Stress is a stumbling block for many people after bariatric surgery. Though it’s a consistent part of our lives, its influence can ruin your resolve to maintain the habits your bariatric surgeon has recommended. After a long and stressful day, you may find yourself unwittingly stuck in a spiral of emotional eating, or postponing your workout for a time when you feel less agitated.
The best way to reduce stress long-term is to fight it at the source, but this usually isn’t something we can accomplish in an afternoon. When you’re feeling stressed out, you may just need a way to unwind and carry on with your day, and there are many techniques that can help you do this. One of the most effective is called progressive muscle relaxation.
What is Progressive Muscle Relaxation?
As the name suggests, this technique works by helping you relax each of your muscles in succession, creating a calming effect as you focus on letting the tension out of your body. The technique takes a little more time to master than deep breathing, but can help you unlock the stress-busting capabilities of your own body.
To get started, find a quiet place and sit or lie down in a comfortable position. You’ll be moving through the muscles of your body gradually, tensing each one for about 20 seconds before slowly letting it relax. Every time you let that tension go, focus intently on the sensation of your muscles relaxing.
From head to toe, work through your muscles in this order:
- Raise your eyebrows to keep your forehead wrinkled. Relax.
- Flare your nostrils to keep your nose wrinkled. Relax.
- Push up on the roof of your mouth with your tongue. Relax.
- Grit your teeth and flex your jaw. Relax.
- Shrug your shoulders up to your ears. Relax.
- Arch your spine. Relax.
- Hold in a deep breath. Relax.
- Flex your biceps. Relax.
- Ball your hands into fists and flex your forearms. Relax.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles. Relax.
- Flex your buttocks and your thighs. Relax.
- Press your heels into the ground and flex your calves. Relax.
- Point your toes up towards your head. Relax.
If you have trouble remembering this order, make a recording of yourself saying each step so you don’t have to open your eyes and read what comes next. Just remember to go slowly—altogether, the process should take at least 10 minutes, and you can take longer if you like.
Once you get the hang of it, progressive muscle relaxation can be a simple and effective way to relieve stress. To keep your stressors from standing between you and the goals you set with your bariatric surgeon, try practicing progressive muscle relaxation two times every day.