before i have to drive (like now) or feel like a social situation is going to be happening, but still, i have the choice to take that deep breath and be the boss of that feeling for a moment at a time.
It's the kind of thing that you really should do daily or every other day to feel the effects- but you will feel SOMETHING the first time, I'm pretty sure. At least I do, I just feel much more grounded, like I said. Anyway, sorry for not introducing myself last time, and I hope this technique can be helpful for someone!


Well-known member
Thanks for posting and WELCOME to the forums! PR like other relaxation techniques I believe really are vital. Physical/mental are interconnected. Key is consistency, and patience. Forget first time, don't expect to feel magically different, it takes time as you said esp ppl really low and negative. I know when I did this I felt better but --- hardest thing will be getting into a routine, don't be discouraged if even adfter a week you feel a little but not the results you want.

Relaxing the body relaxes the mind. Fear won't disappear, but as you said, it will tighten your grip of control. The fight or flight response is there for our survival. It's to avoid death. The transmitters released aren't healthy long-term, for many with servere and moderate anxiety release this same stuff - their bodies react like it's life or death, flight or fight for situations that are not.

Good for you! I had a fear of driving, didn't get liscence until I was freshly turned 19 and did relaxation then. Now it's heh driving is... you'll get to a point where won't believe the fears/anxiety/reaction you went through. I hope that becomes true with other facets of my life =D

Well I have no excuses now not to try and do this EVERY day. I want to get back into Tai Chi too. Thanks again for the post.
Thanks for responding!
I really hope I can get over the driving's good to know that you did! The crazy thing is that it really seems to be the more you do it, the more you get over it, especially if you can feel relaxed in the moment and not anxious..that's my goal with the PR technique, and any meditation. it's to have that peace of mind when you really need it- in the moment of panic. it seems that the brain just gets so used to its favorite patterns, it doesn't even matter if they are detrimental to us..they are just familiar and the brain wants to stick with 'em!
i was given an assignment for my job to make a book about blushing, and I really hope that it can end up helping people by suggesting things like this that I know from experience have helped me with anxiety. if there was some magic answer, we could all just use it, but it really seems to come down to learning about your own situation and what helps and doesn't.
Tai Chi, huh? I have had friends in the past who were super into that (I'm kind of a giant hippie) but i never got into it because I could not bring myself to do the classes. I learned a little bit though- like deep breathing with moving the hands in a motion that helped to collect energy and it seemed really relaxing/grounding. Have you heard of the Microcosmic Orbit?


New member
Hi fearless!

I understand your feeling when the fight vs flight system sets in when situations stress us out. Although unlike Deus, I feel that the body will easily relax more when you relax your mind first. I practice mindfulness meditation and whenever I start getting stressed out in work, I just take time to meditate and relax my mind, then later on I feel better and am able to be efficient again. Using our minds to relax the body does help calm us entirely. I hope you overcome your driving anxiety! I have yet to try Tai-chi but for now daily meditation has never failed to make me calmer and at peace.