Two Proven Integrative Health Stress Relievers: Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Guided Imagery Meditation

Medically reviewed by Ioannis Koutsourelakis, MD, MS, PhD
2020-06-11

When we’re stressed, our body does funny things. Muscle tension is a common physical reaction to stress, which can lead to aches and pains, feeling wound-up, and exhaustion.

Stress, and muscle tension can then exacerbate back pain, IBS, and sleep problems. In fact, these common conditions also cause stress, creating a vicious cycle. Coronavirus only adds to this cycle of stress and symptoms.

Why Mindfulness and Meditation Are Important For the Body

Mindfulness and meditation are scientifically proven ways to de-stress, causing physical and chemical changes to your body. They are not just spiritual or hippy practices. Reducing stress also reduces your symptoms, in turn reducing stress even more. It is extremely important to take time out of your day to calm your mind and body. 

Relaxation techniques decrease central nervous system activity. This is similar to falling asleep. It is likely due to the mental focus and decreased sensory stimulation that are part of relaxation. At the same time, the cerebral cortex - the part of the brain where most information is processed - is in more of a resting state.

 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

One way to manage the muscle tension you feel due to stress is through a technique called Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation works by tensing and then relaxing major muscle groups. Tensing muscles before relaxing them enables more thorough relaxation, letting you release physical tension more effectively. With practice, this technique becomes more effective and allows you to release tension faster. 

Progressive muscle relaxation is very easy and can be done anywhere, without any special equipment or clothing to practice it. 

Progressive muscle relaxation is one of the ways that Goodpath's integrative medicine tackles back pain, IBS and sleep problems. If any of these conditions are affecting you, take our free assessment for a program tailored to your needs:

Guided Imagery Meditation

Guided Imagery Meditation is another great relaxation and stress-lowering technique in which the person practices relaxation exercises and focuses on pleasant or neutral mental images. It is often done by following an audio or video program that leads the person through the steps.

The process of focusing on pleasant images can actually make you happier. Guided imagery is such a powerful type of mindfulness that therapists have actually used it to treat post traumatic stress.

Guided imagery is best practiced when you are in a comfortable environment and can sit or lay down without interruption. Do not practice this while driving or in other situations where your attention is needed. You don’t need any special clothing or equipment to practice guided imagery. 

How Meditation Supports Condition Care

Each of these techniques work in complementary ways and are part of an integrative medicine approach to managing back pain, IBS, or sleep problems. Get a personalized integrative program for any of those conditions here:

Learn more about other innovative and effective treatments - all without drugs - like the best treatment for chronic insomnia or 6 dietary supplements that can help with back pain.