Five years ago, I hadn’t yet been introduced to the concept of mindfulness and the idea of creating a daily meditation practice was far from my radar. As I entered into my first practicum experience where mindfulness was central both to the office culture and the mode of therapy used (DBT), I was unaware how foundational this would become to my own clinical and personal practices.
Mindfulness didn’t come easy to me. Like most people, my mind wandered constantly. Trying to keep my mind still and in the present moment brought up some intense feelings of anxiety, and internally I fought against this practice. Over time my attitude shifted and I now greatly value the practice of mindfulness both personally and professionally. It took me a long time to get there, though. I remember the first time I felt I could maybe get on board with this whole mindfulness thing was when I was led in a progressive muscle relaxation. The physical aspect that came with this allowed me to stay focused and engaged, and it brought to awareness just how tense I was keeping various muscle groups in my body.
To engage in Progressive Muscle Relaxation, you systematically tense various muscle groups throughout your body (for example, your feet, face, neck and shoulders, etc.), but it can also be helpful to find a progressive muscle relaxation script to follow if it is your first time. After holding that tension in a particular area, you release it and observe how your muscles feel in a state of relaxation. The immediate benefit of Progressive Muscle Relaxation is that it can help reduce tension and stress. Over time it can teach you to recognize what it feels like to have tense vs. relaxed muscles, as many of us are so consistently tense that we don't even recognize when it's happening! As you increase awareness of when and where your body is carrying stress and muscle tension, you can start to intentionally release that tension and bring your body to a state of relaxation and decreased stress. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is now something I engage in regularly to check in on my own physical well-being and to release physical stress. It’s a great practice to teach to those resistant to more traditional mindfulness and meditation and is a favorite practice amongst the high school students I worked with. If you’ve been unsure of or hesitant to try mindfulness or meditation up until this point, this could be an easy, no-pressure way to test the waters! My hope is that you will find it as impactful as I did and helpful in your LCSW, LCSW, or MFT exam preparation efforts.
Find a comfortable place to sit or lay down, silence all distractions, and enjoy 15 minutes of relaxation.
Progressive muscle relaxation script by Dr. Christopher Lloyd Clarke from www.the-guided-meditation-site.com